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The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Underscores the Importance of Sustainable, Regional Solutions to Food Insecurity 

USAID’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub partners with high-performing private-sector companies to improve food security in the region

By Robin Wheeler


Abuja, Nigeria – Many people around the world might find it difficult to pinpoint the specific ways the conflict thousands of miles away between Ukraine and Russia is impacting the global economy. However, the way it is impacting their everyday lives – through price increases of fuel and staple products, the scarcity of certain items, and the difficulty in maintaining even a basic standard of living — is a topic of everyday conversation in West Africa.

Understanding the interconnectedness of our global lives and the reality that Russia and Ukraine together export around 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and more than half of its sunflower oil, allows a better appreciation of the ways the conflict is hitting home for all of us and impacting food security in many nations.

While the impacts of the Ukraine conflict are considerable and unavoidable, the USAID-funded West Africa Trade and Investment Hub and its co-investment partners are working in the region and have made significant positive changes to the agricultural and economic landscape. Our partners specifically focus on reducing dependence on foreign supplies of staples such as rice and have been able to “rise to the occasion” through higher domestic production and import substitution to provide some level of insulation from the impacts.

The Trade Hub’s efforts to support economic growth at country and regional levels are rooted in a commitment to improving livelihoods and food security in communities and households. The Trade Hub assists smallholder farmers to produce higher yields, increase their incomes and improve nutrition, particularly those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also engages the private sector to further support food security efforts and invest in the agricultural sector. In addition, the Trade Hub promotes measures to ensure access to healthy, safe, and nutritious foods, as well as activities that support sustainable practices and job creation, especially for women and youth.

For example, in Senegal, Enterprise Aïssatou Gaye, a woman-owned Trade Hub co-investment partner, aims to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported rice, while La Laiterie du Berger is improving and increasing the availability of fresh and nutritious dairy products in the region. This is a key contribution considering the increased costs associated with processing, storing, and transporting fresh dairy products. Now more than ever, the importance of such developments is key to allowing the region to thrive through self-reliance and improved sustainable agricultural development. 

Read more from Robin Wheeler here. 

Highlights of the Trade Hub’s
New Co-Investment Partnerships

By Tia Swain

Communications Specialist


From March through June 2022, the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) awarded approximately $11.61 million in co-investment grants to 15 companies, bringing our total number of co-investment partners to 86, and total private investment committed to $700 million, with $78 million being in grants awarded by the Trade Hub.  

Made possible through USAID missions throughout West Africa, and through dedicated funding through the U.S. Government’s Prosper Africa and Feed the Future initiatives, the grants range from $250,000 to $3 million, with the co-investment partnerships currently cutting across West African countries—Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Cabo Verde, Togo, Benin, Guinea.  


The projects developed through these Trade Hub partnerships are contributing significantly to economic growth in West Africa, including through creating jobs, boosting incomes for people working in dozens of industries, and increasing exports of agricultural and non-agricultural products sourced from or made in the regionto the United States. Through its Co-Investment Fund and technical assistance, the Trade Hub is partnering with the United States and West African private sector firms to generate new investment in the agriculture sector to bolster food security and economic growth and create sustainable jobs. 


Two of the recent co-investment partners provide access to finance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout West Africa, allowing the SMEs to have a far-reaching impact on improving food security in the region. 

Open Capital Limited: With a co-investment grant of $1,150,131, Open Capital Group Limited (OCA), a management consulting and financial advisory firm based in Mauritius, seeks to build resilience, and enable access to finance for SMEs in West African countries. 


ShEquity: With a USAID Trade Hub co-investment grant of $1,200,000, ShEquity Partners, an investment company working in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, will implement a dual business accelerator and seed financing approach to investing in women-led/owned small and growing businesses. 


Over 50 percent of our co-investment partners are implementing activities to increase food security in the region. Highlighted below are those among our 15 recently awarded co-investment partners that are playing an active role to buffer the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 


With a Trade Hub co-investment grant of $695,314, AGROKOM, a Togo-based company specializing in the production of organic soybean meal, will strengthen its capacity to supply and process soybeans, as well as to effectively begin processing shea kernels. 


The Trade Hub awarded a co-investment grant of $505,684 to Crop2Cash, a Nigerian agritech company, to improve 5,000 farmers' productivity and income by providing easy access to credit and facilitating access to and use of improved seed varieties. 

Seraph Nigeria Limited

Backed with a co-investment grant of $1 million, Seraph Nigeria Limited, a company specializing in producing premium soybean products, aims to increase its national competitiveness by closing the demand-supply gap in its processing plant and training 5,000 small-scale soybean farmers.

Promo Fruits

Promo Fruits, an agribusiness based in Benin, was awarded a Trade Hub co-investment grant of $2,000,000 to support the expansion and diversification of local fruit juice processing to better serve sub-regional and international markets, while increasing the incomes of Promo Fruits’ small producers. 

Marolls Rice Ltd

With an $835,116 grant from the Trade Hub, Nigeria-based Marolls Integrated Rice Processing will build an environmentally sustainable agribusiness, completing the construction of an 8 metric tons per hour rice processing plant to provide competitively priced, milled rice to mitigate the current supply-demand gap and serve as a substitute for imported rice.


The Trade Hub awarded a co-investment grant of $535,818 to ESTEVAL, a Senegalese company specialized in the processing, packaging, and distribution of products made from local fruits, enabling the company to increase its production capacity by building a new processing plant and strengthening the capacities of 1,450 producers to meet the needs of local and international markets.

Elkanis & Partners 

With a grant of approximately $300,000 from the Trade Hub, Nigeria-based El‑kanis and Partners, an agribusiness company engaged in producing and processing crops, will operate an outgrower scheme to aggregate the output of smallholder farmers on a commercial level. Farmers will use certified hybrid seeds to cultivate maize and rice paddy to supply manufacturers and processors with quality grains

OCP Africa Fertilizers Nigeria Limited 

The Trade Hub awarded a second co-investment grant of $485,825 to OCP Africa Fertilizers Nigeria Limited, a leader in the production of phosphate-based fertilizers, for a project to procure and deploy three mobile smart fertilizer blenders, to support onsite fertilizer blending to increase farmers’ access to specialty inputs and thus improve staple crop production in Nigeria. 

Traxi Continental

Traxi Continental Limited (Traxi) is leveraging a $300,000 co-investment grant to provide 31,250 farmers in Kaduna and Niger States in Nigeria with easier access to relatively affordable farm mechanization services to boost maize and rice production, with the goal of achieving a 30 percent yield increase and a 20 percent increase in income per field each year.

The Trade Hub looks forward to working with both our new co-investment partners and those that were awarded grants earlier and are continuing project implementation. You can stay updated on our co-investment partners’ successes through our website and by following us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn

Success in the Making

WACOT Rice Farmer Builds Upon Her Father’s Legacy

The funding of the WACOT Rice Ltd Argungu Rice Out-grower Program came just in time for 27-year-old Hauwa, the second child in an extended family of four wives and 16 children. Hauwa’s father traveled a lot for work, and her mother was consistently hardworking and busy, so she had to take responsibility for herself and her siblings at a very young age.

Read more about Hauwa's Story

ANKA: Connecting African Artisans to the Global Market

An African start-up that created an online marketplace for mostly women-led small businesses and artisans to sell worldwide, recently raised $6.1 million for expansion, thanks to an initial $1.5 million investment from the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) aimed at leveraging outside funding. 

Learn more about ANKA

Weeding Out an Opportunity: Global Mamas supports one woman to increase her income and help her community

Twenty-four-year-old Edith Ahortor was one of Global Mamas’ very first hires. Prior to moving to the Eastern Region, she had lived for some time in the capital city of Accra, where her mother worked as a hairdresser. Because of this, like most Ghanaians and foreigners, Edith wasn’t aware of the ecological problems faced by the communities living closest to the Volta River.

Read more about Edith's story

Pruning and Thinning Training Bear Fruit for Cashew Communities in Côte d’Ivoire

Yao Wilfried Kouadio, 26, lives in a small community in the Sakassou region of Côte d’Ivoire called Konankro, located in the country’s dense, lush, central region where cashew trees dot the landscape. While sun-loving cashew trees grow quickly here, without appropriate spacing they fail to produce their full potential yield. In Sakassou, this phenomenon is all too common.

Read more about Red River Foods' initiative

Events Update

Trade Hub Event Highlights Strategies to Empower Women in Ghana’s Apparel Sector 

By Nana Akua Mensah, Communications Specialist

On May 5, 2022, the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) held the event “Empowering Women in Ghana’s Apparel Sector: Challenges and Success Strategies.” The event highlighted the work of three co-investment partners in the Ghanaian apparel sector—DTRT Apparel, Ethical Apparel Africa, and Global Mamas.

The partners shared their experiences implementing structural policies that enable most women workers to thrive, a key objective of their Trade Hub-funded projects. The event convened representatives from USAID, the U.S. Embassy, other apparel companies in Ghana, and non-governmental organizations looking to empower women and women-owned businesses.  

Read more here.

Nigerian Agribusinesses Champion Inclusive Financing for Women Farmers

By Nana Akua Mensah, Communications Specialist

The Nigerian agricultural sector is the country’s largest employer, with *smallholder farmers constituting most of the agricultural workforce. Even though women smallholder farmers make up nearly half of that number, they continue to face a growing financial inclusion gap. The gender gap is detrimental to the agricultural sector's overall success at a time when accelerating population growth and demand for agricultural products for export and local manufacturing require increased agricultural productivity. 

In partnership with the Borderless Trade Network, the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) hosted the webinar, “Empowering Nigerian Women Farmers & Bridging the Financial Inclusion Gap,” on April 28, 2022. The webinar featured panelists from four co-investment partners in the agricultural sector who discussed successful strategies and challenges in ensuring opportunities for women as part of their Trade Hub-funded projects. The partners – Babban Gona, Premier Seed Ltd, Tomato Jos, and WACOT Rice – shared their experiences navigating cultural and social norms to implement gender and social inclusion strategies geared towards promoting equity and access for women across their companies’ value chains.

Read more here.

Trade Hub Staff Retreat Offers Opportunity to Bond, Learn, and Plan

By Blessing Lass

Senior Communications Specialist

The week of May 16th was an exciting one for the Trade Hub team, as many colleagues met face-to-face for the first time since the project’s inception. In 2019, the USAID West Africa Trade & Investment Hub kicked-off with about 20 staff members across the region, particularly in four countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire). The official launch of the activity in 2020 was quickly met with the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Trade Hub activity has been operating remotely, relying almost entirely on virtual meetings to ensure smooth operations and implementation of activities. During this period, many new staff were employed, and through virtual teamwork, were able to accomplish a tremendous amount of work, including the awarding of over 80 grants across the region. However, with over 50 staff members interacting primarily online, many could not easily put a face to the names of the people they worked with, impacting staff connection and cohesiveness.

To address this, the Trade Hub, under the new management of Chief of Party Robin Wheeler and Deputy Chief of Party Aminata Mbaye, organized the first-ever staff retreat in Abuja, Nigeria. The retreat was an essential part of the organization’s strategy to promote staff bonding, collaborative learning, and strategic planning. It brought together over 50 staff members from across the region, as well as key staff members from Creative Associates’ headquarters in Washington DC, from May 16 to 20, 2022.

Read more about the staff retreat here.

Trade Hub and Cordaid Investment Management Webinar Highlights Successes of Blended Finance in Impact Investment

By Nana Akua Mensah

Communications Specialist

Financing for social impact projects or projects geared toward achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is typically provided through a combination of government and donor funds. The elevated risk and low potential for immediate return on investment make such undertakings unattractive for the risk-averse private sector, particularly in regions like West Africa where economic and social conditions can be unpredictable.  

However, private sector involvement is crucial to bridge the $3 trillion financial shortfalls the UN estimates for SDG funding. To tackle this issue, governments and donors are employing innovative financial approaches to attract private sector players. One such approach is blended finance, the use of catalytic capital from public or philanthropic sources to de-risk private sector investment in sustainable development.  

Read more here.

Partner's Spotlight: Label d'Or

By Fatima Datt

Communications Specialist

Label d’Or, a pioneer in the production and export of organic agricultural products, is the result of an ambitious project that combines social issues, respect for the environment, sustainable and responsible agriculture, and the pursuit of profit. Since its creation in 2012, the company collaborates with more than 10,000 Togolese producers for its flagship products.

In this Q&A, Gustav Bakoundah, CEO of Label d'Or, explains how the partnership with the Trade Hub is helping his company better promote local processing of organic, fair-trade shea butter.

Q: Togo is among the world's largest exporters of shea butter and has been producing it for centuries. How does your partnership with the Trade Hub improve your competitiveness?

A: Indeed, Togo is a historical producer and exporter of shea butter in the world. Label d'Or, by launching itself in this activity, wanted to go about it differently. True to our principles, we only want to produce organic and fair-trade shea butter. The grant and partnership with Trade Hub really helps us to manifest this paradigm shift and position ourselves in this niche market concerned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Q: Shea butter occupies an important place in the global cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry because of its numerous benefits, and women are key players in collecting and processing shea kernels. What are the difficulties encountered in the sector in general, and for women in particular?

A: The major difficulty lies in the dangers associated with collection. Generally carried out in the rainy season, it exposes women to snake bites and the variations of the weather. Butter production, which is in most cases, artisanal, also exposes women to the risk of burns from handling fire and hot water for the preparation of the almonds.

Q: As part of your project, shea kernels that will be used in the shea processing plant will come from 5,800 female Label d'Or partner collectors. Why did you choose to work with women and how does the project contribute to their empowerment?

A: Historically, shea work has always been done by women. They go under the trees, collect the nuts, and do the preliminary work of preparing the almonds. The participants in our project are chosen from areas that have a great potential for almond production, but where the economic value of this tree is still unknown. Most women (in these areas) have no autonomy, no concept of peasant organization, and no reliable source of income. Thanks to this project, they will understand the importance of being united in cooperatives, will have an income-generating activity for themselves, and thus, have social and financial autonomy.


Q: Quality control is essential for the export of organic products such as karite(shea) butter. What measures do you plan to take to meet the required criteria?

A: Label d'Or, working essentially in the organic sector for a decade now, has solid experience in the development of an efficient internal control system (HACCP) to monitor the production process and the traceability of its raw material. Within the framework of this project, Label d'Or has taken steps to equip the factory with a laboratory for the necessary analyses throughout the production phase before exporting the finished product. Additional quality certification standards will have to be put in place once the plant is operational. Dozens of company agents interact to monitor the plots where the shea nuts come from.

In addition, Label d'Or is audited by ECOCERT, the leading French-speaking certification body, to ensure the organic identity of its products. Also, the company calls upon experienced resource personnel who advise and train on the techniques of monitoring the preparation of the shea kernel while avoiding any contamination.

Q: Like many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on Label d'Or. In addition to securing partnerships and funding, such as through the Trade Hub, what is the key strategy you use to ensure the company's sustainability?

A: The health crisis has essentially impacted logistics and the international economy, not agricultural production. This is particularly the case in Togo, where, thanks to a good prevention and response policy, the number of people affected by the pandemic is quite negligible—37,000 confirmed cases and less than 300 deaths for 8 million inhabitants. Label d'Or's key strategy over this period remains, of course, the prevention of risks in its staff and producers, but also diversification of its production and the search for solid and sustainable partnerships on the economic level. Financing to facilitate the resilience of SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) is being sought for new products with high potentials, such as shea butter, fonio, and cashews.

In Other  News

Learn more about Blended Finance

The Trade Hub activity is an exemplary first-mover in using the blended finance approach to stimulate private sector investment toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By working with private companies, private investors, and transaction-advisory firms to leverage private capital and investment, the Trade Hub is driving economic growth, job creation, and export competitiveness. 

Check out some informative content on Blended Finance the Trade Hub team has facilitated:

Trade Hub in the News

The Trade Hub and its co-investment partners continue to receive good news coverage. Over the last quarter, there were multiple media mentions of the Trade Hub’s activities as well as stories mentioning the Trade Hub published on partners’ websites.

Food Business Africa, Farmers Review Africa, Next Billion, Specialty Food, and Deli Market News published articles on the Trade Hub’s partnership with Mali Shi and Yolélé in Mali.

A write-up on the SID–US annual conference panel where Creative Associates' Vice President, Jim Winkler, discussed the Trade Hub’s partnerships with ShEquity and Cordaid Investment Management, was featured on the Creative Associates' website.

Creative Associates also published a write-up on the Trade Hub’s partnership with ANKA (formerly Afrikrea) on its website.

USAID published a hero-focused success story on Trade Hub partner WACOT Rice and published a video highlighting the impact of Trade Hub's partners in the apparel sector in Ghana on the agency’s website.

Creative International’s Think Creativemagazine’s Spring 2022 edition featured two stories on the Trade Hub – one on Trade Hub partner, Thrive Agric, and the other on how Jennifer Emodi, the Trade Hub’s Procurement and Logistics Officer, works to “break the bias” for women. 

Partner Videos

Thrive Agric Boosting Nigerian Farmers' Productivity

Entreprise Aïssatou Gaye: Strengthening Food Security in Senegal

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Disclaimer: The contents of this newsletter are the sole responsibility of Creative Associates International and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, or Prosper Africa.