Programme profile

BIF 2: Business Innovation Facility (Phase 2)

Bangladesh Ethiopia Kenya Malawi Myanmar Nigeria Pakistan Rwanda South Africa Zambia Agriculture

Programme Index Listing

Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia
Main implementer
Other implementers
Convention on Business Integrity (CBI), Imani Development
2014 - 2019
Total budget
US $51.1 million
Annual budget
US $10 million (avg)

The Business Innovation Facility (BIF) is a five-year DFID-funded market systems development programme that aims to improve the lives of the poor in three countries - Malawi, Myanmar and Nigeria – as well as through two global funding windows.

BIF works to identify and address constraints in selected markets, providing technical assistance and some grant funding to businesses and other market players. BIF provides support to develop and replicate business models that make markets more inclusive, resulting in greater opportunities, better access and improved growth for the poor and disadvantaged people who engage in them, whether as producers, consumers or employees.

BIF Malawi 

Pigeon peas

Market system focus
BIF has focussed on:

  • increasing the availability of improved pigeon pea seed varieties
  • improved farming practices
  • appropriate pest and disease management inputs for smallholder farmers

Programme interventions
BIF has worked with five seed businesses and one of the largest crop protection input firms in Malawi to bring dressed seed to market.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
Over 74,000 smallholder farmers have used these improved products.


Market system focus
BIF’s approach in the rice market is to design business solutions to encourage:

  • correct use of inputs
  • appropriate technology
  • good agronomy practices
  • investment in processing.

Programme interventions
Improvements in productivity and quality have been achieved through greater use of certified seed, which increases yield and enables growers to achieve variety purity, traceability and quality consistency.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
BIF partners have sold over 100 metric tonnes of certified seed and nearly 8,000 smallholder farmers have generated additional income.

Pico Solar Products (PSP)

Market system focus
BIF worked with Total Malawi to improve access to clean renewable lighting and phone charging energy for low income consumers.

Programme interventions
10,000 PSP were imported and Total has focused on wholesale distribution of products through businesses with last-mile distribution capability.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
These businesses faced higher purchase prices prior to the wholesale model and improved product availability has enabled them to buy and deliver products in response to increasing demand from customers. 

BIF Nigeria 


Market system focus
BIF has implemented new contract farming schemes to benefit maize off-takers who receive higher quality produce and smallholder farmers who gain better access to markets.

Programme interventions
Include supporting the development of inclusive business models for the sale of certified maize seed to smallholders to increase their productivity.  Also building capacity of large off-takers to provide training to smallholders on post-harvest handling practices.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
Over 28,000 smallholder farmers have increased their profits from farming through BIF’s interventions.


Market system focus
BIF has introduced more efficient production practices in the aquaculture market in order to increase productivity and profitability for smallholder farmers.

Programme interventions
BIF has developed out-grower schemes whereby large hatchers provide training and inputs to small hatchers to improve the quality of the fingerlings and juveniles they produce. Small-scale fish farmers’ productivity has also been improved by developing a pool of commercially incentivised service providers who provide training, advisory services and access to inputs. These service providers help to lower fish farmers’ main cost – fish feed – by researching viable alternatives. For example hydroponically grown feed or zooplankton.


Market system focus and programme interventions
BIF is working with processors, buyers and smallholder farmers to develop outgrower schemes. These have embedded services, allowing businesses to receive a consistent source of affordable, high-quality cassava roots while smallholders gain reasonable returns by reducing their production costs and increasing their yields. Farmers’ income is also being boosted by increased awareness of the potential to process cassava into livestock feed.


Market system focus and programme interventions
BIF is improving livelihoods and incomes in the dairy market by increasing pastoralists’ production of quality milk and building their capacity to add further value to this milk through processing.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
BIF’s interventions have expanded to include over 5,900 producers. The successes recorded, especially from innovations in the napier grass intervention and rural milk processing, have led to additional private sector investment.

Agricultural information services

Market system focus
BIF is improving smallholder farmers’ productivity and income through increased availability of relevant and regular agricultural information and advisory services on a commercially sustainable basis.

Programme interventions
This has involved working with independent producers and radio stations to develop high-quality programmes that provide farmers with information on:

  • reducing costs
  • increasing production
  • improving quality
  • achieving higher prices

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
It has been key to increase commercial sponsorship of programmes. BIF facilitated a partnership between the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, the largest radio network in the country, and Sterling Bank, a commercial bank who have put agriculture at the core of their strategy for future growth. This has led to over seven months of continuous sponsorship.

BIF Myanmar


Market system focus
BIF's work in tourism focuses on inclusive economic growth by supporting businesses to develop a greater range of products and packages that can benefit low-income communities and people.

Programme interventions
To date BIF has:

  • completed a series of training programmes on product development and innovation
  • supported the development of the country's first inclusive tourism diploma
  • launched the Product and Package Innovation Competition (PPIC), which aims to stimulate competitiveness and support business ideas that will contribute to a wider market system change.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)
BIF has supported over 150 tourism businesses to be more inclusive.


The garment sector has become one of the largest export markets for Myanmar and a significant source of employment for many people, especially women.

Market system focus
BIF's approach focuses on establishing the link between productivity, human resource (HR) management and worker welfare.

Programme interventions
BIF has:

  • worked with factories to improve productivity and HR systems and evaluate the impact
  • trained local consultancies to provide HR and productivity training to factories
  • engaged with international brands, manufacturers and the government to enhance policy dialogue and inform strategy


The bamboo industry in Myanmar has the capacity to generate significant benefits for enterprises, communities and the environment.

Market system focus
BIF’s work in the sector focuses on using bamboo in value-added production and using the material as an alternative construction material.

Programme interventions
BIF has supported the coordination of industry governance and planning structures via the Myanmar Rattan and Bamboo Entrepreneurs’ Association. It has piloted a number of initiatives to benefit farmers and community forest user groups, such as introducing sustainable bamboo forestry and modern bamboo shoot processing techniques.

Global funding windows

Company window

Hygiene products market - Pakistan
BIF has been working with Reckitt Benckiser who is piloting a new distribution model for hygiene products. BIF has facilitated the establishment of a new market player to scale the initiative in a sustainable way, supporting the distribution of personal hygiene products through women micro-entrepreneurs. The ongoing pilot has reached over 28,000 households across 56 villages and raised incomes for 72 women micro-entrepreneurs. It aims for the new market player to reach 1 million households in the next five years.

Financing for high-value agriculture – Kenya
BIF is supporting a large bank looking to develop new financial products for the agriculture sector, collaborating with them to find commercially viable opportunities in the avocado, mango and potato (high value agriculture) markets. BIF is providing technical assistance through off-takers to deliver training to extension workers and organise farmers into groups to increase incomes and productivity. By increasing the quality and quantity of supply to the off-takers, these in turn become more attractive to the bank for financing.

Malting barley – Ethiopia
BIF conducted a market assessment of the malting barley market in four sites in Ethiopia following a discussion with an international brewing company. This revealed a number of key market constraints. BIF has launched an intervention to strengthen contract farming design and operation, aiming to improve access to productivity-enhancing inputs and improve the quality and supply of malt barley.

Healthcare in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector – Bangladesh
BIF is providing monitoring and evaluation support as well as funding for an attribution study led by Tufts University. It will provide the RMG sector with access to compelling evidence that improving health services for workers makes business sense. This work supports M&S’ partnership with GSK, implemented by CARE International, to build the business case for delivery of healthcare in RMG factories in Bangladesh.

Tea trading market – Kenya
BIF is engaging with the Tea2030 group led by Forum for the Future alongside multinationals including Tata Global Beverages, Unilever and Camellia to pilot the use of tea swaps as a mechanism for trading tea at the Mombasa auction. The aim is to reduce the impact of tea price volatility on both buyers and sellers. The project is working with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to ensure that the benefit of the swaps will translate into improved returns to their 600,000 tea farmers as well as other smallholders in the region.

Business partnerships fund

Core Fund
BIF’s core fund provides technical assistance and/or grants to multinational companies to develop and deliver value-generating inclusive business models that have the potential to be scaled up. The portfolio includes 10 projects with MNCs such as Ericsson, Arla, Medtronic and Pearson. These are currently in delivery phase to either test or pilot the innovative inclusive business initiatives.

Replication Fund
The replication fund supports projects that enable learning about and replication of inclusive business initiatives and models. Our strategy in this area has been to provide insights that will help multinationals overcome internal constraints preventing them from scaling and replicating inclusive business initiatives. So far five service providers have been working on different reports which have contributed to these insights and a dissemination strategy is underway.

[updated April 2019]

BIF2 ended in December 2019