AFRICA – The African Development Bank (AfDB) through the Board of Directors of the Agriculture Fast Track Fund (AFT) has approved US$23 million grant to support agribusiness Small-and-Medium- sized Enterprises (SMEs) in eight African countries.

The fund will be used to finance agribusiness in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania with an aim of increasing food production, gender empowerment as well as create jobs in Africa.

According to a report by Ghana News Agency, each of the beneficiaries would receive between US$100,000 and US$1.5 million to facilitate preparation of agriculture infrastructure projects.

The funds are also aimed at ensuring facilitation of financing and advisory services for agribusiness expansion purposes.

The agribusines projects are expected to be implemented within six months and also finance upstream work of project design.

This will include; feasibility studies, business plans, product and process certification, market analysis, as well as aid them to conduct environmental and social impact assessment.

Speaking during the launch of the initiative in Ghana, Mr Yaro Baldeh, AfDB’s country manager, said this was part of the Bank’s ambition to support agriculture transformation in Africa as a major sector among majority of the economies.

He said that the fund also comes as a reinforcement to AfDB’s Feed Africa Strategy, intended to improve food security status of the continent and make Africa a net food exporter.

In addition, he said that AFT is committed towards propelling the continent to the pinnacle of the export-oriented global value chain and supporting the development of a strong pipeline of “bankable” agriculture infrastructure projects.

The fund will support a total of 17 projects across the eight countries in poultry farming, cultivation of seeds, irrigation farming and other interventions.

Mr Emmanuel Fordjour, the Head of the African Development Bank Unit at the Finance Ministry, hailed the support from AfDB saying that will contribute to boosting agriculture production and improve food security in the country.

The Agricultural Fast Truck Fund was established in 2013 under the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department of the AFDB and has since its inception approved 36 grant projects, majority being private-sector sponsored agribusiness SMEs.

The trust fund is supported by governmental development agencies; United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and Swedish International Development (Sida).