Agribusiness is poised to unlock the potential of agriculture to drive economic growth and reduce poverty in Africa. This was showcased at the first ever African Agribusiness Incubation Conference organized under the umbrella of African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN). The conference also created a platform to promote successful agribusiness ventures, majority of which are run by women and youth in Africa.
According to a World Bank report, Africa now earns an average of 24% of its annual revenues from its farmers and their crops. The report projected that if public and private sectors were to work together to link farmers with consumers in what the report referred to as “an increasingly urbanized Africa”, agriculture in Africa is likely to be worth US$1 trillion by 2030.
Mrs Sicily Kariuki, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya, noted that the role of agriculture in Kenya and Africa at large is of immense value as it remains the main source of livelihoods. “The key to transforming agriculture in Africa depends on how Africa prioritizes and treats agriculture as a business as opposed to treating it as a way of life,” she said. She added that a shift towards commercialization of agriculture should be the new narrative and reiterated the importance of the conference in showcasing the new platform for both the public and private sectors.
Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), informed that FARA had established six agribusiness incubators in Kenya, Mali, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia under AAIN.
Major achievements of the FARA-Universities, Business and Research for Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) incubator initiative are:
- Creating more than 10,000 jobs in five African countries
- Supported 23,500 households
- 884 students taken through internship and industrial attachment
- Facilitated business development for 200 enterprises at local and international markets
- Supported 140 start-up incubatees
- Commercialized 72 agro-technologies
Reiterating ICRISAT’s commitment to support agribusiness ventures that are key for transformation of agriculture in Africa, Dr Moses Siambi, ICRISAT Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, in his remarks at opening ceremony said, “The key barriers to successful commercialization of innovative products by small agribusinesses in Africa, particularly by the youth, are high costs of commercialization, lack of human and financial capital, and poor knowledge of markets.”
‘Technologies for African Agri-Business Development’ a compendium developed by ICRISAT-ABI in collaboration with the six agribusiness incubators was released during the conference.
This compendium features a diverse range of 26 ready-for-commercialization technologies sourced from the partners and represents different sectors such as crop production and improvement (sorghum, banana, cassava and vegetables), livestock and poultry, food and feed processing, value-addition protocols etc. Interested entrepreneurs in Africa can access these technologies through the incubators. (http://oar.icrisat.org/9064/)
“Product development typically requires large capital investments, and thus access to capital/financial markets is critical to the success of commercialization of new technology,” he said, adding that raising sufficient capital is a major challenge for African entrepreneurs, particularly the youth.
The team from ICRISAT conducted a two-day training program on business incubator sustainability and management for agencies interested in setting up agribusiness incubators in the continent. The team also facilitated the AAIN Elevator Pitch Program, which had 19 start-ups presenting their ventures to the jury. Two categories of awards were presented: Best Agribusiness Incubator and Best Agribusiness Incubatee.
“In Africa, agribusiness has the potential to reduce poverty and drive economic growth and incubation has emerged as a successful mechanism for launching new enterprises by creating an environment where start-ups can be nurtured and allowed to flourish,” said Mr Karuppanchetty during the panel discussion on Agribusiness Incubation Models.
One of the major side events of the conference was the business-to-business (B2B) meetings wherein start-ups got a platform to interact with private sector players regarding their product and business development. The meetings were facilitated by Mr Ambrose Bugaari, Consultant, ICRISAT-ABI.
The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT, is a key partner for the UniBRAIN project since late 2011, and was entrusted with the task of handholding and mentoring the six Agribusiness Innovation Incubator Consortia (AIIC), and help UniBRAIN scale up the incubator model to other countries within Africa. ABI provided hands-on training in: managing operations, handling client enquiries and services, developing business plans and standard operating procedures for each incubator, technology database development, organizing promotional events, and guidance in infrastructure and systems. ICRISAT helped in developing the AAIN by providing strategic advisory inputs and facilitated its implementation.
The ABI program, is the implementing agency for setting up five Food Processing Business Incubation Centres in Africa, a project of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (Government of India). ICRISAT plays a vital role in the sustainability of two AIICs selected for this project.
The conference titled “Catalyzing sustainable transformation of Africa’s agriculture through agribusiness incubation: towards job and wealth creation, food security and poverty reduction” took place from 28-30 September at Nairobi, Kenya. It was organized by the UniBRAIN project, FARA and ICRISAT Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP). The conference brought together innovators, start-ups, SMEs, incubators, researchers, academics, industries, development agencies and investors across sub-Saharan Africa.
With UniBRAIN coming to a close by December 2015, the next stage in the journey of transforming agribusiness sector in Africa has already begun with the formation of AAIN. Mr Alex Ariho, UniBRAIN Facility Coordinator from FARA, and who will be the Coordinator for AAIN, summed it up: “Basically we are looking at nurturing incubators in Africa to respond to the needs of agribusiness in Africa and aid in job and wealth creation.” The next edition of the conference will be held during 12-14 September 2016 at Accra, Ghana.
Project: Universities, Business and Research for Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN)
Investor: Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
Lead agency: Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)
Partners: African Network for Agriculture, Agro Forestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE); Pan African Agri-Business Consortium (PanACC); ICRISAT-Agribusiness Incubation (ABI) Program; Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA); Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA); and West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD)
Incubators: Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (CURAD), Uganda; Afri-Banana Products (ABP) Limited, Uganda; Creating Competitive Livestock Entrepreneurs in Agribusiness (CCLEAr), Ghana; Agri-Business Incubation Trust (AgBIT); Sorghum Value Chain Development Consortium (SVCDC), Kenya; West Africa Agribusiness Resource Incubator (WAARI), Mali