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What do Silicon Valley and Africa’s Sahel Have In Common?

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Jul 28, 2016 6:00:00 AM

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Overlooking a village in southeastern Senegal. 

 

What do Silicon Valley and Africa’s Sahel have in common?

At first blush, not too much. One is apps, algorithms, and acquisitions, and the other? Well, you might be thinking more of a woman in a field, tilling soil with a hand hoe, a vast horizon behind her.

Over the last month, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to both places – first to eastern Senegal to meet with Root Capital clients (agricultural businesses organizing hundreds of cashew growers and millet farmers across the remote region), and later to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, convened by President Obama. And I can tell you one thing: the very same entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that fuels Silicon Valley is alive and well on the last mile of dirt roads in the Sahel.

The problem is, the world hasn’t supported agricultural entrepreneurs in the same way that Silicon Valley supports tech entrepreneurs. But what if it did?

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Topics: West Africa, Pathological Collaboration, Willy Foote

The World of Farmer Finance is Changing

Posted by Willy Foote  |  May 31, 2016 10:55:33 AM

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With Jose Dominguez, a coffee farmer and producer member of RAOS, a Root Capital client in Honduras

The world of farmer finance, as we know it, is changing.

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Topics: Pathological Collaboration, Willy Foote

Introducing the New LAFCo Website

Posted by Lauren Baum  |  Dec 15, 2015 11:31:31 AM

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In Africa, rapid population growth and urbanization have led to an unprecedented demand for food. Small and growing agricultural businesses that serve local staple crop markets are key to meeting this demand — but they’ve struggled to access the capital they need for sustainable growth.

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Topics: Pathological Collaboration, LAFCo

Mainstreaming, Segmenting, and Collaborating: Reflections from SOCAP2015

Posted by Matt Foerster and Lauren Baum  |  Oct 15, 2015 2:30:59 PM

Kate Danaher of RSF Soical Finance, Les Szabo of Dr. Bronner's, Scott Leonard of Indigenous Designs, Ben Schmerler of Root Capital, and Chris Mann of Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products take the stage at SOCAP15 to discuss funding fair trade supply chains. 

Last week, more than 2,700 impact investors and social entrepreneurs met in San Francisco for the eighth annual SOCAP event. Below, we share a few takeaways and reflections on the state of the impact investing sector and what the keynotes, sessions, and conversations at SOCAP15 revealed about the future of the industry.

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Topics: Financial Inclusion, Pathological Collaboration

How Can We Make Agriculture Work for the World?

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Aug 5, 2015 12:55:51 PM

When I envision how to make agriculture work for the world, I think of a system that feeds the global population of nine billion that is expected by 2050 — especially those in cycles of chronic hunger and malnutrition. I think of better farming practices that increase yields and productivity, and that dramatically improve incomes for small-scale producers and the rural poor. I think of an enlightened food industry, as locally based as possible, that creates good jobs across every value chain and protects fragile ecosystems and biodiversity everywhere. And I think of agriculture as a crucial equalizer of opportunity for women and girls, one that provides dignity for the most marginalized populations on earth.  

Sorting cherries

Visiting with coffee farmers on the shores of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda

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Topics: Leadership, Pathological Collaboration, Root Capital, Willy Foote

Introducing LAFCo, The Next Step Toward Growing Rural Prosperity

Posted by Diaka Sall  |  Jun 3, 2015 8:44:00 AM

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A few years ago, The Economist ran an article asserting that “if potential were edible, Africa would have the best-fed people on earth.”

It’s true. In my role overseeing Root Capital’s agricultural lending activities across West Africa, I have a good vantage point to see this potential play out every day. As I meet with entrepreneurs and hardworking farmers, I always come away convinced that investment in Africa’s agriculture sector will have the largest and most pronounced impact on inclusive economic growth. In fact, in many communities it already has. And with the right investments to further unlock Africa’s potential, the region’s food and agricultural markets could be worth roughly $1 trillion by 2030, according to both McKinsey and the World Bank.

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Topics: East Africa, West Africa, Pathological Collaboration