Through its support of entrepreneurs, CTA has been a driving force in helping young people to develop digital solutions to transform agriculture, and in encouraging the next generation to see the potential of farming and agribusiness.
To help stimulate young people to build digital solutions that could be used for agriculture to increase productivity and create jobs, CTA organised its first ‘hackathon’ competition in Kigali, Rwanda in 2013. Such was the event’s success that the then Minister of Agriculture (now President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA), Agnes Kalibata, announced that she would organise a similar competition for young people in Rwanda. Ensibuuko, a beneficiary and winner of this first hackathon was awarded a grant and mentoring opportunities to further develop its revolutionary, cloud-based microfinance management platform, which works with Uganda’s community saving societies to provide inclusive financial access to farmers. The company has since successfully scaled out to Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia and is also the lead organisation of the Market-led User-owned ICT4Ag-enabled Information Service project. “Winning the regional hackathon gave us credibility. The incubation and networking opportunities that were subsequently offered led to us meeting people and building relationships which have helped Ensibuuko to develop,” stressed Gerald Otim, Ensibuuko COO and Co-founder.
“As we struggle to help find jobs for young people, CTA has built the capacity of youths and given them the confidence to step forward and think of themselves as entrepreneurs.” Agnes Kalibata, President, AGRA
A gender inclusive approach
To provide additional support to start-ups through mentoring and guidance in business development, CTA launched Pitch AgriHack in 2016. With fewer women generally involved in agritech start-ups than men, CTA has strongly encouraged women’s involvement in this area. Fenou Packaging is a woman-led Beninese start-up that was awarded for its 100% biodegradable food packaging sold via an e-commerce platform. With CTA support, the business also went on to win third prize at the Agristartup Summit in France. “Everything we worked on with CTA has contributed to the growth of our company,” emphasises CEO, Sonita Tossou. In 2019, 50% of Pitch AgriHack finalists were women.
Using the ‘AgriHack’ label, countries including Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia are now hosting their own hackathons and, with input from CTA, organisations such as the African Development Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have also launched programmes to support young digital entrepreneurs.
To stimulate rural employment opportunities for youths in West Africa, CTA’s Promoting youth entrepreneurship and job creation in the West African rice value chain project combined technology with coaching in Mali and Senegal. In partnership with the Africa Rice Center and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and using the digital app RiceAdvice, the project trained young graduates to collect farm data and provide crop management recommendations to over 1,500 rice farmers. The potential of these kinds of projects is recognised at the highest political level, with Senegal’s national minister of agriculture establishing a committee to replicate the project’s methods across the country.