Le Centre technique de coopération agricole et rurale (CTA) confirme sa fermeture pour la fin 2020.

Completion report AgriHack Talent

CTA’s AgriHack Talent initiative aimed to strengthen youth-led digital innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. It was a key part of CTA’s strategy to encourage youth’s meaningful involvement in agriculture and promote youth employment and agricultural transformation through innovations. Co-designed with young innovators and partners, the AgriHack Talent project included:
competitions to develop information and communication technology (ICT) applications for agriculture (hackathons) when there is a needa start-up competition (called Pitch AgriHack) targeting young companies already offering e-agriculture servicescapacity building, mentorship and incubation opportunitiespromotional and networking opportunitiesfacilitation of access to grants and investments to scale-up services offered.The project was launched in 2013 when a regional agricultural hackathon was organised in the framework of the international ICT4Ag conference that CTA organised in Rwanda. It was probably the first initiative of its kind at the international level targeting Africa. The hackathon targeted East Africa only, leveraging on the stronger development of digitalisation in that region. Hackathons were then organised annually until 2015.
From 2016, the project focused on start-ups that already owned digital solutions as many prototypes were already in existence and needed support to grow. This was the launch of Pitch AgriHack. Four editions of Pitch AgriHack were organised. The 2016 edition covered all ACP countries, the 2017 edition focused on West Africa and the last two editions organised in 2018 and 2019 again covered all ACP countries. For these last two editions, CTA put young women’s digital entrepreneurship at the core of the project and 50% of finalists and winners were women-led businesses.
Networking opportunities offered to the best companies included their participation in events such as the AgriStartup Summit in France, the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in different African countries, the Pan African Agribusiness Conference and Expo, the Salon International de l’agriculture in France, African Development Bank (AfDB) events such as the African Youth Agripreneurs (AYA) Forum, European Development Days in Brussels. They also took part in events which specifically supported their investment research strategies. These included two editions of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Social Good Summit, organised in collaboration with CTA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Exco 2019 Forum organised in Italy by the Government of Italy and the European Union, and the World Investment Forum in 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. The finalists’ WhatsApp group and the email discussion list (in English and French) served as key networking and capacity-building spaces and community of practices.
Training on investment readiness and financial management were organised for the benefit of all finalists since 2017. CTA also offered many winners dedicated mentorship support. This was the case when contracts were signed with the African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN), the international consultancy firm Ernst and Young and the Dutch company VC4Africa, which provided mentorship to winners or selected participants in 2016, 2018 and 2019, respectively. These strategies have yielded very positive results: for example, the mentorship of Sooretul (a 2016 winner from Senegal) by Ernst and Young and the growth strategy that they developed were instrumental in helping the company win a US$100,000 grant from the BMCE Bank of Africa.
Two publications were produced by the project – Innovate for agriculture (in 2016, in collaboration with Ashoka) and ICT Agripreneurship Guide (2017) – and one in collaboration with the project (Business models and key success drivers of agtech start-ups) to support young digital entrepreneurs’ capacity building and promote best role models.
More than 1,500 young innovators and entrepreneurs (representing about 800 young companies) from 60 countries took part in the initiative between 2013 and 2019. About 30 ICT hubs and incubators from about 20 countries were involved, including Wennovation Hub from Nigeria, Yeesal AgriHub from Senegal, Mlab East Africa from Kenya, Outbox Hub from Uganda, BongoHive from Zambia and SlashRoots from Jamaica. Key institutions involved included ministries in charge of ICT and agriculture, AfDB, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Suguba Africa, OCP Group, the World Bank, CARDI, SACAU, VC4Africa, Microsoft, Devlab (Americas), Greentec Capital Partners (Germany), ProHaus Group (USA) and Telesur (Suriname). Many of these partners have supported the initiative by providing funding or networking and promotional support. The support provided by the AfDB, one of the key historical partners of the project, was made through funding provided to the institution by the Government of the Republic of Korea as part of Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation.
Key impacts observed included the following. Best start-ups involved raised more than €2.5 million in investment and grants from various national and international parties. More than one million users (mostly farmers) were reached by services they provided. The end-of-project survey undertaken in 2020 to assess the project’s impacts found that, on average, winners reported that they had increased their number of employees by 116.3% since they started engagement with the project (some of them have four times more employees). They serve clients including government, civil society, the private sector and international organisations. More details on the findings of that survey are provided in the outcomes and impact sections of this report.
The AgriHack initiative has contributed to strengthening CTA’s positioning on youth entrepreneurship as well as its leadership in the ICT4Ag field. The project’s activities were instrumental in the awarding to CTA of the World Summit on the Information Society Award Prize in 2015 (in the e-agriculture category) for its youth and ICTs activities (under the umbrella of the general ARDYIS programme of which the AgriHack project was a spin-off).
Pitch AgriHack has also been used to identify start-ups some institutions can work with in specific projects. For example, in Burkina Faso Yam-Pukri used the competition as a channel to identify start-ups it can work with in the framework of the Ideal Burkina project (Innovation, Développement Agricole et liens vers le marché) in 2018/2020. Pitch AgriHack was also implemented in Ethiopia in the framework of the project AgriTech Movers Ethiopia, implemented by the incubator IceAddis in 2019–2020. Other organisations organising similar events based on the project’s experience include FAO, BongoHive in Zambia and the Ministry of Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire.
Many start-ups that won Pitch AgriHack also won other international awards. The project attracted international recognition as a pioneering, impactful activity; it was showcased three years in a row at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in the presence of African leaders and heads of states.
Detailed outputs and results provided in this report focus on the years 2016–2020. The annual Pitch AgriHack was not organised in 2020 because of CTA’s impending closure, although support continued to be provided to young digital entrepreneurs.