Why the future of African agribusiness is ‘tied to technology’
Access to financial sources is not always the main key to ensuring the sustainability of agribusiness ventures launched by young African entrepreneurs, according to a report by CNN this week.
The report said: “It is estimated that by the year 2030 the food industry will be worth one trillion dollars. It therefore only makes economic sense that the African Development Bank invest in the youth and in agriculture as the safest bet to avert a food crisis by capitalising on Africa’s immense demographic dividend.”
It was discussed at an African Youth Agripreneurs Forum held in Ibadan, Nigeria, during a session on ‘Financing Youth in Agribusiness’ – loans, credit lines, equity were among the ideas discussed. But how about starting a business with creativity as your only capital?
The report said Cote d’Ivoire-based CEO, Samuel Martin, argued that while it is difficult, it is entirely possible. By managing resources already available in the market and brokering other businesses, Martin started a small company that gave school kids in his home country access to computers. Not only his first business was a success, he later built 10 other businesses, both at home and abroad, on the same zero-capital model and went on to study the concepts of this model in graduate school in the United States. Today Martin runs a foundation in Cote d’Ivoire that helps young Africans start a business capitalising on creativity.
The director of the social impact investor Acumen Fund, Godfrey Mwindaare, said that mitigating the risks associated with investing in agriculture can go a long way to make up for funding that a young agripreneur does not have. Chief among the points Mwindaare gave is that when seeking financing, young agripreneurs should pursue financing that comes with technical assistance and room for capacity building. Another important point is that financing should be patient and not too susceptible to currency depreciation.
Towards the end of the forum, the question of the future of African agripreneurship had to be explored. The session was titled ‘The future of youth in networked agribusiness economies’ and focused on envisioning a new Africa approach driven by agriculture.
The future of African agribusinesses is invariably linked to maximizing the use of technology in form of mechanization and ICT systems, argued Hemant Nitturkar, Project Director at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. A young computer engineer on the panel, Lilian Uwintwuali, was quick to agree with Nitturkar. She added that when ICT experts work with farmers to understand their problems, innovative solutions can be devised to overcome various challenges.
The demographics of Africa present both an opportunity to invest in a growing young population and an impending crisis of not having enough food to go round. Edson Mpyisi, an agricultural economist with the African Development Bank, describes this double-edged demographic sword as demographic dividend and demographic disaster.
A number of partner organisations participating in the Forum pledged to support the agripreneurs. Daniel Karanja of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) pledged to sponsor the top 5 AgriPitch competitors to attend the Durban IGD Frontier 100 Leaders and Farming is Cool event at the World Economic Forum in Durban in May 2017. The President of the Brazil-Africa Institute, João Bosco Monte, offered to organize a two-month training for 30 agripreneurs on cassava with Embrapa in Brazil. The Ministry of Youth Promotion of Côte d’Ivoire has offered to host the next AYA Forum (AYAF-2) in 2018 in Abidjan.