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African Food Systems Accelerator Takes Off

Building upon the experience of accelerating nearly 100 agriculture-related enterprises that have collectively saved, improved, or transformed 40 million lives and raised almost $100 million in capital following their participation in our programs, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is honored to support a new cohort of enterprises creating climate resilience in sub-Saharan Africa.

18 for-profit and hybrid organizations addressing food security through tech-enabled solutions are participating in Miller Center’s Food Systems Accelerator cohort, which runs September 2020 through February 2021. This program provides executive mentorship, targeted content, and strategic partnership with ecosystem supporters like Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the African Green Revolution Forum, and the Sankalp Forum Africa Summit.

Over the course of the program, our primary goal is to maximize each organization’s opportunity to attract capital by supporting their development of a cohesive business and growth strategy that articulates a clear impact model, business model, financial plan, and operations plan. We believe this approach, scaffolded by our mentors — the trusted advisors who accompany these business leaders on their journey — enables business leaders to accelerate and increase the impact their missions are designed to deliver.

Smallholder farmers and their families are the majority of the population in Africa and provide most of the food consumed throughout the continent. However, targeted support to help enterprises maximize their productive capacity has been limited. According to a 2019 McKinsey & Company report, Africa could produce two to three times more cereals, grains, horticulture, and livestock given the right strategic investments, combined with improvements in policies and regional trade flows.

We are proud and honored to support this cohort of social enterprises creating models of success, sustainable food systems solutions, and pathways out of poverty for the farmers countless communities rely on. Read more about each enterprise below.

  • AgroData: Promoting sustainable farming, upscaling smallholdings, and improving rural livelihoods in Africa.
  • ATMANCorp Nigeria: Enhancing Nigerian food security by harnessing technology and renewable energy.
  • Eastern Agricultural Development Company Ltd (EADC): Promoting commercialized production of nutrient rich foods in Uganda.
  • Exotic EPZ LTD: Sourcing, producing, and supplying the finest quality products in the nuts and oils value chains, while empowering small-scale producers, particularly rural women farmers.
  • Farmhut: A one stop agriculture shop aiding women smallholder farmers economically and socially.
  • Flamingoo Foods: Enabling access to food for every home in Africa to make every life better.
  • KadAfrica: Increasing knowledge, agricultural productivity, and income of smallholder farmers in East Africa.
  • M-Shamba: Improving farmer productivity and income in Africa by leveraging the power of mobile technology.
  • Mushili Beans: Agriprocessor of affordable, convenient, and nutritional food.
  • Nampya Farmers Market: Providing safe, quality, and affordable food to Uganda’s urban population and reliable markets to farmers across the country.
  • PricePally: Making good quality and safe food available for all.
  • Releaf Inc: Empowering farmers in Africa through industrial food processing.
  • REPARLE: Delivering renewable energy and agricultural value addition services to power sustainable economic development for rural farming communities in Africa.
  • Rio Fish: Producing and sourcing fish through professional and environmentally sustainable fish farming, to contribute to food security and community development along the Lake Victoria shores, with specific attention to women’s empowerment and elimination of sex for fish trade.
  • Seekewa: Connecting farmers to consumers around Africa through its participatory financing platform.
  • Taimba    : Optimizing the distribution, quality, and price of food in East Africa through a data-driven, innovative, and intelligent supply chain.
  • TILAA LTD: Creating rural jobs, conserving the ecosystem, and reclaiming degraded lands through sustainable, integrated beekeeping and cashew plantations.
  • Warc Africa: Getting subsistence farmers in Africa out of poverty by enabling farmers to access the best available machinery, agricultural practices, and technical advice.

Read more about the program in our press release here.

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Another Tool in Their Toolbox: Leading Through Crisis

Social entrepreneurs are uniquely qualified leaders. They have developed an extraordinary amount of grit, in large part due to their determination in delivering positive social impact to those in their communities who need it most, often in the most difficult-to-reach places. Growing a business with a business model and a social mission, a financial model and a heart, and navigating between the startup, impact investment, and international development worlds are challenging undertakings, to say the least.

At Miller Center, we are privileged to have supported over 1,000 social enterprises all over the world and are dedicated to continuing to accompany these organizations as part of our alumni community. When over 80 of our alumni joined our crisis management webinar on March 18 with less than a week’s notice, we knew we needed to do more to accompany our social business leaders through the pandemic. It was clear from our alumni outreach that the crisis presented a new set of challenges to even our most sophisticated entrepreneurs. Like many businesses around the world, they faced difficult, sometimes paralyzing, questions like:

    • “How do I serve my community while protecting my team?”
    • “How do I prioritize the well being of my business and the well being of my stakeholders?”
    • “How do I make the difficult decisions to cut cash flow and make layoffs?”

onenergy facemask looking at bookFortunately, our network of Miller Center mentors includes many individuals who have experience leading their own organizations through previous economic crises. Miller Center Executive Fellow, Steve White, quickly drew from his decades as a CEO and 10+ years as a mentor to create a focused program to support leaders through this crisis. Over the course of three weeks in late March and early April, we designed, produced, recruited for, and launched our GSBI® Crisis Business Planning Program (CBPP) and made the curriculum videos publically available on our COVID-19 resources page.

We offered a pathway for our executive mentors and social business leaders to follow, one that provided an avenue to accelerate the resilience, perseverance, and optimism embodied by these entrepreneurs, and turn their grit into a vision for continued impact.

Over the course of the three-week GSBI CBPP, social entrepreneurs and their mentors worked intensively through a focused framework to clarify and articulate their current situation and primary objectives, then develop an action and recovery plan, identifying critical funding needs and the effect on their impact, and also projecting funding requirements over the next 3-years with a focus on cash flow. The program built upon content created in the weeks after COVID-19 took root in the American consciousness, including A Survival Checklist for Your Enterprise, Pivoting Your Business in Response to COVID-19, Crisis Cash Flow Management, and many more targeted resources for social impact business leaders, shared here on our COVID-19 resources page.

While the details within each of the revised plans developed by social entrepreneurs in the program varied, several themes emerged from the collective response these leaders developed in answer to the increased uncertainty and challenges imposed by the pandemic.

    • Each business leader’s top priority was to protect their staff and their communities to the best of their ability, which included obvious measures like transitioning to virtual work where possible, as well as other measures like deploying emergency grants to offer food stipends to keep communities fed, as All Across Africa has done for their communities of artisans in Rwanda, Uganda, and Ghana.
    • Their missions have been reinforced by COVID-19 — it is clear the impact they are delivering is as important as it ever was, as the dire needs in the world have only magnified over the last months. Taking decisive action is critical to preserving their ability to execute toward the mission. Dandelion Africa is already planning for how they will support an expected increase in unplanned pregnancies and mental health issues stemming from the Kenyan lockdown.
    • The pandemic has created a forcing function for innovation in products, processes, financing, distribution, marketing, management, and just about every business consideration. Social enterprise leaders are adapting their assets and capacity toward a new commercial configuration. ONergy Solar quickly pivoted from manufacturing solar kits to developing “corona care kits”, employing rural Indian women to manufacture face masks, face shields, and safety goggles. Nazava is pivoting from selling water filters through MFIs and group sales presentations in Indonesia toward other marketing channels such as online and through affiliates.

During and following the program, participants utilized their new plans and new ways of thinking about cash flows to communicate their COVID-19 response to staff, boards, and existing and new funders. Evaluating three potential scenarios (best, medium, and worst cases) they articulated how the organization will navigate each. Having a mentor accompanying them through this process as a trusted advisor, already familiar with the business, was instrumental to the speed in which new plans were developed.

For Matt Dickson, Founder of Eggpreneur, “It helped me rearrange my organization in the midst of this pandemic, from situation assessment to action plan to how cash flow will be affected, and how I should prepare to go through the storm.” Matt’s mentor, Scott Brown, paraphrased a General Eisenhower quote, “Plans are worthless but planning is everything,” along with his gratitude “for a wrinkle in time for that exploration.”

We at Miller Center continue to be uplifted by the ecosystem of helpers and leaders, the social entrepreneurs who are architecting hope and scaffolding infrastructure required for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. We look forward to seeing how the broader impact community pushes through the current challenges, creating new methods for changing the world for the better.

Miller Center’ Crisis Business Planning Program is designed to help social enterprises who have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The program guides you through evaluating the impact of the crisis on your business and helps you quantify the financial impact and develop mitigation strategies to ensure you can survive and thrive in this new environment.

We have just completed the pilot offering and are gauging the community’s interest in participating in a near-future offering of the program. If you are interested, please tell us more here.