A new market-based initiative launching in 2020

Mobilizing FINANCE for agricultural growth



A market-based platform to unlock capital for agricultural small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will require an additional $2.5 trillion in funding per a year. The private sector is needed to close this gap, but high risk and low returns keep capital on the sidelines. Solutions that blend targeted public and philanthropic investments with private capital could drive impact at scale.

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about ACELI africa

Bridging the mismatch between the risk-return expectations of financial institutions and the demand for capital among agricultural SMEs.

Drawing upon groundbreaking data, Aceli Africa will provide targeted financial incentives to lenders to increase their risk appetite, while facilitating technical assistance to agricultural SMEs so that they can qualify for and manage financing. Aceli Africa is designed in partnership with the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance (CSAF) and the Global Development Incubator (GDI). Participating lenders will include CSAF members as well as local financial institutions.


The opportunity

Investing in African agriculture offers one of the most significant and immediate opportunities for impact globally.

The World Bank estimates that agricultural growth in Africa is 2-3x times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector. Agricultural SMEs such as farmer cooperatives and food processors have an important role to play. They aggregate hundreds, and often thousands, of smallholder farmers living on less than $2.50/day and link them to markets. They also generate employment for low-skill workers, particularly women and youth, transitioning into the formal economy.

Agricultural SMEs have the potential to make significant contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goals 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work), 13 (climate action), and 15 (life on land). However, SMEs have yet to realize this potential because they fall into the “missing middle” – too large for microfinance but unable to access loans from commercial banks – a gap estimated at $65 billion across sub-Saharan Africa.


HOW It will work

Aceli Africa will engage both local financial institutions and global lenders that are members of CSAF.

Aceli Africa will provide financial incentives to increase the risk appetite of lenders so they serve more agricultural SMEs. It will also facilitate technical assistance so agricultural SMEs are better prepared to access finance and growth their businesses. Each dollar of donor funding will generate $12 of private sector lending and at least $3 in incremental farmer income, with capital leverage doubling as the market becomes more competitive.



Aceli Africa is designed as a demonstration model with two main objectives.

  1. To catalyze a more competitive financial market. Financial incentives for lenders, paired with technical assistance for enterprises, will promote competition and efficiencies that drive down the costs to serve agricultural SMEs and reduce the need for donor funding.

  2. To influence national governments in Africa to create a more favorable enabling environment for agricultural SME finance, including budget allocations that replace donor funding and promote inclusive agricultural growth.

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Who’s behind it

Aceli Africa is led by an experienced team.


Brian Milder

13 years experience in agricultural finance, former Chief Innovation Officer for an impact lender serving agricultural SMEs in Africa, Co-Founder and Director of the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance (CSAF).


Sander Glas
Senior Associate

5 years experience in development finance, formerly with USAID’s flagship blended finance initiative, the World Bank Group CFO’s Office, and an agricultural finance project in Afghanistan.    


Etienne Ndatimana
Head of Operations

12 years experience working with financial institutions serving SMEs across Africa, previously led regional business advisory projects with IFC, and more recently worked in the agricultural finance and renewable energy sectors.

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Liz Muange
Program Manager

10 years experience in financial advisory, four years developing blended finance initiatives for the agriculture sector in East Africa for USAID, African Guarantee Fund, and Deloitte.




Titianne Donde

10 years experience in SME banking, eight years in senior leadership roles managing USAID projects in agriculture and financial inclusion in East Africa.


Tom Carroll

20 years experience in agriculture finance and frontier market investments, Director at the Global Development Incubator and former Partner at Dalberg Advisors.


Jointly incubated by the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance (CSAF) and the Global Development Incubator (GDI).


Data and Learning Partners


With support from