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Experience is the best teacher in agribusiness, young experts say

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When it comes to agribusiness, experience is the best teacher, according to young Africans who have successfully cut out profitable and society-changing business ventures in agriculture.

During the African Green Revolution Forum Pre-Event on Youth Agriprenuers, a session on Monday titled “Youth Leveraging Agriculture Research, Technology and Innovation to Grow Agribusiness” brought together successful young entrepreneurs who chose the path of agriculture to discuss how they managed to go the extra distance.

They included Peter Awin, founder of Cow Tribe (Ghana); Japhet Sekenya, CEO of BIOTET (Tanzania); Tendai Mugovi, founder of Sorghum World (Zimbabwe); and Oluwayimika Adelaja, founder of Fresh Direct (Nigeria).

They were joined by Vanessa Moungar, the Director of Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Moungar noted that these young business leaders who make profits by focusing on finding technological solutions and innovations to challenges experienced by farmers will serve as an example to other young people across the continent, who share biases towards joining the agriculture sector.

“The average age of people in agriculture is 60 years in Africa, yet 60 percent of the continent’s population is under the age of 35 years. We need to address this gap by promoting business in agriculture,” she said.

“Young people are now at the forefront of creating innovative tools that help farmers by providing them with important information and linking them to suppliers and clients all over the world. We need to see more young Africans in this sector.”

One promising young agricultural entrepreneur is Adelaja Oluwayimika from Nigeria, founder of Fresh Direct, an agricultural production and processing company.

Despite several financial challenges and personal doubts that she had while starting the business, she endured and now runs a sustainable and profitable agri-business by utilizing advanced technologies to improve crop yield.

“What I did was to take advantage of the lucrative nature of value addition in agro-processing in Africa. Now my company takes full advantage of the opportunities in agriculture by producing to meet the needs of not only the international market, but local markets when it comes to quality fresh foods at affordable prices,” she said.

Her experience is shared by Peter Awin, founder of Cow Tribe, a company that links dairy farmers with veterinary services across Ghana.

“Many cattle owners in Ghana do not have contacts of veterinary doctors, or do they even know where to whom to approach when their animals need medical or nutritional information,” he said.

“I noticed this gap and resigned from a high-paying job to create this company. My beginning was not as great as I had expected because I met many challenges and almost thought of quitting. I however pushed on and now have a profitable company that supports me and my family and many Ghanaian farmers.”

Japhet Sekenya, the CEO of BIOTET in Tanzania, said he did not have a background in agricultural studies like all the other three participants; however, his family stems from an agricultural background.

“I grew up seeing people using hoes and other rudimentary tools to farm and it started to occur to me that such methods cannot propel the agriculture sector or lure young people who now interact with technology on a daily basis,” he said.

“That’s why I started my company. I had a target to venture into the world of creating applications that are tailored to help farmers and all those involved across the agriculture value chain.”

The ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) Youth Program by the African Development Bank (AfDB) created a fund of US $15 billion to support enterprise and job creation for youth and women.

The program seeks to create 1.5 million agribusiness jobs in the next five years, as well as 300,000 agribusiness enterprises created across the continent.

The AfDB has provided a roadmap to the growth of agriculture in African countries with a plan to inject as much as US $2.4 billion every year for 10 years to build roads, irrigation infrastructure and storage facilities within Africa to attract high-value investors.

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