Business as Unusual Insights from the 2SCALE program

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Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is home to about 1 billion people, of whom the majority (about 60% on average) live in rural areas. Though poverty is not just a rural phenomenon, people in rural areas are more often struck by poverty than in cities. Although agriculture accounts for only about 20-50% of gross domestic product (GDP) in most sub-Saharan African countries, most rural population depends predominantly on agriculture for food and income. In addition, many city dwellers are also farmers and involved in various farming activities, alternating from purely subsistence farming to intensive (commercial) horticultural production. In many sub-Saharan African countries, the agricultural sector employs the majority (up to 90%) of the active population. Agriculture and related (food) industries are an important economic base for SSA's rural and urban economies. Their growth and transformation are also critical to meet the increased demand for food and adapting to shifting consumer patterns. Fortunately, many companies and entrepreneurs aspire to make a difference in Africa, either by sourcing locally or by offering affordable, high-quality products to low-income communities. 2SCALE calls these companies and entrepreneurs inclusive agribusiness champions: An inclusive agribusiness is a commercially viable agribusiness that involves low-income communities, i.e., smallholder farmers and base of the pyramid (BOP) consumers, and vulnerable groups, e.g., women and youth, in a way that benefits them. Inclusive agribusiness champions face many challenges: they often have difficulties sourcing sufficiently large volumes of raw materials; are competing in uncertain, often unfair, competitive playing fields with limited resources; they can only afford to go so far to realize their inclusive intentions; and, they may be confronted with resistance, even within their organizations. 2SCALE's objective is to support the realization of sustainable, inclusive agribusiness, which has become an inspirational example for other entrepreneurs, civil society, and public agents to follow in their footsteps. Through demonstrating successful inclusive agribusiness partnerships, 25CALE hopes to trigger institutional changes in favor of fairer competitive playing fields and inclusive growth. This paper discusses how 2SCALE operates, putting partnerships at the fore. It shows that such partnerships are a means to an end, i.e., to develop agribusiness models promoting inclusiveness, having a (new) competitive edge, and potential for scale. By nature, partnerships come and go, but those that continue to exist evolve. No matter who is the Initiator, from grassroots- or firm-led PPPs, transformation results in more complex, multi-layered partnerships to deepen and scale Inclusive growth and address new challenges.
Poverty alleviation, Agriculture, Horticulture
2SCALE, 2019. Business as Unusual: Insights from the 2SCALE program. IFDC, BoP, ICRA, KIT, Amsterdam.