Bottom-up, Bottom-line: Development-Relevant Enterprises in East Africa and their Significance for Agricultural Innovation

Andy Hall, N. Clark & Andy Frost


Over the last 10 years much has been written about the role of the private sector as part of a more widely-conceived notion of agricultural sector capacity for innovation and development. This paper discusses the emergence of a new class of private enterprise in East Africa that would seem to have an important role in efforts to tackle poverty reduction and food security. These organisations appear to occupy a niche that sits between mainstream for-profit enterprises and the developmental activities of government programmes, NGOs and development projects. This type of enterprise activity is not corporate social responsibility, but an altogether new type of business model that is blending entrepreneurial skills and perspectives with mission statements that seek to both serve the needs of poor customers and address their welfare. The ethos is both "bottom-up" and "bottom-line". This paper classifies these organisations as Development-Relevant Enterprises (DevREs).The experience of the Research into Use (RIU) programme discussed in this paper suggests that supporting these types of entrepreneurial activity may form the basis of a new mode of development assistance aimed at using innovation for both social and economic purposes.

Key words: Development-Relevant Enterprises, Agricultural Research, Agricultural Innovation, East Africa

JEL Codes: N5, N57, O13, O19, O31, Q13, Q16

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

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