The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a call to agribusiness innovators working in Southeast Asia’s ag industry to submit expressions of interest (EOI) in partnering with the agency on their innovations. The aim of the collaboration is to stimulate private and public investment in Southeast Asian agriculture to increase the productivity and profitability of small and medium-sized agribusinesses (SMAs) in the region.
The deadline for EOI is February 24.
USAID will invite applicants that pass the agency’s initial EOI test to attend a co-creation workshop in mid-March, located in either Washington DC or Bangkok. This workshop will aim to see if their ideas are strong enough to survive detailed examination.
Those who are still in the game at the end of March can look forward to co-creating a live project with USAID, potentially collaborating on a future partnership development across the ASEAN region.
More specifically, USAID wants to partner with innovators to increase the productivity and profitability of SMAs across the value chain by increasing their access to debt finance and by developing new agricultural technologies, business process improvements and improving small trade infrastructure.
The innovators might propose to do so by incorporating the following USAID resources:
● Leveraging existing USAID tools for engaging with the private sector, including a partial credit guarantee by USAID’s Development Credit Authority and technical assistance to investors and SMAs;
● Strengthening market linkages to enterprises, lead firms and financial service providers in the region;
● Alignment with existing USAID programming in Southeast Asian market systems and the overall mission of Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative;
● A truly regional (not bilateral) ASEAN scope that includes at least 2 ASEAN nations in which USAID currently works (including Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, Philippines, and Vietnam);
● An emphasis on supporting and capitalizing on regional connectivity under the AEC;
● Partnerships and synergies with other private sector stakeholders, including investors, companies, and NGOs, as well as with other international development organizations; and
● Creative solutions to fostering rural-urban linkages focused on inclusive economic growth.
USAID is targeting ASEAN member countries where the agency is already working, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma, Philippines, and Vietnam. And through the program and subsequent partnerships, USAID hopes to expand its contribution in the region.
Once these partners have been identified, the agency says it will ‘co-create, co-design, co-invest and collaborate’ to achieve its declared ASEAN development goals.
USAID chose the agriculture industry as the focus for promoting economic growth in the region because it is one of the most productive agricultural areas of the world. According to the latest available records, the 10-country block produces 129 million tons of rice, 40 million tons of corn, 171 million tons of sugarcane, 1.44 million tons of soybean and 70.34 million tons of cassava.
USAID also states that the ASEAN region is strategically located between major East Asia and South Asia markets, making it an ideal supply and processing base for agribusinesses with an eye for expansion and growth.
The agency also points out, however, that despite the region’s potential, ASEAN SMAs often suffer from low productivity and declining growth rates. Businesses have to cope with limited access to inputs, information, technology, markets and affordable working capital, as well as a lack of sufficient growth capital with which to expand their operations.
EOIs, submitted in response to USAID’s call, must indicate a specific research or development idea, supported by how it will deliver potential solutions in line with the agency’s program objectives.
Applicants are also encouraged to consider collaborating with peer organizations on their EOI, potentially bringing differing perspectives and/or comparative advantages to the program. Also, USAID urges applicants to think through how innovative cost-sharing arrangements may be applied to their proposals.
Up to two EOIs will be considered from each applicant business or organization, submitted according to a standard, but strict, set of criteria. EOIs must not exceed four pages in length, for example, and must include a declaration of specific relationships with private sector actors and a listing of any pre-existing partnership commitments as related to accessing finance for agribusinesses.
While declaring that it is seeking potential partners with recognized and relevant expertise for use in the region, USAID also states a desire to create a diversity of perspectives and capabilities. It envisages this will be achieved by bringing together a diverse set of co-creators and resource partners to enable broader thinking, innovation, a shared vision, and a larger resource pool for the region.
More information and details on how to submit an expression of interest can be found here.