The Challenges and Opportunities of Kampani

The Challenges and Opportunities of Kampani


Monday march 9, Kampani has been launched officially with a reception at the Headquarters of the King Baudouin Foundation. In his opening address, the president of the Board of the Kampani Investment Fund, Steven Serneels, disclosed both the challenges and opportunities of this new investment fund. Here you can read the transcription of his speech.

"Ladies and gentlemen, shareholders, members of the board and the IC, supporters of Kampani, first of all, I want to share with you that I feel very honored to be invited to be the president of the board of Kampani.

When Wouter Vandersypen, our executive director, asked me whether I was interested in this role, I got quickly enthusiastic. On the other hand, I also realized that the complexity of this venture also required the active support from all parties involved if to be successful. After talking to the board members of the respective organizations, I felt however convinced that the time and momentum is right to give this initiative a go.

I also feel proud. Having worked over the last couple of years mainly outside Belgium, I have seen how a new model, a model of co-creation between multiple parties such as government, civil society and the corporate world is gaining positive traction. A model where ‘doing good’ and financial viability are no longer mutually exclusive. It started primarily in Anglo-Saxon countries, like the US and UK, a prime example, but is becoming more and more popular in many more European countries today.

Just see what Danone and Mars announced a couple of weeks ago: a new investment fund of 120 mio € for Family Farming. Their aim is to increase, together with others such as NGOs and governments, the productivity of smallholder farmers by making 4 to 5 investments a year (averaging EUR 3-5 million each) over the next decade.

Another example is GIZ, the German development organization. At the end of last year, GIZ launched the Inclusive Business Action Network, looking to spur the co-creation between development agencies, corporates, impact investors and NGOs.

In general, we see NGOs operating the old style, living from only grants or government subsidies are having a hard time, while other NGOs, embracing the concept of co-creation, are growing exponentially. Solidaridad in The Netherlands is such an example.

And in this world of co-creation, looking for societal impact as well as financial sustainability, impact investing becomes more and more the accepted way to finance these initiatives. Still relatively small today, it is growing double-digit numbers every year.

To my knowledge, Kampani is the first Belgian impact investing initiative where multiple and diverse organizations come together to explore these new ways to support the development of the farmers in the South. As a Belgian, I feel proud to be part of this.

Let’s also look for a moment at the food chain, a supply chain that is up for quite some challenges. We all know the numbers: more then 9 bio people to feed in 2050; climate change might hamper dramatically the productivity. At the same time the power in the food chain is concentrated globally with a limited number of food manufacturers and retailers, while on the other side we still have a scattered landscape of many small-scale farmers in a lot of developing countries.

Initiatives like Kampani are badly needed to make sure the collective power of those farmers can be unlocked. The next years offer a unique window of opportunity as big players start to understand, see the example of Danone and Mars, they can only realizing a secure supply, both in quality and quantity, if they start collaborating in win-win models with farmer cooperatives.

And therefore, I am not only proud, but I also feel confident as we have, with Kampani, the right parties around the table to facilitate this process. Vredeseilanden, Louvain Cooperation, Boerenbond, Alterfin, King Boudoin foundation, and maybe some more to come, such as Trias: all leading Belgian organizations showing the willingness to provide farmers in the South a sustainable solution.

So, time is right and I feel upbeat.

I am also a bit cautious. As I mentioned already a couple of times: co-creation is important. Both case studies as well as research show that the number 1 critical success factor in such a context is alignment of stakeholders. We in particular, as shareholders of an impact fund investing in this space, will have to walk the talk. Having multiple parties around the table will bring its challenges:

  • We’ll carefully have to manage potential conflicts of interest
  • We’ll have to manage a quite complex process, with many hand-overs. If not done properly, quality will suffer, lead-times go up, and costs sour
  • We’ll have to appreciate each other’s strengths, and build upon them; we ‘ll have to have empathy to carefully listen to each other, but also be open to constructive criticism. And gradually, we’ll have to develop the trust in each other to overcome difficult situations that for sure, will cross our path.

So, I invite all the participating organizations to communicate openly, frankly but constructively with one another, having always front and center our common objective in mind: facilitating and building a responsible and sustainable food chain where it originates in the South.

Entering a new and emerging field of impact investing will also bring its challenges, especially targeting a difficult segment: the missing middle:

  • How to make sure we’ll have sufficient deal flow of the right quality
  • Our NGOs, as prime deal originators, are at the same time going through a change process themselves, stepping up the learning curve of co-creation and impact investing, which is very brave but will also take time
  • And we’ll have to find additional investors, as a fund of this size is not viable in the mid term.

So, the best to address and overcome these challenges is to show rather sooner than later we can find and invest in some good deals. This will allow us to channel our energy collectively in making them a success, and at the same time attracting new investors to grow the fund.

In summary, I feel proud and honored to participate in and contribute to this beautiful initiative. I admire the power of Wouter and the dedication of the participating organizations to make it happen. I am also convinced time is right. But we have to be conscious that the success of Kampani is not for granted and will require the best of all of us.

To conclude, I wish you not only good luck & good vibes, but also the positive will and endurance to prove together this new and promising model, this new way of facilitating responsible & sustainable development for our farmers in the South, can work.

Let’s make it a success!

Thank you!"