ThirdWay Africa is an impact investment and advisory firm working across Africa, with a focus on East and Southern Africa. In this interview, Gonçalo Neves-Correia, Co-Founder and CEO, discusses the firm’s work under USAID INVEST to make smart agricultural investments and increase sustainable rural development.
By Carolanne Chanik, INVEST Communications Coordinator
According to ThirdWay Africa’s CEO and Co-Founder, Gonçalo Neves-Correia, Southern Africa has a wealth of unrealized agricultural investment opportunities — brownfield farms.
In a brownfield investment, a company or investor purchases or leases an asset that already exists, such as a production facility or piece of property, to launch a new production activity. The opposite is a greenfield investment where a company or investor builds a new production facility.
“By opting for scalable brownfield projects, we can hit the ground running and achieve impact quicker,” explains Neves-Correia.
ThirdWay Africa is one of four firms selected by INVEST and funded through the USAID Southern Africa Regional Mission to mobilize private investment capital, build market-deepening partnerships, and create development-driven investment opportunities across Southern Africa. ThirdWay Africa is using its permanent capital vehicle (PCV), known as the ThirdWay Africa Rural Development Corporation, to invest in and scale up existing farms into independent, midscale commercial operations that can help spark rural development.
The firm’s investment hypothesis is that eligible farms selected for funding through the PCV will become a hub of economic activity for nearby communities, attracting additional investors to the area. “We call our work ‘community-linked agriculture investing,’” states Neves-Correia. “By establishing a farm as a financially viable anchor asset, we can trigger the development of a whole community and attract additional private capital for infrastructure, energy access, or financial inclusion projects nearby.”
ThirdWay Africa Rural Development Corporation’s first investment was in a large soybean and maize farm in Northern Mozambique. “There was a tremendous amount of potential to connect to the communities living around the farm, which, at the time, were groups of subsistence farmers,” recalls Neves-Correia.
By re-focusing the nearby farmers’ efforts on soybean and maize farming, ThirdWay Africa could have dual impact — helping the farmers use best-practice farming techniques established to increase their individual agricultural outputs and creating more attractive sales prices in the market. Both efforts resulted in an increased annual income for the subsistence farmers. “We saw a significant amount of positive social impact,” says Neves-Correia.
Neves-Correia urges other investors to keep an open mind about brownfield investments. “Just because initial investors have struggled to make a commercial return out of their greenfield investments doesn’t mean that the assets lack value,” he says. “Investors like ThirdWay Africa and development actors like USAID and INVEST can help revitalize them, so smallholder farms can realize their bankable and scalable potential.”
Catalytic capital — capital that accepts disproportionate risk or concessionary returns to generate impact — from USAID will enable ThirdWay Africa Rural Development Corporation’s PCV to make two to three more similar investments over the next several years.
To hear more from Neves-Correia about overcoming the barriers to rural development and catalyzing primary agriculture investments in Southern Africa, watch the video below.