IFAD Republic of the Congo Country Strategic Opportunities Programme 2019 – 2024: Note to Executive Board representatives

  1. The Government of the Republic of the Congo and IFAD have jointly prepared the Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP) 2019-2024. The COSOP 2010-2014, prepared in 2009, ended in 2014 without an official extension. 
  2. The Congo exhibits many aspects of fragility despite its middle-income status. Roughly 70 per cent of the rural population is impoverished, women face discrimination in many aspects of their lives, institutional capacity is weak and the financial control environment is extremely challenging.
  3. The overall goal of this COSOP is to achieve sustainable and inclusive development of agricultural production and agribusiness while supporting the Government in its effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 2, 3 and 8. This COSOP differs from past strategies in that it goes beyond production and focuses on the entire agricultural value chain, aiming to stimulate pro-poor investment and growth by enabling buyers, processing enterprises, fishers and smallholders to engage in inclusive, profitable and sustainable relationships, while prioritizing the needs of rural and peri-urban youth and women. It will also contribute to identifying needed reforms and strengthening sector institutions and capacity for good governance in the sector.
  4. Its three strategic objectives (SOs) are:

    Strategic objective 1: Strengthen the capacity of small-scale stakeholders and their organizations to create inclusive market linkages and agribusiness models and derive economic benefits from value chains with high economic potential.
    Strategic objective 2: Increase access by small-scale producers and other value chain stakeholders to financing and financial services.
    Strategic objective 3: Improve the policy and regulatory environment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprise development in the agriculture and food sector. 
  5. The four themes of the Eleventh Replenishment of IFAD's Resources will be addressed, namely: (i) climate change; (ii) gender mainstreaming; (iii) food and nutrition security; and (iv) youth.
  6. The theory of change builds on four key elements: (i) agricultural productivity increases, driven by the demand for agricultural products; (ii) value chain development, with an enhanced focus on entrepreneurship and employment for youth and women; (iii) financial services that offer targeted solutions to different market segments (especially, but not exclusively, smallholder producers and small-scale processors), as well as capacity-building for all value chain participants and service providers; and (iv) institutional innovation and capacity-building for effective horizontal and vertical value chain governance and coordination. 
  7. The COSOP will use innovative ways to deploy IFAD’s comparative advantage in supporting smallholders by focusing on the three most promising value chains,namely cassava, fruits and vegetables, and cocoa. The strategy will: (i) capitalize on increased cassava production by directly supporting processing and value-addition activities; (ii) integrate smallholder producers and small-scale processors in commercial value chains through public-private-producer partnerships (4Ps); and (iii) leverage value chain finance to help small-scale operators gain access to formal financial services.
  8. At the same time, IFAD, in partnership with other financial and technical partners, and through collaboration with the other Rome-based agencies and South-South and Triangular Cooperation, will invest in helping the Government meet its governance and business climate improvement objectives through the identification of, and dialogue on, specific agribusiness policy and regulatory reforms.