AGRA announces partnership with Aceli Africa to support African agribusiness SMEs

Published 05 May 2021

Value For Women has been working closely with two Aceli partners – Mango Fund and Family Bank – over several months this year to help them progress on their gender lens investing journeys. Mango Fund is an impact investment fund based in Uganda, and Family Bank is a commercial bank operating in Kenya.

Read Value for Women’s case studies on Mango Fund and Family Bank to dive deeper into their individual experiences and insights, and learn more about Value for Women’s gender lens advisory work with Aceli’s lending partners by reading this blog.

With support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and other partners, Aceli is working to mobilize $600M in private capital for agri-SMEs and positively impact the livelihoods of over a million people in East Africa.

“Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are vital. They strengthen climate resilience, generate income and jobs, help smallholder women farmers and less qualified workers – especially women and young people – to emerge from poverty.”

Learn more in this article by SDC.

USAID is working in partnership with Aceli to increase private sector lending to agricultural SMEs in East Africa that use regenerative agriculture methods and other environmentally sustainable practices.

In 2018, USAID and Aceli set out to learn what it takes to increase investment in sustainability-minded SMEs across the African continent. In 2019, USAID went on to become the first anchor funder in Aceli with a $10 million award to design agricultural finance programs in Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. USAID’s support also helped Aceli secure an additional $60 million from the Swiss, Dutch, and UK governments, and the IKEA Foundation.

Learn more about the partnership.

Aceli Africa believes that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards can have a positive impact on the performance of both lenders and their agricultural SME borrowers and should therefore be integrated into the policies and practices of these actors. We require our partner lending institutions to commit to and practice ESG standards that meet or exceed Aceli Africa’s ESG standard outlined in our policy, which has been newly revised and takes effect on May 1, 2022.

This ESG policy applies to all lenders seeking to participate in Aceli Africa’s financial incentive program. The policy is complementary with the governing laws and regulations for environmental and social practices in each country. Lenders participating in the Aceli financial incentive program are expected first and foremost to comply with laws in each country where the lender is operating and, secondarily, to comply with Aceli’s ESG policy by meeting or exceeding the ESG due diligence criteria related to underwriting and managing any loans that are submitted to Aceli for financial incentives.

Read Aceli’s ESG & Impact Policy Summary.



The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) join IKEA Foundation, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and USAID’s Feed the Future initiative as anchor funders to Aceli Africa. The new awards of $11.9M from the Dutch government and £13.5M from the British High Commissions in Dar es Salaam and Kampala bring total donor commitments to Aceli’s innovative market incentive facility to $62M.

Continuing disruptions from COVID-19 and a worsening climate crisis have amplified the longstanding need for investment in African agricultural value chains that are inclusive, resilient, and environmentally sustainable.

Launched in September 2020, Aceli Africa is a market incentive facility that aims to mobilize $600M in private sector lending to small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in the East African agriculture sector by 2025. As of November 2021, 26 leading commercial banks and impact investors have registered for Aceli Africa’s financial incentives program, which mitigates the risk and improves the returns of lending to high-impact agricultural SMEs.

In its first 15 months of operations, Aceli supported its lending partners in issuing 254 loans totaling $30M. Nearly half of loans have been made to first-time borrowers. SMEs receiving Aceli-supported loans have channeled $108M into rural economies as crop purchases from 246,000 smallholder farmers and salaries for 4,700 full-time workers. Incentives are tiered to reward loans to businesses that create economic opportunities for women and youth, contribute to food security and nutrition in Africa, and practice climate-smart agriculture that sustains the environment.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed to supporting Aceli Africa in its innovative approach to improve access to finance for agri-SMEs in East Africa. We expect Aceli Africa’s data-driven model will incentivize more lending for agri-SMEs and contribute to sustainable economic development in East Africa,” said Ms. Saskia Jongma, Deputy Director, Sustainable Economic Development Department, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

‘’The British High Commission in Dar es Salaam is pleased to partner with Aceli Africa to support increased investment into Tanzania’s small and medium sized enterprises. Increasing access to growth capital will drive innovation, increase firm productivity, and create jobs for Tanzania’s rapidly growing workforce,’’ said Kemi Williams, Development Director, British High Commission in Dar es Salaam.

The commitments by Aceli’s anchor funders are the catalyst for a more competitive lending market that will improve livelihoods for over 1 million farmers and workers and demonstrate a model that can be scaled in East Africa and replicated in other regions,” said Brian Milder, CEO of Aceli Africa.

More information on Aceli Africa’s approach and progress to date can be found in its Year 1 Learning Report.


The Catalytic Capital Consortium (C3) announced awards to support 14 research projects that will analyze the uses of catalytic capital around the world and help build the evidence base to fuel additional risk-tolerant, flexible and patient investments that address critical global challenges.

Aceli Africa is one of the 14 awardees, including universities, nonprofits and collaborations spanning seven countries. Collectively, the cohort will use the funding to study catalytic capital across diverse geographies and sectors—assessing capital gaps for entrepreneurs in Africa, housing finance bottlenecks in Eastern Europe, economic inequality and barriers to accessing capital in Indigenous communities and communities of color in the United States, financing challenges for innovations in science and engineering that promise positive global impact, and more.

A total of 87 groups based in 17 countries applied for funding in response to the C3 Grantmaking program’s public call for proposals last fall. Awards for the 14 selected research and market development projects will total $2.2 million.

Established in 2019, C3 is an investment, learning, and market development initiative created and led by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Omidyar Network. Together, these partners jointly fund the C3 Grantmaking program, which is housed at and administered the New Venture Fund (NVF). C3 aims to increase the flow and impact of catalytic capital to make social and environmental progress that would not otherwise be possible.

Learn more.

Aceli Africa is partnering with AGRA to enhance capital flows to SMEs in the agriculture sector and support a financially inclusive agricultural transformation across Africa. Together we will test and scale up innovations that drive down the cost and risk of financing agricultural SMEs.

Learn more in AGRA’s press release.