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It is necessary to increase support for innovative entrepreneurship in Africa

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Tenemba Anna Samaké (left) was a jury for the 2019 Pitch AgriHack

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Tenemba Anna Samaké, CEO of MBC Africa, was a jury for the 2019 Pitch AgriHack. In this blog post, she shares her impressions of the contest - and why she believes it is important to support youth and women in agriculture.

“What motivated me to work with agricultural small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is their socio-economic impact. When you analyse agricultural value chains, you realise that a small company that transforms fonio can have positive repercussions on the lives of thousands of people.” Tenemba Anna Samaké has over 20 years of experience in commercial development of SMEs in Western Africa. She is convinced that agribusiness can create jobs for young generations, ensure food security and reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas. She currently runs Mobile Business Clinic (MBC) Africa, a consulting firm that provides services for companies to grow. MBC Africa organises “business clinics” in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. Following an in-depth diagnosis, selected SMEs are paired with a business coach who helps them implement a 12-month growth plan. The companies are subsequently put in contact with investors.

As a member of the 2019 Pitch AgriHack jury, Anna Samaké was pleasantly surprised by the ability of the participants – albeit young budding entrepreneurs – to clearly and precisely present their projects, and by the innovative quality of the projects themselves, which either focused on applications or hardware. “Most of them attempted to provide solutions to real problems that they had identified with farmers on the field”, she stated.

Ken Lohento, in charge of the AgriHack Talent project, believes that the implication of organisations such as MBC Africa in the management of Pitch AgriHack reflects the partnership and multi-actor spirit on which the initiative was created. Anna Samaké had previously volunteered to help in the online selection of the 2018 Pitch AgriHack finalists.

Strengthening the ability of younger generations

Anna Samaké also participated in an investment-related training programme, which helps start-up finalists to prepare and implement the proper steps when applying for funding. “CTA provides key support in helping young entrepreneurs realise that there are several ways to fund a company, and learn how to present themselves to investors – how to speak the same language.”

She has realised that funding is one of the main challenges that young entrepreneurs face: “When we conduct an in-depth diagnosis,” she explained, “we realise that the first barrier to company growth is market access: how to define your target market and to segment it according to your product’s strong points. Human capital is another barrier. Entrepreneurs do not always know how to identify the talent they need; they often lack the financial resources for recruiting. This brings us to the third barrier: access to funding.” It is essential to strengthen such skills in young generations in rural areas, and in e-farming entrepreneurs, in order to create job opportunities and new companies, and feed a growing population.

Reducing the agriculture gender gap

This year, 50% of Pitch AgriHack start-up finalists were founded or co-founded by women. Ever since it was created, the contest focuses on agricultural innovation for and by women, and supports ICT initiatives to promote gender parity in agriculture. Anna Samaké provided the following example: “The Fintech sector, particularly mobile finance, can improve financial inclusion and women’s resilience by giving women access to financial services such as community savings and micro-insurance schemes.” She also talked about the availability of technologies to improve agricultural production: in general, women have small, barely profitable farms. To increase their revenue, they need to grow and increase their yields. Such technologies can help them do that. “When you support women farmers, you improve the lives of rural households and overall agricultural productivity.”

CTA and the AgriHack Talent initiative aim to improve resources for young generations and women to promote the development of innovative e-farming tools. Anna Samaké recognises their important role: “By providing agricultural entrepreneurs with concrete solutions to their problems, through accelerated innovation, the CTA’s initial approach can change the agricultural sector in Africa”, affirmed Anna. “How can we make this approach available to the greatest number of young generations and women? How can we create ties with people living in isolated rural areas, who can sometimes provide outstanding innovation? These are the kinds of topics I would like to work on with the CTA teams”, she concluded.

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