Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ISOBEL COLEMAN: Thank you so much, Lawrence [Haddad]. And to all of you, for being here. It’s a beautiful evening, even though we have all had a long day. 

It’s great to be with you all this evening. I’m especially excited to see so many of USAID’s partners who have been on this journey with us and are really working together for a well-nourished world.

Also, a special thanks to Lawrence. I had a chance to meet Lawrence a couple months ago, in Washington, and learn a lot more about this initiative, which I think is a really terrific one. 

Also David Dewez who is the head of Incofin, who I think is here some place – thank you to them. 

Also to the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, and to the Rockefeller Foundation, that Lawrence has mentioned are key partners and I know that USAID has been along on this journey – not since quite the beginning, but early on as a partner. Our work with N3F [Nutritious Foods Financing Facility] began in 2020 when we collaborated with GAIN to define parameters for targeting companies for investment and create a system for monitoring results. 

During this time, USAID also partnered with GAIN to deepen our understanding of small- and -medium enterprises in the agriculture-food sector, and to identify the resources that these businesses would need to benefit the most from the N3F investments. 

At USAID, we have been building on decades of U.S. investment and support for nutrition through health and agriculture programming. We are tackling malnutrition with new commitments across the African continent, including through our Feed the Future investments to enhance the production, and the affordability, and the marketing of safe and nutritious foods – so all of it, the entire chain. We know, however, that there is so much more work to be done. 

Today, there are over three billion people worldwide who are unable to afford safe and nutritious diets – and, reaching our global nutrition targets could require as much as $10 billion annually. So Lawrence, your point that the $100 million fund is a great start, but when you need $10 billion annually, it is not going to do the trick. 

The timing of the establishment of this fund is pivotal as we stare down another global food crisis. We at USAID are doubling down, adapting our approach, embracing innovation and calling on private sector partners to help us boost nutrition financing and strengthen the capacity and resilience of small and medium agricultural enterprises.

Small agribusinesses across Africa have a crucial role in delivering healthy diets to populations experiencing high rates of malnutrition, especially for women and children – and the gap there is really significant. Many are considered high risk because they lack a track record, they lack a positive cash flow, collateral, and/or net profit, which makes lenders very hesitant to invest in them. 

Typically, agricultural and food business investments focus on export crops with limited nutritional value, which has failed to improve nutrition outcomes for local populations in lower and middle income countries.

We heard this morning, in fact I think it was one of the most interesting statements in the morning session – focusing on Asia’s remarkable progress coming out of the Green Revolution, and yet it did not sufficiently address malnutrition – and I think we take that as a stark warning to not repeat that same mistake here on the African continent. 

With the establishment of the Nutritious Foods Financing Facility, we are introducing a new and innovative strategy, one that will complement and strengthen all of our other work. N3F is a cutting-edge approach to nutrition investing and USAID is pleased to announce a $6 million investment in the fund. 

N3F was conceived as a proof of concept – a blended finance approach that combines traditional development finance with commercial investment to reduce the risk that is traditionally associated with small and medium agribusinesses in Africa. 

It is our hope that establishment of this fund will inspire others, particularly those here today, to invest. Contrary to perceptions, small- and medium-agribusinesses across Africa are poised to turn your investments into growth – and into nutrition outcomes for those in need.

We also hope that N3F helps spur other innovative investment funds dedicated to nutrition. The need is as urgent as ever but the potential is real, and we are committed to mobilizing the partners and the dollars to end hunger. 

Thank you all so much.

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