Progress in 2019 and plans for 2020 were discussed at this year’s Annual Plenary Meeting of SAFIN partners. The meeting took place in New Delhi, India on 10-11 November 2019 adjacent to the 6th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance. In attendance were representatives from more than 35 SAFIN partner institutions from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
This year’s agenda focused on partners’ experiences in piloting the SAFIN Investment Prospectus Framework – a tool to align partners’ portfolios around financial solutions to strategic investment opportunities in specific value chains - and ongoing research into blended finance and agriculture. Partners also shared new initiatives and discussed ways to strengthen a number of programmes currently under design or implementation. Two days of intense work brought out four key points.
1. Refining network instruments to align and catalyze transformative investments
The SAFIN Investment Prospectus pilots were extensively discussed during the plenary, as several partners and other participants in pilots conducted in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Uganda, Nigeria and India gathered to reflect upon progress, challenges and successes.
Participants agreed that the process holds unique transformative potential, particularly as it brings together the agricultural and finance communities with concrete, action-oriented agendas. However, there is need for more concrete and actionable analytics around investment opportunities and financial solutions that can lay out clear pathways for different actors.
Some exciting opportunities to strengthen the process through strategic collaborations were identified, such as with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the International Trade Center, respectively around their work on climate smart agriculture and on the Alliances for Action approach.
2. The scope to expand SAFIN work on innovative uses of blended finance
The first plenary session on 11 November centered on sharing results from the deep dive conducted by SAFIN and OECD on blended finance and agriculture during this year. This workstream has included a landscape report, case study collection and two regional learning events in Bangkok and Nairobi on this theme.
During his presentation of this work, Yuri Soares Dillion of the IDB Innovation Lab noted some encouraging trends, including innovative uses of blending to develop new value chains and to de-risk technological innovations that can transform agriculture and food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In her commentary as the key discussant of this session, Kruskaia Sierra-Escalante of the International Finance Corporation highlighted the role that SAFIN can play as a repository of knowledge being produced around innovative uses of blended finance in the sector – including new ways to blend across climate and agricultural finance. She also stressed the importance of SAFIN’s engagement in strengthening the capacity of national development finance institutions to engage in blending for agri-SME finance.
3. Peer learning in the design of new programmes in the agri-SME finance space
Partner pitch sessions and clinics have been a key feature of the SAFIN annual plenary meetings, during which network partners present new programmes and propose solutions to key challenges faced by initiatives in design or entering a critical phase.
The pitch session this year featured short presentations from across the network: Norbert Tuyishime of EAFF presented the E-granary initiative; Dipti Thapa of the World Bank described a new vision for GAFSP; Thouraya Triki of IFAD introduced the Fund’s new private sector strategy; Tasmin Mulder of Technoserve presented work on the CASA B technical assistance facility and; Sachin Hirani of the MIX Market presented their fintech data initiative.
During two parallel clinic sessions in the afternoon of 11 November, partners shared ideas about how to strengthen two upcoming initiatives- the Global Cooperative Impact (GCI) Fund, a new cooperative-funded, cooperative-targeted investment fund under development by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and Inpulse, and a new technical assistance hub in design at AgDevCo.
4. Decentralizing engagement for network success
The institutional diversity and co-existence of actors with a global scale of operations or concerns and those operating in specific local contexts make SAFIN a distinctive network. Maintaining a productive dynamic between global identity and local engagement capacity is a vital challenge for any network, and SAFIN is no exception.
After two days of joint reflection, partners agreed on steps for a more decentralized operating model for the network. This new direction aims to increase the intensity and effectiveness of local/global flows of information, learning, and peer support. Key changes include strengthening the facilitative role of the Secretariat with progressively less focus on direct implementation, and more agile, decentralized communication approaches.