The African Agri Council recently asked Fuzlin Levy-Hassen, Chief Investment Officer at GLIDE Capital partners, a few questions. Here's what she had to say about the current state investment in African Agriculture and her vision for the future.
Fuzlin, can you share with us what motivated you to take on your current role at GLIDE Capital Partners and how this aligns with your professional journey so far?
In my 30 years of investment experience, making a difference is what drives me, especially where it redresses imbalances, uplifts individuals and communities and really makes impact. GLIDE Capital Partners focus is centered on gender lens investing, in particular promoting climate and sustainability in Africa. The Fund’s name, GLIDE, represents the first letters of our investment focus: (G)ender, (L)ens, (I)nvesting and (D)isadvantaged (E)ntrepreneurs Fund. GLIDE is a majority women- owned and led fund, with an executive team that has collectively more than 100 years of investment experience across different continents and different sectors, and multiple awards of recognition for their work from the United Nations and others. In sum, GLIDE’s focus is exactly the area about which I am the most passionate, and I am glad to be part of a team that shares the same values.
How do you assess the current state of investment in African agriculture, and why is it vital for both economic growth and sustainability on the continent?
The current state of investment into agriculture is poor. Unfortunately, many of the Funds / Funders remain risk averse when it comes to agriculture in general. This is usually due to their lack of in-depth knowledge of the sector, as well as perceived risks around: Climate change / Global warming, Exchange Rates / Currency risks, Perishability / Logistics / Cold-chain etc. What is vital going forward for economic growth and sustainability on the continent is small, accessible, cheaper funding, both loans and grants for farmers and funds that support them, like GLIDE, which act as conduits of support across the various parts of this sector.
The sector is populated 70% by women and has low support from both government and the private sector yet is vital because:
We all need to eat;
It is the largest employment sector on the continent at about 54% of all employees pan Africa;
Africa imports $40 bn of food pa yet with funding and support could feed itself and beyond.
Arable Land worldwide has decreased by nearly a third since 1961 due to reforestation, soil erosion etc., caused by global climate change. There is an opportunity in this critical sector to use innovation to improve yields and efficiencies to meet increasing demand, especially on a continent whose population is set to double by 2050.
In your role at GLIDE Capital Partners, how do you approach identifying and nurturing potential investment opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector?
We secure investment opportunities through both local and international networks, conferences, associations, women's business sites and our extensive contact list. As to nurturing of potential investments, we have an experienced executive management team in agriculture investments with very strong post investment capability that will work with investee companies on route to market, optimising value etc.
Based on your extensive experience, what are the primary challenges investors face when looking to contribute to African agriculture, and how can these be mitigated?
One challenge is choosing the optimal instrument to invest through, equity or debt, and to ensure there is the lowest execution risk and highest transparency possible, which involves working with a strong team. GLIDE’s management, having been in the agriculture sector for many decades, has a great understanding of critical factors including supply/demand, processing, the value chain, biological assets among others, and has the ability to place values on all of these.
With a focus on the future, what is your vision for the evolution of Africa's agricultural sector, particularly in the context of technological advancement and climate change?
Africa is developing in agri tech, allowing it to leapfrog into 21st Century agri. This evolution needs to focus on, for example, reducing food waste through climate smart initiatives like solar powered refrigeration and promoting plant protein. Also using non-arable lands to grow plant protein with less water and securing the tech to create protein powder. We will also invest in climate adapted logistics and smart food storage. Today, Agri-Tech like drones has resulted in improved efficiencies and reduced risk in certain volatile areas of production. There are multiple areas where GLIDE can make an impact.
Considering your passion for innovation and start-ups, how do you see these areas intersecting with and bolstering African agriculture?
A perfect fit - innovation in agri is exceptional and growing. There are so many early-stage and growth businesses in the Agri-tech sector in Africa that excite us and most need that early support to get product at scale to market.
Fuzlin will be a speaker at the African Agri Investment Indaba. To register click here: http://www.agri-indaba.com/register