MEDA convention will celebrate 70 years of investing in entrepreneurs

Seventy years of investing in entrepreneurs is the theme of MEDA’s 2023 annual convention, which will be held at the Marriott Eaton’s Centre Downtown in Toronto, Ontario, from November 2-5.

Saturday evening keynote speaker Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a former Rwandan agriculture minister.

Agnes Kalibata, a Rwandan agriculture scientist, policy maker, and president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), will be Saturday evening’s keynote speaker. Kalibata has headed AGRA since 2014. The organization works to increase incomes and improve food security for farming households in 11 countries in Western and Eastern Africa. Prior to joining AGRA, she was Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources from 2008 to 2014, where she drove programs that moved her country to food security, helping to lift more than a million Rwandans out of poverty.

The convention will kick off Thursday evening with a panel of speakers reflecting on what MEDA has meant to them. Robert and Lisa Shuh will co-host the Thursday night panel. On Friday morning, an institutional donor showcase will explore innovations in international development. This hybrid event will allow MEDA staff from around the world to attend.

Seminars include sessions on entrepreneurship in Paraguay, the MasterCard Foundation Africa Growth Fund, a panel of MEDA clients discussing how MEDA programs paved the way toward win-win partnerships, community economic development in North America, lessons learned along the way, business transitions from one generation to the next and social impact investing.

A Friday noon panel will explore lasting impact through partnerships. Among the speakers:

  • Verónica Herrera, who heads MiCrédito, a Central American financial institution that MEDA partly owns.
  • MEDA board member Ferdinand Rempel will discuss CODIPSA, which produces commercial starch from manioc (cassava). CODIPSA, founded by businessmen who were members of MEDA Paraguay, grew to become the country’s largest starch producer.

MEDA’s annual business pitch competition is moving to Saturday morning this year. It will also be run in partnership and co-hosted with and hosted by D-Prize, a San Francisco-based, non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization. D-Prize’s strategy is to identify evidence-based poverty interventions, then provide seed capital grants to new business ventures in the Global South, allowing them to scale up their operations and impact their local contexts.

D-Prize runs challenges twice yearly, with 4,000 teams applying for seed capital. Among the many sectoral challenges that it funds, several are agriculture-related, addressing such areas as quality inputs, post-harvest support, and livestock interventions. All of the finalists that will be competing in MEDA’s pitch competition in November will already have won a competition through D-Prize. Each of the proposed ventures will be geared toward advancing lasting, sustainable changes in rural agricultural communities in the Global South.

As always, the convention will allow for many opportunities to meet new friends and renew existing relationships. A pre-convention tour on Thursday will visit businesses in St. Jacobs. The convention will also include the always popular Friday night dine-around and several Saturday tours of Toronto attractions. Cesar Garcia, general secretary of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC), will speak at Sunday morning’s closing session. MWC is an organization that serves 1.5 million members around the world in the Anabaptist tradition.

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