Economic development in Africa

Gatsby has funded and implemented programmes in Africa since 1985 with the overall objective of creating jobs and improving incomes for the poor.  Projects initially concentrated on supporting small farmers in agricultural and also small businesses.  In recent years this focus has evolved towards working with African Governments to help transform entire agricultural sectors. A few examples of our work are given below:


Our sector development programmes are based on partnering with governments and key private sector players to tackle the constraints holding sectors back.  In the Tanzanian cotton and textile sector we have worked closely with the Tanzanian Cotton Board to promote a new industry structure.  Three years of pilots have seen yields increase by up to 120% and convinced stakeholders to endorse policy reform of the whole sector.  We are now working with the Government to organise over 400,000 cotton farmers so that they can benefit from a new industry structure.

Our approach has also attracted the support of others.  We are working in the Tanzanian and Rwandan tea sectors in partnership with the Wood Family Trust.  We have also partnered with the Department for International Development (DFID) to support the development of key sectors in Kenya.

In all these programmes we are working with the Governments and private sector to stimulate economic growth that is sustainable and benefits the poor.


We look to support and incubate innovative ideas, taking risks to prove principles and thus encourage others to scale-up interventions.  We helped found African Agricultural Capital (AAC), an innovative private equity fund investing in agricultural small and medium-sized enterprises across East Africa.  The fund has invested $8m into small agricultural companies that are helping to supply or buy from small-holder farmers as a way of bringing them into markets and increasing their incomes.  Building on this success AAC have now raised two new funds totalling $37m, and helped show investment in this segment can be profitable.

Local Empowerment

We have always been keen to place decision-making in local hands to best respond to local priorities.  In the early 1990s we founded four unique trusts in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon.  Governed and managed independently, each has developed a range of programmes to suit local conditions, but all have played vital roles in helping entrepreneurs develop their small businesses.  Three of these have now set up viable micro-finance companies that are lending to the poor.  The success of the country trust model encouraged us to set-up an independent organisation – the Kilimo Trust – dedicated to agricultural development across East Africa.

Disseminating Knowledge

A key part of our work has been ensuring the results of agricultural research reach those who need it most.  Programmes have distributed improved, higher-yielding and disease-resistant varieties of crops such as cassava, bananas and beans to smallholder farmers, and scaled-up multiplication efforts, often in the face of devastating disease outbreaks.  We have also linked African and European organisations, whose collaborative research has included the genetic-mapping of yam and cowpea, the development of a “push-pull” cropping system that protects maize from pests and weeds, and the production of transgenic bananas with probable resistance to bacterial wilt disease. We believe that these initiatives have now benefitted well over 100,000 farmers across Africa.