November 7, 2013

Africa Day 2013; A Lively Debate on the Dutch Good Growth Fund

africadayLast Saturday, SPARK was present at the annual Africa Day at the Koninklijk Instituut voor De Tropen (KIT) which was hosted by the Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS). SPARK organized a debate on the new and already much discussed Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF). The characteristic library of the KIT where the session was held was entirely filled with attentive spectators. The debate resulted in a dynamic interaction between the panel and audience and discussed the purposes and potentials of the fund. It became clear that the potentials are promising, provided that the arrows of this fund are properly aligned. Most notably was the argument that an inclusion of fragile states needs to be considered in this pursuit.


Dutch Good Growth Fund

The Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF) is a new instrument proposed by The House of Representatives of the Netherlands as part of the new agenda for aid, trade and investment. It is a new strategy with three central ambitions: 1. eradicating extreme poverty in a generation; 2. promoting sustainable and inclusive growth around the world; and 3. success for Dutch companies abroad. In order to achieve these goals, the main focus is on the investment in SMEs in low-and middle income countries. The main difference of this fund with previous strategies is that it is regarded as revolving, and thus will work as a commercial investment mainly aimed at the private sector.



Inclusive and sustainable growth, where aid and trade meet, are of paramount importance in this new proposal. However, the intentions and outplays of this new fund is a highly contestable topic, and SPARK invited several participants to take part in the debate to approach it from different perspectives. The panel consisted of an interesting mix of participants: Roelof van Laar (Member of Parliament, Labour Party, PvdA), Bernedine Bos (Head of Programs and Projects, MVO Nederland), Ingrid de Caluwé (Member of Parliament, People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy – VVD), Bob van der Bijl (Managing Director, NABC – Netherlands-African Business Council), Yannick du Pont (Director, SPARK), and Christiaan Rebergen (Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs). [PICTURE]


If you were in charge…

The debate was moderated by Marc de Klerk (Enterprise Development Program Manager, SPARK), who, after a short introduction, kicked off the discussion by the asking the participants what each of them would do if they were in charge of this fund. Even though the answers to this differed, the inclusion of the local population was a recurrent argument.  It was striking that whereas consensus was present among the panel regarding the support of the fund, comments were given from the audience several times, mainly to address a disgruntlement with the fund, or to pick up on the comments made by the panel. The revolving aspect of the DGGF particularly loosened the tongues in the audience; it became obvious that the definition of ‘revolving’, which is key to the fund, remains unclear among the audience.


Dynamic Debate

Overall it was an informative, dynamic debate with interesting perspectives on the fund. Interestingly, what both the panel and audience agreed on is the significance of fragile states within this new fund. In order to enable the fragile states into more prosperity, not only the access to financial means, but to projects as well was named as of strong importance. Acknowledging and enclosing the role of fragile states allows this fund to distinguish itself from others and in order to get a high success rate. And it is exactly this feature that is at the core of SPARK’s focus; enabling entrepreneurs through capacity building and providing access to finance. The Loan Guarantee Fund (LGF) that is part of SPARK’s IGNITE fund for example, enables entrepreneurs to start their business and to create both growth and employment.


The interplay between capacity building and access are of high priority and at the core of SPARK’s mission to empower people for more prosperity. It was both encouraging and promising to hear that this approach is shared by others; if the ten percent of the fund that is reserved for capacity building can in fact be used for the capacity building of entrepreneurs in fragile states, and is combined with more access creation, the DGGF can have a true impact as it envisions.


Africa Day

The annual Afrikadag, hosted by the Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS), took place on November 2nd  2013 at the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT) in Amsterdam.  The Afrikadag is a day devoted to the political and social debate on international cooperation with Africa. This year’s theme was “Let’s work!” in which different aspects related to work were addressed by different organizations through workshops. The matter that formed the thread to this day was the question of what the dilemmas and opportunities are for consumers, businesses and NGOs to contribute to fair business in Africa. This topic was approached through different activities such as speeches, debates, films and performances.