Developing Africa's private sector through public and private partnerships is critical for the work of Brussels based NGO EMRC. In the run-up to the upcoming AgriBusiness Forum 2014 organised by EMRC and the Government of the DR Congo to be held from 26-29 October 2014 in Kinshasa DR Congo, we put a few questions to EMRC’s President Professor Monty Jones and Idit Miller EMRC’s vice president and managing director
African Farming: What is EMRC’s main aim in terms of investment across Africa? What role do you (Professor Monty Jones) play at EMRC?
Professor Monty Jones: I accepted to serve as President because I believe in EMRC’s mission, which is to contribute to the development of the private sector in Africa by boosting sustainable and responsible economic growth through partnerships, public-private and others, trade, transfer of knowledge and attracting investment into the continent.
I myself have an agricultural background and have worked for many years to promote African agriculture. Therefore, one of my immediate goals for EMRC is to further strengthen investment in agriculture, which I believe will contribute to addressing some key concerns, and notably one that is dear to my heart, "why Africa cannot feed itself”.
This is important for me and for EMRC, which has throughout the years pushed agricultural development and food self-sufficiency to the forefront amongst other important topics linked to the economic growth of sub-Saharan Africa such as finance, SME development, empowering the young and the women, etc. I believe, as does EMRC, that the private sector, working with Governments and NGOs, has a key role to play in addressing some of the most pressing issues affecting the continent.
EMRC helps to create the necessary engagements and collaborations that will allow Africa to achieve long-term growth. I am therefore excited to further my involvement in EMRC’s endeavors and I believe that strengthening what EMRC does best is an immediate priority: bringing experts from around the world together at international forums, organizing B2B meetings and bringing international and African entrepreneurs together to exchange best practices and establish business partnerships.
African Farming: How are you developing global partnerships for development? In the past you have set-up a number of forums worldwide, how are they organised?
Idit Miller: EMRC develops partnerships through various platforms. The EMRC annual AgriBusiness Forum and Africa Finance & Investment Forum provide a dynamic platform for contact development and shared experience. Each event attracts industry experts, sector leaders and inspirational speakers all of whom share our belief in the overwhelming potential of the African continent.
Our forums are always held in partnership with a host country and international partners. They play a significant role in bringing their expertise and vision to enable a truly in depth debate to occur amongst all those speaking and participating in the forums. We also focus on making sure that participation is mixed: in other words that people from all spectrums of the particular sector are present. For example, during the AgriBusiness Forum we have leading global companies discussing and networking with local farming associations and we have civil society representatives engaging with financial advisors to name just a few.
EMRC AgriBusiness Forum is the largest pan-African forum held on the continent annually. It attracts hundreds of entrepreneurs and policy makers active in the area of agribusiness, as well as financiers, donors, industry, researchers, international organisations, government officials and NGOs from North and South. This is a crucial meeting for those who wish to contribute to the growth of African agri -food sector, as well as investors looking for investment opportunities.
Annually taking place in an African business hub, each edition of the forum revolves around a core theme that tackles the challenges and opportunities in the Agri-Food sector in Africa. We believe that the success of Africa depends on the development and growth of its private sector and that the African agribusiness sector has an enormous potential for growth
EMRC Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF) is another great annual business meeting which pursues EMRC goals aiming at strengthening the private and financial sectors in Africa, generate partnerships and attract investments in the continent. AFIF brings together policy makers, financiers and entrepreneurs interested in funding projects in Africa. The Forum is addressed to entrepreneurs, and constitutes for them an ideal platform to meet potential partners. For government officials, it represents a perfect opportunity to highlight their policies designed to improve their domestic and regional business climate.
In addition, our bespoke economic and agricultural trade missions to Israel and India take place several times a year. A select group of business and governmental leaders from a range of African countries are taken on tailor-made country missions with the goal of skills, innovation and knowledge sharing as well as partnership-building.
African Farming: Which countries in Africa does EMRC have a presence in? Are you seeking to reach other countries across the continent?
Idit Miller: We work throughout sub-Saharan Africa and every year we work with one particular African government who partners with us for the AgriBusiness Forum. Last year we worked in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the year before that with the Senegalese Govt and before that the South African Government to name a few. We do also have a permanent presence in four countries: Nigeria, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire and Zambia where we have representatives working and networking for us.
Furthermore, due to our eclectic team we have a network covering most of the continent. EMRC is comprised of French, English and Portuguese language teams which allows us to work throughout sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, which includes India, Brazil etc...
African Farming: You have activities covering events and projects - what do they entail? What market are you targeting?
Idit Miller: As mentioned above we have a variety of events. We focus on those working in and with the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Our core belief is that the private sector must play a significant role in establishing sustainable growth across the continent as is provides much needed jobs and income.
This is very true for the agricultural sector in Africa. We believe that sub-Saharan Africa’s potential to be part of the solution to the growing issues linked to global food security has become a priority for the international community. With no less than six of the world’s 10 fastest growing countries over the past decade, Africa is today attracting increased investment, reaching US$55bn in 2011. This growth is expected to continue, supported by an expanding population of more than 1bn.
The strategic role of agriculture in Africa’s social and economic development cannot be overstated. The sector provides livelihoods for about 60 per cent of the continent’s active labour force, and accounts for 17 per cent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). No other economic sector on the continent employs more people, or provides a bigger portion of annual wealth produced.
Our contribution to help grow the agri-food sector is by helping agricultural enterprises and individual entrepreneurs to connect with third parties from all over the world, who can assist them technically and financially, to expand their agricultural endeavors. The latter, this “interconnection”, is presently the main objective pursued by EMRC at its African conferences, which we are able to organize thanks to the concrete cooperation of the authorities of the host countries.
Therefore our markets focus on spotlighting sustainable businesses across Africa and connecting them to potential investors, financiers, leading NGOs etc. In other words, we are targeting both the private and the public sector to work together.
We also play an active role, through our annual AFIF event, to spotlight issues and success stories link to finance and accessing finance across Africa. Again, we make sure that all those linked to the particular topic are present and are given a platform to highlight trends and current issues.
African Farming: How have you so far met your millennium goal challenge?
Idit Miller: This is a very ‘big question’. The 8th Millennium Development Goal to develop global partnerships for development is our driving vision for our activities. We were established on the core basis that EMRC's mission is to contribute to the development of the private sector in Africa by boosting sustainable and responsible economic growth.
Our organisational objectives are:
1.To create the optimum environment for the matching of sustainable business partnerships
2.To encourage Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)
3.To attract new investment to the African continent by improving the dialogue between sectors
4.To promote Local, Regional and International Trade
5.To mobilise innovation towards industrialisation in Africa
6.To stimulate knowledge sharing and capacity development
Our current activities definitely spread across these six key objectives as mentioned in our answers to the previous questions and therefore are in synch with the 8th Millennium Development Goal.
In addition, one of our most significant contributions has been through the Project Incubator Award. The Project Incubator Award is an EMRC initiative launched in 2008 to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa among SMEs. Held in conjunction with our business forums, a call is sent out for entrepreneurs to put forward their project proposals. Finalists present their business projects during the forum’s plenary session and the winning project is announced at the gala event. Sponsors of the Project Incubator Award are Rabobank Foundation and African Development Bank.
We have also established Business-to-Business sessions during all our forums, which have allowed us to organise thousands of one-on-one business meetings with forum speakers/partners/participants, which in turn have allowed companies to meet and establish partnerships with investors, local and regional organisations.