Speaking at the ceremony Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Elton Mangoma commended the developers and donor agencies behind AECF for their inclusion of Zimbabwe in the initiative.
“The government of Zimbabwe is delighted with the launch, especially as it is specifically aimed at helping the rural poor and also because it provides a much-needed cash injection into the economy,” he said.
“This initiative resonates with the 2010 National Budget, which is designed to foster economic recovery.”
The Zimbabwe Window will also be focused on agro-business and rural financial services.
Government had provided US$4,5 million seed capital for the Zimbabwe Window, which Mangoma said would stimulate investment that would in turn have a direct impact on Zimbabwe’s economic revival.
“This will help lift small scale farmers out of poverty,” Mangoma said.
The AECF is a fund created to support private sector investment that benefits the rural poor of Africa.
It was created by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the brainchild of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and funded by various donor agencies.
Based in Nairobi, the fund is active in 16 countries across Africa and has decided to create the Zimbabwe Window to foster rural-led economic recovery.
Speaking at the ceremony, Australian Ambassador to Zimbabwe John Courtney said he felt the AECF Zimbabwe Window would be successful because the timing of the launch was ideal and also because the skills and energy of Zimbabwe’s private sector would contribute enormously to private sector-led revival.
AECF Director Hugh Scott told guests at the launch that the AECF Zimbabwe Window would start operating immediately and was calling for responses from the private sector by the deadline of January 31.
“Applicants must be private, for-profit organisations and funds requested as grants and repayable grants must be between US$250 000 and US$1,5 million,” he said.
“Applicant companies had to provide matching funds equal or greater than 40% of the total cost of the project and requests must be for specific, new and innovative business ideas in Zimbabwe, in one of the two areas supported by AECF’s Zimbabwe Window –– agribusiness or rural financial services.
“The purpose of the Window, which is specific to Zimbabwe, is to contribute to the rehabilitation and regeneration of business and finance market systems linked to rural Zimbabweans.
This will be achieved by selecting and co-financing private sector-led projects that will have a direct, positive impact on large numbers of people living in rural areas. Indirectly, it will have a wider and more strategic impact on the way business and financial systems operate, particularly in relation to poor people.”
Funding for the projects will eventually come from multiple donors, as in other AECF activities across Africa, but the initial $4,5 million from the Australian government will ensure operational capacity. –– Staff Writer.