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Supporting Africa's rising entrepreneurs

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Approximately 60% of the population in Africa is under the age of 35. Of those who are not students, a third are unemployed, another third are ‘vulnerably employed’ and only one in six is in wage employment. At the same time, the average age of farmers is alarmingly high at around 60 years old. If the continent is to have any hope of feeding itself and eradicating malnutrition young people will have to play a major role in future.

Empowering youth and helping them to become part of the agricultural value chain as ‘agripreneurs’ has become a major preoccupation for CTA and many of its partners. “There have been few continent-wide forums which connect agricultural entrepreneurship programmes, create exchange platforms between entrepreneurs and financial service providers, build the business capacity of agripreneurs and reward the best of them – all at the same time,” says Ken Lohento, CTA’s ICTs for Agriculture Programme Coordinator. This was one of the aims of the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum, held in Ibadan, Nigeria, in April 2017.

The Forum brought together around 150 young people with entrepreneurial aspirations, many of whom already ran their own businesses, and representatives of development organisations and banks, fund managers, academics and members of the media. Over 250 participants joined the 2-day discussions. These focused on the need to support young entrepreneurs in the agricultural industry, as well as the importance of capacity building and access to finance.

The event, which was co-organised by CTA, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and the African Agribusiness Incubation Network, also provided AfDB with an opportunity to provide an update on its Enable Youth Programme.

Immediately prior to the event, a 2-day youth agribusiness development coaching and innovation competition – AgriPitch Challenge – was organised by AfDB. During the competition, coaches led 20 young entrepreneurs, shortlisted from an online evaluation of over 100 business proposals, through the innovation development process and trained them how to create and grow sustainable start-ups.

The winner of the competition was Green Afro-Palms, a Ghanaian company that provides palm oil production machinery and contributes to value chain development. One of the runners-up was FarmDrive, a Kenyan company which facilitates access to credit for smallholder farmers. FarmDrive took off after participating in a CTA Hackathon, a competition which provides young computer programmers with the opportunity to showcase their skills and develop products. The second runner-up was J-Palm, a Liberian company which produces oil palm-based consumer and industrial products. All three winners were invited to participate in the AfDB’s annual meeting in India in May 2017.

CTA has become increasingly well known for pioneering competitions which encourage and support young entrepreneurs in ACP countries. One of the most successful events at the 2017 African Green Revolution Forum, held in September in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was CTA’s Pitch AgriHack. This was preceded by a training programme for 34 young entrepreneurs on financial management and investment readiness, and a training exercise on successful business modelling.

A day-long pitching event provided the 25 finalists with the opportunity to present their services to an international panel of judges, potential investors and other participants. The winners of the various categories included efarms, a Nigerian online networking platform; Farmart Ltd, an online food market platform based in Ghana; Bayseddo, a Senegalese agricultural financing platform; and AgroCenta, an online marketplace for agricultural produce in Ghana. With support from its partners, CTA is now collaborating with the winning teams to help them develop their services.

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