From November 2021 to January 2022, WBCSD, the Just Rural Transition, the Global Shea Alliance, and Acacia Sustainable Business Advisors facilitated a deep dive initiative as a part of the new Agri-SME Investment Platform called Mobilizing Capital for the Shea Value Chain in West Africa. 

Mobilizing capital for small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises (agri-SMEs) in regions of the world perceived as high risk is an essential component of a just transition to sustainable and resilient agri-food systems. The benefits of investing in the shea sector in West Africa include potentially strong returns in a fast-growing sector, empowering communities and improving incomes—notably for rural women who traditionally harvest and process shea nuts, and safeguarding and restoring nature through climate-smart practices such as agroforestry.

The deep dive included a multi-stakeholder webinar session featuring shea SMEs, investors, researchers, and more. Relevant resources from this event include:

In tandem, agri-SMEs and investors were trained on how to use the Agri-SME Digital Finance Tool – a platform to help facilitate the flow of finance between investors and agri-SMEs with the opportunity for users to create bespoke profiles, post funding requests, go through due diligence processes, and connect with one another.

After the event and training sessions, the partners published a ‘Shea Sector Spotlight’ highlighting investment needs and opportunities for specific actors within the value chain in West Africa. It is available in English and French.

Another aspect of the deep dive initiative was the facilitate networking sessions coordinated by the partners. Agri-SMEs, enterprise support organizations, and investors were matched via email for 1-1 networking opportunities with suggested discussion topics and meeting outputs. To prepare for the sessions, the organizers developed a portfolio of shea sector stakeholders that profiled all the organizations and companies participating in the virtual networking opportunity. The portfolio is available in English and French.

The multi-faceted deep dive initiative wrapped up in January 2022, with connections made between value chain actors and a clear set of next-steps to help further strengthen the opportunities for investment in the shea sector in West Africa. Partners said of the event:

  • WBCSD is pleased to collaborate with technical, finance and SME entrepreneurs to highlight the role of agribusiness in facilitating a flow of finance that will secure and stabilize value-chains and deliver multiple benefits and shared value” – Ruth Thomas, Director, Global Agribusiness Action on Equitable Livelihoods (GAA-EL), WBCSD
  • “Strengthening the SME ecosystem is a critical component in driving a just rural transition, creating local jobs and connecting rural communities with international markets, while building resilient global supply chains.  The deep dive on the shea sector, an agroforestry crop used in food and beauty products both in the region and across the world, has built a community of shea enterprises, investors and support organizations, and brought to life the needs, challenges and opportunities in scaling investment in agri-SMEs more broadly.  We look forward to building on this collaboration to scale finance for inclusive and people-centered food systems.”  – Victoria Crawford, Senior Manager, Investment Partnerships, Just Rural Transition 
  • “The collaboration with WBCSD, the Just Rural Transition, and Acacia Advisors helped put the spotlight on investment opportunities present within the shea industry in West Africa. The GSA looks forward to building on this initiative to bridge the existing financing gap in the sector, delivering economic growth and climate outcomes for the region.” – Marie Veyrier, Development Director, Global Shea Alliance 
  • “This exciting initiative has brought together some promising Shea sector enterprises with investors.  We now need to build on this and develop a stronger ecosystem of service providers and other actors around these crucial connections to make sure that more of these matches occur and lead to capital reaching the places that it needs to go for the benefit of local economies in underserved rural areas.” – Martin Paulson, Director, Acacia Sustainable Business Advisors 

To learn more about this continued work on strengthening investment opportunities for agri-SMEs in global value chains, please contact Melanie Levine, Manager, Food & Agriculture, WBCSD.