F&BKP at Africa Works! Conference
The Africa Works! Conference, held during mid-October in Leiden, was a lively gathering of over 850 guests from different sectors in a range of African countries and The Netherlands aimed at exploring the challenges, development and business opportunities in Africa.
The Food & Business Knowledge Platform Office team used the conference to present and discuss its way of working with representatives from business, governments, knowledge institutes and civil society. It also discussed opportunities for collaboration and participated in events of relevance for the Platform’s knowledge agenda.
Building and strengthening effective partnerships between the private and the public sector, as well as between civil society and academia, was the central focus during the 2 days. Attention was particularly paid to food & nutrition security projects in this regard. Lively discussions were held on how business could become (more) inclusive. You can find a selection of points the F&BKP Office team members have taken from the workshop sessions relevant for the Food & Business Knowledge Agenda below. The conference reports will be available soon on www.africaworks.nl and the livestream is available on the conference website.
Food & nutrition security in workshop sessions
Workshop: Inclusive value chains, fact or fiction?
In this workshop BoPinc, IFDC, and AACE Foods shared the results of the 2SCALE program, a program which connects groups of smallholder farmers with international and local companies to develop reliable and steady agricultural value chains. BoPinc explained their definition of ‘inclusive business’ using a few examples:
- Afrisem (www.afrisem.com ) in Tanzania, breeding improved varieties of local African crops;
- Dadtco’s mobile cassava processing unit (www.dadtco.nl/products ), creating better sales opportunities for farmers in Mozambique;
- Mobile milk collection systems, enabled by Friesland Campina, Peak and WAMCO in East Africa;
- AACE’s production of nourishing fortified soya-maize in Nigeria, targeting bottom of the pyramid (BoP) consumers.
In response, participants recommended to strengthen the gender aspects of 2SCALE, empowering women and addressing obstacles (including gender based violence) they face as producers, processors or traders. Participants also called for specific attention to be paid to value chains in (post-) conflict settings. Some questioned what would happen after the end of the 2SCALE program in 2017 and stressed the importance to work towards sustainability as of now.
Workshop: Ever worked in a PPPLab?
The newly created PPPLab presented its work in another workshop. This Dutch research initiative helps to enhance the relevance, effectiveness and quality of Public-Private Partnerships. It does this through action research, knowledge exchange and learning using events and publications. Its learning agenda will partly build on an analysis of the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV) portfolio of programs, which is currently ongoing and for which the Food & Business Knowledge Platform has provided food security-related input.
Workshop participants provided suggestions for the PPPLab’s knowledge agenda, including on how to interpret aspects of partnership development, innovation and sustainability. Some of the main recommendations included PPPLab research findings should be shared at EU level, attention should be paid to the growing interest of large companies in joint ventures in different parts of the value chain, a good balance should be found between technical and social aspects of innovation, the distinction between a PPP and regular FDI should be clarified; various sustainability criteria should be included from the beginning and adhered to and finally it should be realized that building partnerships takes time.
As a wrap up, Ms. De Culenaere, Dutch Ambassador in Rwanda, said she was pleased that the PPPLab works with a Theory of Change model, as this helps verifying whether interventions really help to achieve their goals. The Food & Business Knowledge Platform sees this remark as a confirmation that the PPPLab’s agenda needs to be explicitly linked with Food and Nutrition Security outcomes and will consider working towards this in consecutive joint activities with the PPPLab.
Workshop: Value Chain Development: Fruit and Vegetable Market
This workshop, primarily consisted of a role-play, was hosted by ICCO and fruits trading and processing company Blue Skies. The role-play was centered around negotiations between civil society, farmer groups and companies on the sourcing of fruits in a developing country. It illustrated that it is complicated to agree on a strategy to source fruits from a certain area, which all stakeholders can fully agree on. For example, issues related to lack of trust and value chain efficiency rose to the surface. There did not seem to be existing models that guarantee success when dealing with such dynamics, as amongst other things, these types of discussions are context-specific and power relations may change during the course of negotiating.
Workshop: Get included, get inclusive
This was a workshop hosted by NABC, ESAMI, and the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)/PRC. It focused on inclusiveness and the potential value of Public-Private Partnerships. It was noted that there is still much work to be done with regards to developing inclusive business practices and communicating about them effectively with different stakeholders. It is work in progress!
Inclusive business is still a contested topic on the development agenda as the following quotes illustrate: “Companies working internationally will only focus on their own profitability, the scope of inclusive business lies outside their responsibility” and “Inclusive business, isn’t it primarily not doing the wrong things?” The RSM and Cordaid responded in a more nuanced tone, stressing that it is not about business with a social component, but about business with a strategy and a vision. Both governments and companies have a role in enabling activities. Partnerships fill a void, they are not a compromise but a solution for inclusiveness problems that wouldn’t have been addressed without them. The government’s role is to generate tax-based resources, the private sector’s to make investments, they added.
While the transition from aid to trade is necessary, in many areas the reality that the poorest groups continue to need aid was mentioned by the public. In reaction to this, the workshop organizers stated that companies can indeed reach the BoP but, for example in the field of food security, this often needs new food supply systems – modes of production need to be appropriate for the poorest groups of people and decent payment for local workers is needed. Although ideas on the realization of this inclusiveness had been developed, measurement of the social impact of ‘inclusive business’ from partnership approaches is still quite difficult, stated the RSM.