Debate (*With Moderator)

The Future of Work for the Bottom Billion: Transforming Subsistence Farmers’ Role in Africa

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The majority of the world’s hungriest people are farmers. 500 million smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are unable to grow enough food to feed their families, are isolated from markets, and experience malnutrition and poverty. Many of these farmers rarely access technologies that are widespread worldwide, such as mechanization, modern inputs, among others. The result is that per every hour of labour input, a farmer in West Africa produces 2.5 kg of grain vs. 1,250 kg for an identical hour of labor input in developed economies. This divergence in productivity is a major constraint for smallholder farmers in Africa to grow profitably.

The role of smallholder farmers in Africa must be re-defined. The New African Farmer is one who embraces the best of existing technologies, and her role is focused on high-value tasks like monitoring crop health, identifying pests or diseases in her fields, and adopting modern practices. This will replace the tasks of the Traditional African farmer who was mostly spending her time bent planting manually, pulling out weeds with her hands and harvesting crops with a sickle.

The workplace in rural Africa will change. Farmers have the opportunity to leapfrog and adopt modern, sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices. This will require the development  of sophisticated skills and a new way of thinking about agriculture. The panelists will go beyond debating how the agricultural system in many places in Africa is broken, into discussing potential solutions that involve a protagonist role from African farmers, governments and other relevant stakeholders.

Confirmed Panelists

Brent Kessel: Nationally acclaimed public speaker and workshop leader, Brent Kessel has presented at MIT, at financial planning industry conferences around the U.S., the Los Angeles Times Investment Strategies conference, leading personal development centers on both coasts, as the keynote speaker for the Yoga Journal conference, and at seminars sponsored by Young President’s Organization (YPO). He has appeared on the CBS Early Show, ABC News, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. His book, It’s Not About The Money (Harper Collins), was named one of Kiplinger’s Top Five Business Books of the Year. Brent combines his years of financial planning and impact investing experience along with a deep understanding of the psychological dimensions of money. His audiences are empowered to make significant and lasting changes in their financial lives and in the world around them. Brent is CEO of Abacus Wealth Partners, which provides fee-only, comprehensive financial advice to help individuals and families expand what’s possible with money. Abacus has been a dedicated impact investment advisor for over 20 years, including providing seed funding for the world’s first sustainable index mutual funds, and being an early anchor investor in several of the most successful and impactful private equity funds in industry history. Abacus is a founding B Corp., is carbon-neutral, and donates over 5% of profits to charity each year.

Karina Wong: Karina Wong is Senior Executive at Small Foundation, a philanthropic foundation based in Ireland. Small Foundation aims to catalyse the proliferation of sustainable income-generating opportunities for extremely poor people in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Karina leads on executing Small Foundation’s social investment strategy through in-depth partnerships with intermediaries, investors and entrepreneurs in Africa and globally. Karina has over 20 years of experience in finance and international development working with a wide range of organizations from for-profit Fortune 500 companies to non-profit community-based organizations. She has been involved in impact investing in Africa for the over a decade, and her interest lies in the intersection of entrepreneurial development and poverty alleviation. Karina is currently a Board Director at Open Capital Group and the Agribusiness Markets Ecosystem Alliance.  She has a Bachelor’s degree from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics.

Emiliano Mroue: Emiliano, born in Argentina, is an entrepreneur and pioneer in regenerative agriculture in West Africa and a public speaker. He has presented in several opportunities at Columbia’s SIPA, Georgetown and is a regular speaker at the World Food Prize events in Iowa. As Founder of Warc Africa, he sits at the intersection of fighting hunger and leveraging capital markets for conscious economic growth, breaking the status-quo that farmers in Africa are small, unproductive and poor, and proving that they can be agents of change, employers and producers. Warc seeks to make regenerative agriculture in Africa the norm, transitioning one million hectares into regenerative practices by 2030. Previously to funding Warc, Emiliano was a corporate manager at Henkel AG’s headquarters in Dusseldorf, where At 24, was ranked as Top Manager. Emiliano is an avid traveler and speaks five languages fluently. He visited 75 countries and has been living in Sierra Leone uninterruptedly since 2011, successfully navigating his company through the Ebola outbreak in 2014. He studied Business Economics in Argentina, did a Master in International Management in ESADE and became a CFA Charterholder in 2016.


Unconfirmed Panelists

The panel will also contain a Ghanaian or Sierra Leonean farmer.

Supporting Materials

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1 comment

  1. Not discussed enough. This needs to be on the agenda.
    Not least because with a huge youth population and huge risk to soils, we need to invest in this issue now before it becomes a catastrophic problem

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