Business-To-Business Forum in Sikasso Brings Agribusinesses Together to Strengthen Market Linkages and Facilitate Access to Finance for Agribusinesses

To support agribusinesses, which are often considered high risk investments to financial institutions, in accessing agriculture-related finance, Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa activity, organized a Business-to-Business (B2B) forum on June 23, 2021, in Sikasso. Implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Sugu Yiriwa aims to strengthen market systems and sustainably improve household incomes by facilitating the development of markets that are more inclusive, dynamic and functional and building the capacity of market actors to increase their market preparedness.

The forum brought together five financial institutions and more than 100 participants, including 30 women, to discuss funding constraints and propose solutions to facilitate access to finance for value chain actors in Sugu Yiriwa’s intervention areas. Participants represented a wide range of Sugu Yiriwa beneficiaries including agrodealers, wholesale grain dealers, agro-processors, producer organizations and cooperatives, and the Regional Federations of women and youth of Sikasso.

Following the general session, representatives from the five financial institutions mobilized by Sugu Yiriwa, including the National Bank of Agriculture Development (BNDA), Baobab, Kafo Jiginew, CAECE and Soro Yiriwaso, held separate meetings with participants to discuss financing modalities and propose solutions to facilitate access to financing. The forum also served as a platform for 20 Sugu Yiriwa beneficiaries to submit funding requests to the financial institutions for a total amount of 293,000,000 FCFA ($530,000). To support the mobilization of these funds for Sugu Yiriwa’s agribusiness partners, the activity plans to collaborate with Business Development Services Providers to train market stakeholders on business plan development, financial literacy, business management tools and leadership.

Small group discussion at business-to-business forum.
Small group discussion at business-to-business forum.

Soro Yiriwaso, a popular microfinance institute (MFI) in Mali, shared with the participants the challenges the MFIs themselves face in accessing finance due to the high operating charges and interest rates and received suggestions to find other state supported sources of funding or a funding model similar to USAID DCA funding.

The B2B forum was also an ice breaker that addressed one of the strongest taboos for Malians, the fear of falling into debt with financial institutions. The forum helped participants understand, in simple terms, and hear from the financial institutions directly about the defined process to access finance. The discussions on guarantees also reflected that well-structured institutions with strong governance have more chances to access financing.

The B2B forum was organized along with the ninth edition of the National Seed Fair, another activity sponsored and organized by Sugu Yiriwa in collaboration with the National Seeds Association in Mali (ASSEMA). The National Seed Fair from June 22–23, 2021 brought together market stakeholders to strengthen B2B relationships and facilitate producers’ access to quality seeds for improved production. It also provided an opportunity to deliver advisory support to agribusinesses to better develop their packaging, compliance with seed conservation standards, collaboration with extension services and more. In total, over 90 exhibitors made an estimated turnover of over 1.2 million FCFA ($2,169), mainly for horticulture and cereals seeds.

Sugu Yiriwa will look to this first B2B forum to assist their future activities in collaboration with business development service providers and to deliver packages of targeted support ranging from technical and institutional capacity building through training to coaching and mentoring throughout the preparation of requests for funding, financial intermediation and implementation of commercial transactions to ensure loan recovery.