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New $25 mln fund launched to grow African agriculture

Source: Reuters - Thu, 9 May 2013 19:21 GMT
Author: Wendell Roelf
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People walk past the entrance to the main market in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Penney
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CAPE TOWN, May 9 (Reuters) - A mango project in Burkina Faso exporting to Europe will receive the first grant from a new $25 million agriculture fund launched on Thursday that is designed to connect small farmers to international markets.

With global food demand expected to grow by at least 70 percent by 2050 and with sub-Saharan Africa home to about 60 percent of the world's unused arable land, experts see African farmers as leading the next agricultural boom.

But one of the biggest problems many small-scale farmers face across the continent is finding the financing that will help them buy seeds, improve yields and take their products to market.

The fund, capitalized by the USAID development agency and the Swedish government, tries to fill the gaps that prevent subsistence farmers from becoming commercial farmers. It will be managed by the African Development Bank (ADB).

"The African economy is currently overly dependent on public investment for infrastructure development," said Donald Kaberuka, the ADB's president.

"The Agriculture Fast Track is a critical tool to better leverage donor funding to catalyze private sector investment in support of infrastructure construction and Africa's long-term economic growth and food security," Kaberuka said in a statement released at a World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town.

The fund will provide grants ranging from $100,000 to $1 million and aims to double to $50 million over the next year.
    
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Jon Herskovitz)

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