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    2 April, 2009
Standard Bank and Agra create fund

Africa's largest bank, the Standard Bank, in association with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has created an innovative fund for small African farmers, including Mozambicans.

According to AGRA the fund will benefit farmers in Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda, offering loan opportunities to small farmers.

AGRA and other partners are providing a loan guarantee fund of $10 million, while in turn Standard Bank is making $100 million available for lending over the next three years.

A memorandum of understanding establishing the rules between the partners was signed in Accra on 18 March between AGRA President Namanga Ngongi, Standard Bank Chief Executive Jacko Maree, and Mozambican Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca, who is a board member of the Millennium Challenge Account-Mozambique, which is the first country partner of the programme.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, former United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan, who is also chairperson of the AGRA board, hailed the agreement. "Our action today recognises that the global food crisis is exerting major problems in Africa", he said. "Inflation, food shortages, and trade imbalances all pose huge social, economic, and political risks. But while credit is frozen worldwide, Africa cannot wait for a thaw. Programmes such as this, which increase the productivity of smallholder farmers and help catalyse an African Green Revolution, will ultimately enable Africa to achieve food security and stability, and thus improve the entire global outlook".

Lack of access to financing is a major obstacle preventing farmers from investing in basic inputs such as good seeds, fertilizers and small-scale irrigation, all of which are necessary to increase agricultural productivity.

As a result, the yields of these farmers are just a quarter of the world average, leading to hunger and poverty across Africa, Annan pointed out. Little or no commercial financing has been made available to entrepreneurs who seek to build businesses that would boost African food production.

The new credit programme is based on studies conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation in Uganda, that helped increase loans to small scale farmers, and which five years later had a loan default rate of less than two percent.

The $100 million partnership between AGRA and the Standard Bank will inaugurate the biggest ever funding for agriculture by a single African bank.

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