U.S. President Barack Obama, at a conference Friday before the Group of Eight summit, announced a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to help Africa.

Obama said the initiative will combine aid from governments and international organizations with efforts by companies, ranging from “large multinationals to small African cooperatives.”

“In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough. And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it’s got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector,” Obama said.

The Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security was in Washington before the weekend G8 meeting at Camp David, Md. Participants included nearly 45 private-sector companies committed to investing “more than $3 billion” to help small-scale farmers — largely in Africa, most of them women — “improve their product and improve their outcomes,” U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah said.