This year the Cracking the Nut Conference was held in Lusaka, Zambia on March 2 &3, 2015. Our fifth conference brought together around 250 participants representing 34 countries and included a mix of development practitioners,agribusinesses, donors, investors and financial institutions. The theme, Expanding Rural & Agricultural Markets Amid Climate Change, was well received by participants.
Below are a few highlights from the conference:
It was a Cracking the Nut first with live animals attending the conference! iDE brought participants’ senses alive through an exciting and interactive session on how to utilize its Farm Business Adviser Model to develop a value proposition on raising crocodiles for marketable products.
The Honorable Given Lubinda, Zambian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, made a surprise appearance on the second day of the conference to welcome participants and say a few words. “We need to take care of people as well as climate. We need to choose both.”
We want to thank those in attendance and those that presented in plenary and breakout sessions. We encourage everyone to continue the conversation and we hope to see you at Cracking the Nut 2016!
“The climate change focus was also very timely, and I’m glad it generated discussion.”
“Case studies from different countries were so enriching to the learning component.”
“The contacts we made and the insight that we gained into rural agricultural markets is very valuable.” – Eduardo Mendias, The Toro Company
Every year following the conference, Connexus creates a summary of the main lessons learned which includes highlights of unique innovations and experiences shared. The publication will be available in mid to late April on the conference website: www.crackingthenutconference.com.
USAID’s $108 million Financial Access for Investing in the Development of Afghanistan (FAIDA) project has been extended to February 2016, and Connexus is pleased to continue on the project as the Banking Capacity Component Lead. Led by Chemonics International, FAIDA aims to build a sustainable, diverse, and inclusive financial sector that can generate and sustain quality employment and meet the needs of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) throughout the country. To this end, FAIDA works to strengthen a private-sector led financial sector and increase access to both loan and investment capital in Afghanistan.
The first three years of the project implemented significant strengthening of the Afghanistan financial sector, and under the leadership of Connexus’s Banking Capacity Component Team Leader, LB Prakash, the following project results were achieved:
For more information on FAIDA, please click here.
Connexus and the Engility-led consortium were recently awarded the USAID/Rwanda Private Sector Driven Agricultural Growth (PSD-AG) project. The program aims to increase smallholder incomes by promoting private sector investments and connecting smallholders to markets in order to transform the Rwandan agricultural sector. The project will work closely with the Government of Rwanda to improve the enabling environment to attract private sector investment and facilitate increased investment in upgrading agricultural value chains, while strengthening smallholder farmers access to market opportunities and services.
As part of the consortium, Connexus will identify investment opportunities in targeted value chains and develop a pipeline of investments. Connexus will also collaborate with local financial institutions to adapt and develop appropriate financial products to facilitate access to finance for smallholder farmers, small and medium enterprises and large agribusinesses. This comprehensive approach will catalyze relationships between investors, financial institutions and investment facilitators, such as the Rwanda Development Board, providing a sustainable path for continued investment in Rwandan agriculture.
It is my great pleasure to announce that AZMJ recently merged to become Connexus Corporation!
In 2007, I started AZMJ as an independent consultant. Since that time, the company has grown exponentially, expanding not only our staff, but also:
Our work – we now offer a wide-range of services, with in-house expertise and a database of more than 2,000 technical consultants
Our clientele – we work with several private sector clients along with bilateral and multilateral donors, investors, financial institutions and development organizations
Our impact – we have supported and completed numerous projects in every region of the world, strengthening access to finance for rural and agricultural markets through holistic, market-led approaches
Last year, after reflecting on the firm’s past, present and future, my team and I decided that it was the right time for a name change and rebranding to better reflect our mission, expertise and experience.
Our new name, Connexus, is a Latin word meaning “to join or connect.” We chose this name because it highlights one of our greatest strengths and our strategic role in the industry: acting as a bridge builder between the public and private sector, facilitating partnerships and knowledge sharing to achieve maximum results.
President and CEO
CapitalPlus Exchange / Small Business Banking Network (CapPlus) has contracted Connexus to conduct market research on supply and demand for small and medium enterprise (SME) finance in three West African countries – Senegal, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Connexus paired international and local finance specialists to interview banks engaged in SME finance, as well as to survey 180 SME owners and managers on their specific needs and interests. The findings have been compiled into three country reports that inform a summary report, which will be used by banks to guide their expansion in SME finance.
Connexus is teaming up with BLE Solutions to serve as Learning Partner for The MasterCard Foundation Symposia on Financial Inclusion.