Event Information


Webinar: Women's empowerment in smallholder finance, combining social and business goals for good

18 Jul 2018



Women comprise approximately 50% of the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa and yet, are less likely to access financial services – like credit, insurance, and savings – which limits their purchasing power and excludes them from their local economy. As a result, women lose out on income-generating opportunities, which could lead to their economic empowerment and financial independence. Thus, inhibiting their agency within their household and community, and trapping them in a cycle of poverty and inequality. However, women aren’t the only ones missing out on opportunities. By not intentionally integrating women into their supply chains or designing products with women’s needs in mind, agribusinesses and other service providers are losing out on potential business opportunities to expand their reach and engage a valuable consumer base.

To help women rise out of poverty while also ensuring organizations benefit from the business opportunity, agribusinesses need to more intentionally invest in business models that empower women, both in terms of financial services and agricultural outgrower schemes. Not only will this improve women’s economic prosperity, but more gender-inclusive investments could help women make a more significant commercial contribution to agribusinesses. If women had the same access to productive assets as men, it could increase farm yields by 20-30%, thereby contributing positively to a businesses’ bottom line.

In an effort to address this challenge in their own work, RAF Learning Lab Partners, AgDevCo and Opportunity International, are committed to investing in women’s empowerment across smallholder and rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Join this webinar to learn how organizations such as AgDevCo and Opportunity International, are integrating both business and social goals to empower women in smallholder finance.


Organization and panelist descriptions

Opportunity International

Since 2008, Opportunity has partnered with sustainable financial institutions to disburse more than $100 million in agricultural finance to over 450,000 smallholder farmers in eight countries in Africa. Despite this, Opportunity’s outreach to women is consistently lower in AgFinance than in its mainstream financial services. In 2016-2017, Opportunity conducted a gender analysis of its AgFinance work in Mozambique and Ghana, and refreshed its gender strategy with a dual focus on meeting business and social objectives. In this webinar, Opportunity will share their analysis and refreshed strategy, along with a sneak-peak at results from an effective pilot in Mozambique.

Opportunity International
Timothy Strong – Acting Africa Director for Agricultural Finance

Since joining the team in 2015, Tim has played a leadership role in advancing branchless banking in Opportunity’s AgFinance portfolio and integrating women’s empowerment into Opportunity’s AgFinance strategy. Tim is driving innovations in the portfolio, including inclusive guarantee schemes to reduce risk for farmers and deepening outreach to more vulnerable smallholders. Tim has worked in Southern and Eastern Africa since 2005 and is has been based in Lilongwe, Malawi since 2007. Previously, he worked with a Silicon Valley start-up coordinating Lean and Kaizen project management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Peace Corps, the Clinton Foundation, and several commercial farms. He received a BSc in Biochemistry and Plant Physiology from the University of California at Davis and holds an MA in Environmental Policy and an MBA in Operations Management.


Mary Pat
Opportunity International
Mary Pat McVay – Research and Knowledge Manager

Mary Pat has been engaged in microenterprise development for 30 years, with a focus on sustainable value chain development in rural and urban contexts. In Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s, she also collaborated with NGOs launching Grameen-style microfinance practices, and helped to launch the successful social enterprise, KickStart. For a decade, working as an independent consultant, she supported the SEEP Network and the ILO to document and disseminate sustainable market development practices. Since 2015, she has been a Research and Knowledge Manager with Opportunity International, and leads research in agricultural finance, women’s empowerment digital finance, and savings mobilization.  Her most recent publications include briefs on the business case for digital finance, partnership models in agfinance, impact measurement of AgFinance clients in Ghana, gender analysis of Opportunity’s AgFinance, and a pilot women’s empowerment initiative in AgFinance in Mozambique. Mary Pat holds a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from MIT.



AgDevCo is a social impact investor and project developer operating exclusively in the agriculture sector in Africa. Its mission is to build successful African agribusinesses through long-term investment and support to deliver positive impact at scale. Its Smallholder Development Unit (SDU) aims to connect 25 agribusinesses to 490,000 smallholders (50% women) by 2020. AgDevCo’s focus on gender is a fundamental part of its overall ESG framework. AgDevCo strongly believes that gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture are significant factors in the success of its investments, both in terms of business performance and development impact.

Jasmin Hidanovic – Associate and Gender Coordinator

Jasmin is a member of AgDevCo’s West Africa investment team and leads the implementation of AgDevCo’s Gender Strategy. As Gender Coordinator he has been involved with AgDevCo’s gender work from the very start, working closely with AgDevCo’s ESG/Impact team as well as external gender experts. He has helped to mainstream gender in AgDevCo’s investment process, contributed to the development of AgDevCo’s Gender Toolkit and focused on building gender capacity of staff. He also coordinates AgDevCo’s international gender champion network, has been involved in six deep-dive country gender studies and has led the development of AgDevCo’s gender publications (including the SDU Gender Case Study and Gender Lens Investing: The Case for Empowering Women). Jasmin has over four years of work experience in the fields of corporate finance and social impact investment. He is a graduate from the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, with an MSc in Finance & Investments and also spent a year at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and the Wharton Business School in the US. He is pursuing the CFA designation.

Sandi Roberts – Head of the Smallholder Development Unit

Sandi is an Agricultural specialist with project management experience in large-scale, commercial agriculture and donor-funded smallholder initiatives. Her strong private sector and smallholder development experience spans 20 years throughout East and Southern Africa. Under her leadership, AgDevCo’s Smallholder Development Unit now has 12 active projects across 7 countries with $3.8m of funding committed, benefiting c.60,000 smallholders. She also contributed to the SDU Gender Case Study and wrote a blog on closing the gender gap in smallholder outgrower schemes. Sandi began her career at Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company and worked within the Agriculture industry in Zimbabwe with extensive travel into the region. Sandi holds an MSc degree in Agriculture majoring in Horticulture from the University of Natal, South Africa.