Behind the headlines and campaigns, the key to making poverty history in Africa actually lies with its indigenous entrepreneurs. Not only an engine for economic growth, small businesses are also the source of most jobs and opportunities for poor people.
That’s why the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), launched last year, and with the search for its Fund Managers about to get under way, is so important.
The Fund will offer grants, matched by private sector contributions, to innovative business ideas which encourage greater participation of poor people in markets – as consumers, workers or entrepreneurs.
The Fund is backed by an array of donor agencies, including the African Development Bank, the Consultative Group for Assist the Poor, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK's Department for International Development.
Interestingly, the Fund will be hosted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) (which former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, chairs), hinting at one of the Funds likely and welcome areas of focus: agriculture - the sector on which most poor people depend for their livelihoods. Finance is the other initial focus, reflecting the difficulty small entrepreneurs often report having in accessing credit and other financial services.
As Business Action for Africa – the network of businesses, business organisation and development partners – this is just the sort of innovative partnership we have been calling for, and we stand ready to engage with the successful Fund Manager to make the AECF the success it needs to be.