Our Journey So Far: Message from the Chief of Party
As the Trade Hub enters the final quarter of its second year of operations, now is a good time to take stock of how far we have come in a remarkably short period. And, better yet, to take a sneak peek at how far we will be going. 
The Trade Hub’s primary function is to stimulate economic growth and social development throughout West Africa. We do this by co-investing in the growth projects of private sector enterprises—in selected geographies and selected value chains—through an investment model that de-risks new private sector investment, creates jobs, and increases the volume and value of West African exports. This is accomplished through a three-step process. First, we search for investments in private sector growth opportunities. Then we make the investments by awarding grants. Afterward, we measure the “results chain” of our investment outcomes and impacts from these growth projects. This way, we can measure the economic and social returns on investment that invoke positive improvements in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the poorer sectors of society. 
While we have been successful in fulfilling our overarching mission, it’s fair to say that the scope, size, and shape of the Trade Hub are larger than what was originally envisioned as the project was being developed. Why? Because we have never said “No” to any additional aspirations and tasks that would help us be a catalyst for economic growth in the region. We have adapted—enthusiastically and effectively—to the numerous unanticipated challenges that have affected our project, most notable of which is the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Like businesses around the world, we went into full lockdown when the pandemic hit. But we did not reign in or reduce our workplan, our timelines, or our deliverables—much less our imagination. Instead, we pivoted and sought to become pros in remote working, in using communication-enabling technologies, and in cultivating and managing client and business relationships at a “safe” distance. And we did so effectively. We also didn’t cut back on our resources. In fact, we recruited aggressively. 
With gathering in large numbers prohibited for safety, it would have been easy to put our planned events on the shelf. Instead, we leveraged technology to connect with more people and varied audiences. For example, our Annual Work Plan for Year 1 included four physical conferences, in four different countries, that would focus on educating West African-based businesses on the African Growth and Opportunity Act. For each one, we anticipated audiences of 200 or under. When the pandemic hit, we quickly switched to webinars and have now held 20 across 18 West African countries, with significant participation of partners in America and average audience sizes of 200 or better. In fact, our biggest webinar audience boasted over 600 attendees. 
But our “can-do” attitude is perhaps best reflected in the fact that we have attracted significantly more private sector business than was originally expected. At the three-quarter mark of Year 2, we have identified 82 projects for grant investments totaling $81 million. We have already awarded grants of $24 million into 22 of these projects, all of which have now commenced their implementation phase. That’s one side of the equation. The other side is that these 82 projects are estimated to attract $717 million in new private sector investment, create 120,000 new jobs (50% of which will be for women), and increase export revenues by $450 million in the next 3 years alone. The scene is set, therefore, for the Trade Hub to exceed its job creation target by 100%, its private sector leveraged investment target by 75%, and its export revenue target by 50%. 
So, how far we’ve come is one thing. How far we are going is another thing entirely. Stay tuned!
New Co-Investment Partnerships
PYXERA Global bolstering agricultural systems in Nigeria

Supported by a $500K co-investment grant, PYXERA Global is launching its West Africa Agriculture Resilience Program to assist 10,000 farmers cultivating rice, maize, and soybean within Nigeria’s Kebbi, Cross River, and Benue States.
8 Degrees North forms
alliance to better compete in organic palm oil industry

8 Degrees North is leveraging a $1.1M co-investment grant to back an alliance with multiple partners, including Pacha Soap, aimed at addressing the challenges of process upgrades and organic certification in West Africa’s palm oil industry.
Adefunke Desh Nigeria works
to supply quality grains

Backed by a $1.7M co-investment grant, Adefunke Desh Nigeria is scaling its operations to significantly increase supplies of quality grains, boost the incomes of its partner smallholder farmers, and help feed Nigeria’s growing population.
Thrive Agric boosts
farmers’ incomes with
tech-driven agri services

Thrive Agric will leverage its tech-savviness and $1.75M co-investment grant to support 50,000 smallholder farmers growing rice, maize, and soybean in Nigeria. Farmers will benefit from the company’s mobile apps, agronomy advisory services, pre-and post-harvest storage and logistics support, and links to credit and agriculture insurance products.
Partners for Development
builds fish farmers’ resilience to COVID-19 impacts

Partners for Development will protect and strengthen Nigeria’s aquaculture sector with the help of a $1.1M co-investment grant. As part of its project, the organization will boost the capacity of eight fish farmers associations and 600 fish farmers to enable them to use improved aquaculture and business management practices.
OCP Africa bridges farmers’ access to fertilizers in Nigeria

OCP Africa will use a $1.4M co-investment grant to install modern fertilizer blending equipment within its facility under construction in Kaduna State. This project will allow OCP Africa to rapidly produce fertilizer blends customized to the needs of staple crops, and that can increase farmers’ yields by 50 to 85 percent per hectare depending on the crop.
Red River Foods paves way for West Africa to become major cashew kernel exporter

West Africa is poised to be the next big exporter of cashew kernels to the U.S. market through a co-investment partnership between the Trade Hub and RRF. The company will leverage a $3M Trade Hub grant and its own significant capital and resources to create long-term, sustainable incomes throughout the cashew value chain in the region. 
CrossBoundary program provides financing for high-potential SMEs

CrossBoundary, an investment and economic development advisory services firm, will use a $1.5 million grant to channel at least $14 million in private investment to a portfolio of agribusinesses that include smaller firms typically ineligible to receive direct funding from the Trade Hub. This special program was launched to assist entities engaged in building operational and cash flow resilience among small and medium-sized affected by the pandemic.
NAFASO boosting rice
production in Burkina Faso

In recognition that the consistent availability of white rice is tied to the food security of Burkina Faso, Neema Agricole du Faso (NAFASO) will use a $1M co-investment grant to help substantially increase local rice production in the country. The company will add 3,600 paddy rice farmers and 60 seed producers to its network of smallholders targeted for increased rice production in Burkina Faso and build a rice processing and packaging facility.
News Update
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria kicks off Trade Hub partnership with WACOT Rice 
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, accompanied by Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, joined private and public-sector stakeholders committed to ensuring food security in the country to launch the Trade Hub’s co-investment partnership with WACOT Rice at a May 19th ceremony in Argungu, Nigeria.
The partnership promises to improve the livelihoods of smallholder rice farmers in the country, whose success is crucial to feeding a burgeoning population. Rice is a major staple in Nigeria, but production and supply have suffered a setback because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, the Trade Hub awarded a $1.48 million co-investment grant to WACOT Rice, which operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu and sources unprocessed rice from across the country. The grant will allow the company to add 5,000 additional smallholder rice farmers into its Argungu Rice Outgrower Expansion Project launched to increase local production. The co-investment will create thousands of new jobs, increase yields by more than 50 percent, and help farmers earn more.
In her remarks, Ambassador Leonard highlighted the importance of partnering with the private sector to develop sustainable solutions to improve food security, reduce poverty, and create jobs, particularly for women.
“We know the challenges faced by women farmers in owning lands and accessing finances and inputs—despite women being key to making a significant impact for future generations,” the Ambassador said. “We hope this activity will improve the livelihoods of women farmers and their families in Kebbi State.”
The event was well covered by the media, including by Channels Television:
Webinar for Women-led Businesses Educates
on Exporting Duty-Free to the United States
By Chaz Kyser

West African women seeking to do business beyond their borders gained special insight during a recent webinar hosted by the Trade Hub titled “Exporting to the U.S. Duty-Free & Partnering with the Trade Hub: Keys to Success for Women-Led Businesses.”

More than 200 women joined the 2-hour session, including members of the Borderless Trade Network (BTN); African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, West Africa Chapter; and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, who helped promote the event.

The idea for the webinar stemmed from the president of the BTN, Olori Boye-Ajayi, learning about the Trade Hub’s mission and focus on helping West African business owners take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). First enacted in May 2000, AGOA allows many goods and products produced from Sub-Saharan Africa to be exported duty-free to the United States. The Trade Hub’s AGOA team provides technical assistance to help businesses navigate AGOA procedures and regulations.

As BTN was founded in part to help women in Africa realize and take advantage of opportunities to export to the U.S. and other international markets, Boye-Ajayi was keen for the Trade Hub to host a webinar.
“A small business owner is more likely to report 6 to 7 times more losses than a medium or large company, as most of their sales are derived from the domestic market,” Boye-Ajayi said. “This is why AGOA was a no-brainer as a business lifeline for us to introduce our women to.”

In addition to learning key facts about AGOA and U.S. FDA requirements for foods during presentations by Kara Diallo, the Trade Hub’s AGOA Specialist, the women also learned about co-investment opportunities through Frantz Tavares, a Public-Private Partnerships Consultant. Many of the participants were unaware of possibilities to become co-investment partners with the Trade Hub or to secure funding for projects through the recently launched Virtual DealRoom.

A special feature of the webinar was a presentation led by Chioma Adiele-Okpara, the Trade Hub’s Gender & Social Inclusion Manager. She discussed why the Trade Hub promotes equal access to opportunities and outlined the Trade Hub’s strategies to ensure projects supported both include and empower women.

“West African women have a fierce and robust spirit, which makes them excel in their businesses and workplaces despite the gender-based challenges they are up against,” she noted.

This webinar marked the 20th one led by the Trade Hub’s AGOA team but was a first for its focus on women-led businesses. Other recent webinars coordinated by the AGOA team in this quarter include one focused on U.S. corporate and branding legal essentials for food businesses and one for U.S. legal essentials for food businesses. They featured intellectual property attorneys in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry group from the law firm Norris McLaughlin.
The Trade Hub and USAID visit new
Senegal partner, scout for opportunities
By Salimata Dia

As a major economic center in Francophone West Africa, Senegal is a focus country for the Trade Hub, where we are partnering with the country's private sector by co-investing to stimulate economic growth. Three co-investment partnerships have been launched in the country so far, including with Biosene.

This women-led organization focuses on the production and processing of agri-food and cosmetics products made from local raw materials. Through its co-investment partnership with the Trade Hub, Biosene will strengthen the resilience of both the company and its West African suppliers, which have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early June, USAID and Trade Hub staff conducted a technical visit to Biosene’s facilities in Dakar and Kedougou to document the project's early successes and find solutions to any challenges. The activity was led by David Yanggen, Director of Economic Growth Office, USAID Senegal; William Bradley, Private Enterprise Officer at USAID Senegal; and Bamba Fall, Business Advisor-Public Private Partnership for the Trade Hub.

During the site visit, the team met with Biosene’s staff and partners, who complimented the technical capacity the Trade Hub is helping them develop to achieve results in agriculture and export expansion, enhance women’s empowerment, and create jobs for youth.

The team saw evidence of these outcomes at the Kedougou site, where women processing baobab and fonio seeds highlighted how the support from the Trade Hub will build stronger supply chains and help them take advantage of opportunities in the traditional agricultural products value chains.

“We've seen the sustainable impact of the partnerships between the private sector, local communities, and USAID through the leverage effect created by the co-investment,” said Yanggen. “For example, the village of Bandafassi in Kedougou collaborates with agro-industrial companies and helps women and local communities to sell their farm produce and generate income for thousands of households.”

The delegation also visited potential grantees in Kaolack and Tambacounda to assess more opportunities in strategic sectors such as hygiene, water, and sanitation. With at least seven co-investments in the pipeline in Senegal, this visit was the first of many to come for USAID and Trade Hub teams as they work to boost trade and investment in the country.
Success in the Making
Trade Hub Helps Cashew Processors in Côte d'Ivoire 
Score Lucrative Contracts with U.S. Wholesaler
By Chaz Kyser

There is rising global demand for cashews and cashew-based products, including in the United States where at least 90,000 metric tons of this nutritious nut is imported every year. West African-based cashew processors have long recognized the potential to export this commodity to the United States, but have faced hurdles surrounding developing relationships with potential buyers, leaving them largely out of this lucrative and growing market.

To address this challenge, the Trade Hub has begun creating market linkages between cashew companies in the United States and top cashew processing companies in West Africa. Efforts have been led by the Trade Hub’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) team, whose focus includes helping West African-based businesses take advantage of this important U.S. government act that allows more than 6,500 products to be exported duty-free to the United States.

Early success has already been seen in two Ivorian companies—the Société Ivoirienne de Traitement de l’Anacarde (SITA SA) and Foods’ Co.—snagging their first contract with BlueStar Direct LLC, a wholesaler of nuts and dried fruits based in Warren, New Jersey. Ironically, while securing the deals with a large U.S. retailer was not without difficulties, the process started with just initiative and a simple phone call.

Esther Psarakis, the Trade Hub’s U.S.-based Senior International Market Linkages Expert, learned about BlueStar Direct in early November 2020. After conducting research on the company, including where it currently sources products from, she jumped on the chance to link the company to cashew processors in Côte d'Ivoire, a focus country for the Trade Hub and one that the AGOA team knew had strong potential to increase its U.S. exports of cashews.

Psarakis was able to get in touch with BlueStar Direct’s Managing Director, Swaroop Khandagale, who showed eagerness to learn about both the Trade Hub and its ability to link the company to West African cashew exporters. This eagerness was soon matched by action, as Khandagale agreed to visit companies in Côte d'Ivoire through meetings coordinated by the Trade Hub.

“Many U.S. companies are hesitant to do major business with West African-based companies simply because this is not a region they are familiar with and because of assumptions—often false—about their capabilities to export quality products,” Psarakis said. “Fortunately, BlueStar Direct was open and excited to learn about the vast potential there is to import cashews from West Africa, as well as other food products the company sources like dried fruit.”

During his visit in April 2021, Khandagale toured three suppliers of cashew nuts, including SITA SA, which he was most impressed by. He later had extended discussions with the management of Foods’ Co. Points of discussion with SITA SA and Foods’ Co included the companies’ current and ongoing capabilities of meeting certification requirements, quality standards, and product delivery times. Here, the AGOA team has played a key role in ensuring SITA SA and Foods’ Co were able to fulfill all expectations set, with the hope of building long-lasting business relationships with BlueStar Direct.

“The Trade Hub has helped us address key standard and certification issues, as well as to register our company with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is crucial to gaining and keeping business with U.S. companies,” said Tahirou Sanago, Founder and CEO of Foods’ Co. “With this and other technical assistance, we became primed for business opportunities with BlueStar Direct and other large U.S. companies.”

After Khandagale’ visit, ongoing discussions mediated by the Trade Hub, and receiving product samples, BlueStar Direct committed to buy initial shipments from both companies. In May, SITA SA’s shipped its first container to BlueStar Direct, valued at just over $58,000 and weighing 13.6 tons. Food Co’s first container, valued at just under $70,000 and weighing 16.44 metric tons, will leave the Port of Abidjan for the United States by the end of June.
Khandagale expects these first shipments will mark the start of a strong partnership with both SITA SA and Foods’ Co. He also looks forward to working with the Trade Hub to discover other companies in West Africa.

“BlueStar Direct prides itself on providing customers with the world’s finest nuts and we are excited to add Côte d'Ivoire to our growing list of countries we source from, as a result of the Trade Hub introducing us to SITA SA and Foods’ Co,” Khandagale said.
Partner's Spotlight: Agbanga Karite Alaffia SARL
Through the fair trade of shea butter and other indigenous ingredients in West Africa used to make its face, hair, and body products, Alaffia is living out its mission to alleviate poverty and advance gender equality in the region. In this Q&A, Alaffia’s founder, Olowo-n’djo Tchala, highlights how his organization has helped West African women overcome challenges when trading valuable natural resources, while building a successful business in the process.
In Other News
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the value of an animated video could be priceless, particularly in the international development sector. Counting on this, the Trade Hub released a short video to educate West African businesses about the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The Trade Hub’s new video explains how AGOA works in simple terms and with great imagery, and also highlights the project’s work. Check it out here: https://vimeo.com/528180747/d39a610028
In an exclusive interview with Arbiterz, Emmanuel Azaino, Research & Development Director at the Trade Hub, shared insights on Trade Hub's initiatives to boost investment, employment, and food security in West Africa through partnerships with public and private sector organizations. Read more

Thrive Agric's partnership with the Trade Hub and its use of technology to help farmers is gaining much media attention, including through an exclusive interview with Ayo Arikawe, Co-founder of Thrive Agric, on RegtTech Africa. Read more
Was this issue forwarded to you? Subscribe to get The Hub here.
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.