Seven mn Africans benefit from business support fund

Lusaka, Sep 29 (IANS) Almost seven million Africans benefited in 2014 from a fund that seeks to boost entrepreneurship in the region, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), set up in 2008, has funded projects that generated around $117 million for poor households in 2014 alone, Xinhua cited a report released on the sidelines of the ongoing 2015 Africa Green Revolution Forum in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, as showing.

The fund also helped create 5,100 jobs in supported businesses, providing improved access to clean, sustainable energy to over 200,000 families since 2008, the report said.

The 2014 impact report, published for the first time by the fund, has presented how its portfolio of over 160 projects across Africa impacts the lives of rural poor people.

“It’s an exciting time for the AECF because we’re now able to look back and see where we’ve had the most impact both in terms of numbers of households benefiting and benefits per household — some projects deliver more of the former and some more of the latter,” said AECF director Hugh Scott.

“We are learning about what works and what does not in so many areas. We have some great projects that are demonstrating that sharing risk with the private sector in this way works well and generates benefits for the rural poor,” he added.

The AECF is a $244 million multi-donor funded financing vehicle which seeks to stimulate private sector entrepreneurs in Africa.

The fund awards grants and loans to projects focused on agriculture, renewable energy and adaptation to climate change.

Funding is awarded through competitions among applicants based on commercial viability and innovation.

The 2015 African Green Revolution Forum, which runs from September 29 to October 2, convenes with agriculture development and youth and women at the top of its agenda.

The forum will define strategies that will make markets and the financial system work better for African farmers and enable youth and women to engage in agriculture as a business enterprise.

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