When the Economics Don’t Work: Realigning Capital Markets with Development Impact

Published 08 October 2020

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.

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.



At a sector convening in December 2017, lending practitioners discussed barriers to growing the finance market for agricultural SMEs: namely, the mismatch between the risk-return hurdle of capital providers and the addressable demand among businesses. Stakeholders in attendance pushed lenders to put hard evidence behind their anecdotal experiences.

This report synthesizes our journey over the past two and half years: first to distill the economics of agri-SME lending across a diverse set of lenders and then to design solutions to bridge the gap – estimated at $65 billion a year across Sub-Saharan Africa – between capital supply and demand for agri-SMEs.

In partnership with Dalberg Advisors and with funding from 12 donors, we reviewed data from 31 lenders on 9,104 transactions totaling $3.7 billion and also conducted in-depth interviews with lenders, technical assistance providers, and many other ecosystem actors.

This report shares our findings and presents Aceli Africa’s new data-driven, marketplace approach to align capital supply and demand and unlock increased financing for agri-SMEs.

Download the summary and full report below:

>> Summary Report


>> Full Report



Current blended finance approaches will not be enough to achieve the SDGs, especially with the shockwaves of COVID-19 threatening to erode decades of progress against poverty.

In this guest article for NextBillion, we make the case for why blended finance solutions that align impact and financial sustainability at a marketplace scale are needed now more than ever. We also share the origin story behind Aceli’s design, and how the questions that guided that journey will have implications beyond just the agriculture sector.

Read the full article here.