Jon Benjamin’s speech at the Launch of Market Development Programme for Northern Ghana (MADE)

Ambassador to Ghana, Jon Benjamin, gave the following speech at the launch of UK Government’s leading agriculture development programme (MADE) and the first MADE Agriculture Investment Forum.

Honourable Ministers of both Agriculture and the Northern Region, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today to launch both the UK Government’s leading agriculture development programme which we call Market Development in the North (MADE) and the first MADE Agriculture investment Forum. The latter which we hope will be an annual event to showcase investment opportunities in the North of Ghana.

The 14.3 million pound MADE programme was developed in 2014 by the UK Government through the Department of International Development (DFID). The aim of the programme is to ramp up agriculture productivity in Ghana as well as attract much needed private sector investment in the sector. At the time when MADE was conceptualised less than 10% of foreign direct investment was implemented in the north of Ghana and domestic investment in the agriculture was also low. Against this backdrop the programme was expected to test models and ideas that would help increase investment in the sector but also to fundamentally change how market interactions between players in the agriculture value chains (producers, farmers, entrepreneurs and service providers) could be improved and transformed. In short we sought to fundamentally change market systems in the north of Ghana to make these operate better and at scale and link these to national and global markets. The programme is anticipated to be flexible and adaptive, piloting ideas and or exiting where things don’t work well. We began by piloting interventions in a few markets including rice, vegetables and groundnuts.

Given this very difficult task we had set for ourselves, we made a conscious decision to launch MADE a few years after implementation so we could share with key stakeholders some of the ideas we have implemented and the lessons emerging. I am proud to say that, two years on, the UK Government through the MADE programme has chalked modest but very important successes and I will mention just two of these:

  • MADE has established very important partnerships between northern entrepreneurs and agriculture companies in the South, bringing northern produce to high end supermarkets in the south and potentially global markets in the future. We will witness the signing of one such partnership today.

  • MADE has managed to attract private sector seed and input dealer companies into the north of Ghana who are in partnership with the more than 10,000 farmers and aggregators that MADE has been working with. A number of the partnerships have been sustained upon exit from MADE.

It is important that I highlight the differences in the way MADE has approached its work in the North. MADE has managed to achieve some of the successes above by operating outside the market whilst seeking changes within it. MADE’s role is really to act as a facilitator and not an implementer acting as a broker by identifying, convening and facilitating the right partnerships and aligning the commercial incentives of those partnerships. This means that when MADE exits a particular intervention there is a greater chance of those partnerships being sustained. MADE deliberately avoids substituting or subsiding activities which are market distorting or reduce people’s own commercial initiative and incentives to invest. This is a key lesson for other programmes being run in the north of Ghana.

After two years of MADE’s operations in the north, we believe the programme has made some significant progress in laying the foundation for achieving the transformative change in agriculture that it aims for. However there are still some major challenges to transformation which will take up the attention of MADE going forward. These include:

  • The need for further private sector investment into northern agriculture in the form of commercial financing for entrepreneurs in the sector but also other commercial partnerships. MADE will make a major push in this direction and the investment profiles developed and the North Agribusiness forum is one of the ways in which the MADE team will aggressively secure further private investment in the north of Ghana.

  • The need to improve information, inputs and agriculture services to farmers as well as related infrastructure including irrigation. On this front MADE will continue to ramp up partnerships with key stakeholders and is for example already in dialogue with private sector partners around cold chain logistics chain for vegetables exports outside the region.

  • The need to improve the capabilities of entrepreneurs so they can achieve the scale in their production and attract the required investment, finance or partnerships. MADE will in the coming days launch a Business Growth Accelerator which will incubate and provide business management to a select number of entrepreneurs that MADE has engaged in the past.

The UK Government is committed to the development of the north and in particular agriculture and has a range of other projects outside MADE focused on the sector. These include the Ghana Catalytic Fund which provides finance (debt and equity) to agriculture companies and the Ghana Greenfields project which is currently working on a large scale commercial irrigation scheme.

Before I declare the investment forum launched, I want to highlight that despite the best efforts of MADE it can only do well if the broader business enabling environment is sound. This is critical as Ghana continues to compete for foreign investment from its peers in the sub-region. Indeed even domestic investors will invest less if the investment climate is not sound. The UK Government through the DFID is actively working with Government and the private sector to improve the investment climate by cutting red tape and reducing regulatory burdens.

I am indeed pleased to be here today as I believe MADE can and will play a critical role in transforming northern agriculture in the future. I am told by MADE that indeed the “northern agriculture is open for business”. I encourage investors (current and potential) here today to really take the time to engage with the MADE team as well as the potential investment deals they have lined up. I am hopeful that by the end of the forum I will be informed that a number of investment deals have been closed.

On this very positive and hopeful note, I declare both the MADE programme and its Agribusiness Investment Forum launched.