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Safeguarding Africa’s Food Systems Through and Beyond the Crisis

A moderated discussion on how governments / development partners / private sector along the agriculture value chain can respond to COVID-19 and specifically what opportunities this pandemic might provide to rethink our agriculture and food systems.

  • Food systems resilience – specifically the need to not focus on reliance (full self-sufficiency) but rather to strengthen regional trade, food reserves, and production systems. What are the opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic provides for governments and development partners to rethink and reshape Africa’s food systems?
  • Agriculture finance and investment – traditionally, this is a sector that has struggled to secure finance and private investment at scale, for various reasons. What challenges does COVID-19 pose to scaling up finance and investment for agriculture in Africa (including for SMEs, farmers, as well as larger businesses)?
  • Agriculture technology and digital – Does COVID-19 present an opportunity for a new wave of technology or digital investment in agriculture in Africa?
  • Opportunity for new partnerships/collaborations – does COVID-19 provide an impetus for a new wave of collaborations and partnerships to drive agriculture transformation and food systems resilience in Africa? For example, many of the world’s largest food players are rethinking their supply chains – does this present an opportunity?


Gillian Pais

Partner Agriculture in Africa, McKinsey & Company

Gillian Pais is a Partner in McKinsey & Company’s Nairobi Office and leads McKinsey’s Agriculture practice in Africa.  

Gillian serves agricultural companies and organizations across Africa and emerging markets topics such as business strategy, digital for agriculture, market entry, M&A, supply chain, farm operations, and procurement. She also serves governments and development partners on agriculture development and investment strategies. 

In Africa, Gillian has led work in agriculture covering over 18 countries. 

She has also published on winning strategies for private companies in Africa’s agriculture market and the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s agriculture and food systems.

Linda Manda

Global Head Agribusiness, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking, Standard Bank Group

Linda Manda is the Global Head Agribusiness, Client Coverage,  Corporate and Investment Banking, Standard Bank Group.

Linda Manda is a finance executive with over 20 years experience.  She has specialised in development and agriculture, working with international NGOs, the Malawi government and industry.  

She notably contributed to smallholder farmer financing models in Africa that bridged the gap between smallholder farmers and the finance sector. Her work in development has ranged from food security to HIV/AIDS and public health technical finance.  

Before joining Standard Bank, Linda managed the Africa treasury function of a multinational agricultural company.

Linda holds a B.A (Hons) in Accounting and Finance ( University of Leeds) and a M Phil Development Finance ( University of Stellenbosch).  She is a Fellow of the Association Certified Chartered Accounts (ACCA UK) and a non practicing member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (ICAM).

Kola Masha

Managing Director, Babban Gona

Kola Masha is the Managing Director of Babban Gona. Babban Gona is an award winning, high impact, financially sustainable and highly scalable social enterprise, part-owned by the farmers we serve. 

Babban Gona, was created to specifically attract youth to agriculture and away from the looming instability of extremist groups. We developed the model with our partners that include His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, the Sarkin (Emir) Kano, Nestle, IITA, DfID, USAID, GIZ, AGRA, BMGF, Skoll, Kiva, FMCB, Mulago, GIF and Rockefeller Foundation amongst others.

Kola brings significant leadership experience in venture capital, corporate finance, business development, marketing and operations, across four continents with multiple global companies, including GE, Notore and Abiomed. In addition, Kola brings extensive public sector experience as Senior Advisor to the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture.

In recognition for his leadership in driving positive change on the African Continent he has received several global awards including the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship, a leading leadership institute led by General Collin Powell and appointed to the Board of the African Enterprise Challenge Fund, a $250 Million fund that awards grants and repayable grants to private sector companies to support innovative business ideas in agriculture, agribusiness, renewable energy, adaptation to climate change and access to information and financial services. Kola holds an MBA (Honors) from Harvard and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Mezuo Nwuneli

Managing Partner, Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers, Ltd.

Mezuo Nwuneli is the Managing Partner, Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers Ltd., a food and agriculture focused private equity firm which invests in mid-sized agribusinesses. He is also the Chairman/Co-Founder of AACE Foods, a food processing company which produces spices, seasonings, and packaged food. He has worked for 25 years in corporate finance, investment banking, and private equity; and since 2010 has focused on the agricultural sector in West Africa. 

Mezuo is on the Board of Directors of a range of companies in Nigeria, was selected as an Archbishop Tutu Fellow, and is an Eisenhower Fellow.  He holds a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School, and received a B.Sc. in Industrial Management, with a minor in Information Systems, from Carnegie Mellon University.

Atsuko Toda

Director, Agricultural Finance & Rural Development, African Development Bank

Since 2016, Atsuko Toda is serving as the Director of Agriculture Finance and Rural Infrastructure Development Department at the African Development Bank. The department is responsible for the Bank’s investments in private sector agribusiness companies and development of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones across the African Continent. Currently, there is much interest from African Governments to build their agro-industrial sectors and promote private sector development.

Atsuko joined the Africa Development Bank from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), where she has worked for close to twenty years on rural development and financing in Asia and Africa. Having held several positions in different countries of Asia, she moved to Africa, as  the Country Director for Nigeria in 2012, managing a portfolio of investments in rural development, accelerating the access of farmers to new technologies, finance and markets.

Ms Toda holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Doshisha University, Japan; a Diploma in Developmental Studies from Cambridge University, United Kingdom; and a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration from the International Christian University, Japan.