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31.05.2012 Business & Finance

Shell Foundation to present market solutions for supporting Africa’s SME sector at Africa Finance & Investment Forum 2012

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Shell Foundation will address this year's Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF) on the importance of Africa's Small and Medium Enterprise sector to sustainable economic growth in the continent – and the development of a new asset class to provide a combination of growth capital and business skills to entrepreneurs on an international scale.

The Forum, entitled “Financial inclusion through SMEs & Cooperatives”, is promoted by EMRC and held in partnership with Rabobank at the Rabobank Headquarters, the Netherlands, from 17-19 June 2012.

“Growth in the SME sector is critical to economic development – but entrepreneurs in Africa with limited collateral, track record or business experience lack the finance and vital support to help them expand their businesses,” explains Jeroen Blüm, Shell Foundation's Deputy Director. “The sector is traditionally seen as high risk and associated with high transaction costs putting off the usual providers of capital like banks or private equity firms. It is hugely under-served. But after nearly 12 years trying to tackle this problem we now have evidence that it is possible to deliver these critical inputs to this market in a way that makes financial sense.”

Shell Foundation co-founded GroFin in 2004, an African-based financial intermediary that provides risk capital (mezzanine finance of up to $1million) and tailored business expertise to viable start up or growing businesses. The specialist company now has local offices in nine African countries and has invested $85 million into African SMEs, creating over 6500 jobs.

GroFin now has more than $320million under management – delivering both financial and social returns to its investors by enhancing sustainable employment and livelihoods in emerging economies. This includes the world's largest fund targeting the sub-$1million SME sector.

“GroFin's achievements are remarkable,” adds Blüm. “We've worked closely together from the start, combining all our resources – not just money but also knowledge, skills and networks – to create a totally new model and to overcome the many obstacles that any pioneer in a new market faces in going to scale.

“Growth Finance is a new and increasingly investable asset class – but Africa needs many, many types of organisations like GroFin to serve the needs of its entrepreneurs. Although the signs are good, with more organisations entering this space and increasing investor interest, there is still a lot to be done before this can impact the economic development of Africa as a continent”.

Finding the right balance and correct financial tools for the sector is essential. This year's AFIF Forum will gather leading global representatives from a variety of sectors to highlight the financial tools, solutions and growing policy trends to ensure economic growth for Africa's SMEs. The discussions and proposals to be highlighted at the forum are essential for a cross section of African sectors to establish their full economic potential.

A growing number of organisations and businesses will be present at AFIF 2012, such as FMO - Rabo Development - Rabobank Foundation - IFC, World Bank - IFAD - AfDB (African Development Bank) - Centenary Bank - Shell Foundation – GIZ (German International Cooperation Organisation) - Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovations - Oikocredit - FARA - Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation - Clifford Chance - Wageningen University – Agriterra - HEINEKEN - I&P - Hivos – AFRACA - AMSCO - Rectory Foods, Ltd – AFRACA (African Rural & Agriculture Credit Association) - Global Development Co-operative - Centenary Bank - among many other from Africa, Europe, America and Asia.

AFIF 2012 will provide a platform for new and improved financial tools to be spotlighted, with a particular focus on mechanisms adapted and unique to the African business model. Business-to-business (B2B) meetings which are tailor-made to ensure maximum business partnership success will be organized on the 18th June at Rabobank Headquarters. Previous forums have seen over 1,000 of these meetings set up over a 2-day period. The international media will spotlight the various speakers and interview a select group of participants to highlight regional and local business ideas and trends.

The EMRC-Hivos-VC4Africa Project Incubator Award will be sponsored this year by the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos), a leading Dutch organisation with a worldwide presence, and held in collaboration with Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), a global platform connecting entrepreneurs and investors throughout Africa.

With two leading organisations associated to this year's Award, the winner and nominees will receive increased international recognition and the opportunity to expand their global contacts. The award is presided by a panel of international experts, with the winner receiving a cash prize of US$15,000 and the much-needed international media spotlight.

The first two days of the Forum will be held in Utrecht and the third day will be held in partnership with Food First, which includes guided visits to one of the world's biggest Horticultural Expo - Floriade 2012 (Venlo-Netherlands), organized once every ten years.

Interested participants are urged to contact EMRC International and book a place for AFIF 2012. Please contact [email protected]

For more information about sponsorship and speaking opportunities please contact Inês Bastos at [email protected] or visit

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