Deputy Administrator Glick's Keynote at the Launch of the Agribusiness Deal Room at the AGRF Virtual Summit 2020

Speeches Shim

Monday, July 20, 2020

[Remarks As Prepared]

Thank you, I am honored to round out a good discussion on such a critical issue.

I want to especially thank Dr. Agnes Kalibata for her leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. USAID is so proud to have worked with her and with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to establish the Agribusiness Deal Room.

In 2019, the Deal Room helped originate more than $200 million in investment commitments for African businesses. We are excited to see even more deals done in 2020 and together, drive agricultural growth in Africa.

Many people don’t know this, but I am a smallholder farmer myself. So I understand the challenges of being part of the agriculture sector and the roles that farmers and agribusiness play in the economy -- whether in local communities or around the world.

These are indeed challenging times for the agriculture sector.

COVID-19 is not only a global health crisis. It is also undermining food security and nutrition around the world.

Travel restrictions, marketplace closures, and stay-at-home orders are necessary to stop the spread of the virus, but they also disrupt agriculture and food systems.

Due to COVID-19, Africa’s agricultural productivity is expected to contract between 3-7%. Agriculture is the primary driver of development and growth -- so the decline in productivity is going to have broad and deep impacts.

Which is why the private sector is needed now more than ever. Private enterprise is the most powerful engine ever devised for lifting people out of poverty, strengthening communities, and accelerating countries on their Journeys to Self-Reliance.

USAID’s approach to economic growth is to deepen engagement with the private sector and to embrace market-based approaches to achieve development outcomes.

For example, in Kenya, USAID is investing grant funding into a business-to-business mobile platform to connect rural smallholder farmers to informal urban markets.

I met one of these farmers when I visited a large livestock market in northern Kenya last year, in Isiolo County. Veronica, who had run a small agribusiness for 20 years, struggled to expand her business due to challenges she faced in a male-dominated industry.

Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's flagship global hunger and food security initiative, USAID is helping women like Veronica. USAID helped Veronica receive a $300 loan to expand her business, and she was able to pay it back after five months. She also used her profits to buy a car to deliver more goods to the market and boost her income.

With her income, Veronica is sending her four children to school and feeding them nutritious food. Here’s what she said: “I love my business. With that job, I’ve brought up my children.” All from a micro-loan of $300!

Investing in farmers like Veronica is what initiatives like the AgriBusiness Deal Room is all about. Last year, 40 percent of the businesses helped were run by women. We know that the agriculture sector is uniquely placed to advance women’s economic empowerment across the continent.

The Deal Room demonstrates that the most enduring and sustainable investment is the kind where everyone can benefit… and where prosperity is shared widely.

Each deal you create … each new venture… each new idea tested… represents another step forward. Even when things don’t work out as you plan, there’s a lesson that can be applied in the future.

The greatest business leaders always have suffered a few missteps along the way. That’s how we learn. That’s how we grow.

The great American inventor Thomas Edison once was asked how many designs for the lightbulb failed.

He said: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

This is the type of innovation we want to foster. We know that creative solutions to development challenges are out there. They are represented by the many businesses in the Deal Room.

Small and medium enterprises are the lifeblood of African economies. They account for 90 percent of businesses and 70 percent of jobs on the continent.

We will continue to support the private sector and sustain economic growth, prosperity, and self-reliance in the agriculture sector as well as across economic sectors in Africa.

Thank you.