Great opportunities for young entrepreneurs

Pitch AgriHack! West Africa

The final stage of CTA’s Pitch AgriHack! West Africa competition took place at the 7th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2017), on 7th September 2017, in Abidjan. From the original 130 e-agriculture start-ups led by entrepreneurs aged 18-35 that were selected from 11 West African countries in June 2017, 25 finalists attended the AGRF to present their businesses to an international jury of industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors.

The ambition, energy and potential of the young entrepreneurs to transform agriculture in Africa was evident in their presentations. Odunayo Ola from Ecstasy Treasures Limited, Nigeria, asked, "How do you feel about working really hard and having nothing to show for it? This is the biggest story of farmers in Nigeria and Africa as a whole." By helping farmers deliver their produce to buyers whilst it is still fresh, reducing post-harvest losses, Ola explained that Ecstasy Treasures helps them to see the rewards for their hard work.

CTA director, Michael Hailu, stated his enthusiasm at hearing from so many promising e-agriculture start-ups, saying "I salute everyone's efforts. The innovation among these young people has the potential to energise agriculture. I see ideas that we can address, on the one hand to help us to build you up, and on the other hand to help you to build yourselves. We are very proud of all the initiatives."

The two categories of start-ups, those that are just launching their operations and those that are in a more advanced stage of development, were judged on eleven different criteria including proposed solution, agricultural problem(s) addressed, unique value proposition, team composition, and added value, market addressed, current market traction, cost structure, channels/paths to customers, revenues stream, planned milestones and key performance indicators. The winners of the early stage category, efarms – a Nigerian-based online networking platform – and Farmart Limited – a Ghanian online food market – were rewarded grants of €7,500 and €5,000 respectively; whilst the advanced category winners, Bayseddo – a Senegalese agri-financing platform – and AgroCenta – an online marketplace for agricultural produce founded in Ghana – received €15,000 and €12,500 in funding respectively.

On top of that, CTA's partner, the Mali-based Suguba, offered two special prizes of each €2,000. These prizes went to Malick Birane, representing Aywajieune from Senegal and Ehui Guy Sausthène, representing ICT4Dev from Cote d'Ivoire.

Dr Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was present during the ceremony and handed out some of the prizes. The panel of judges included experts from key institutions such as Mastercard Foundation, Suguba, EIC Corporation, Chamber of Agriculture of Vendée (France). 

Presenting for the early stage runners up, Farmart, Abraham Quaye promoted the convenience of an online marketplace for consumers of farm produce, saying, "With just a click you can order the produce you want." This easy access to high-quality fresh farm produce has attracted 240 individual customers and 55 businesses in the 19 months since the start-up was established, and helped 520 farmers gain access to new markets. Farmart will now be able to use its grant to consolidate and expand their business.

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All winners will also have the opportunity to network with potential partners at upcoming international and regional events to further help them scale their agribusinesses. Not only the winners, but all 25 finalists will benefit from the exposure achieved by presenting at the AGRF and with guidance from business books, which they received at the final, CTA hopes that these start-ups will continue to grow into successful businesses that harness the potential of ICTs to facilitate access to timely and accurate information for improved agricultural production.

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