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For Miriam Ahuna Ofoeze, nothing now stands between her and her cherished goal of becoming a successful agribusiness entrepreneur. Thanks to an innovative training programme sponsored by the African Development Bank at Purdue University, Indianapolis, the young Nigerian is even convinced she now has what it takes to become a future World Food Prize winner.
“I have a dream that one day I will make some impact in Africa and win the World Food Prize,” says the young post-harvest processor at the National Root Crops Research Institute in Umudike, southeastern Nigeria.
The Prize is the foremost international award recognizing individuals for their contribution to the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
Ofoeze says she has been inspired and fired-up by the week-long hands-on training delivered by Purdue University’s agribusiness experts and is grateful to the Bank for the opportunity.
“Attending the programme was a great lift and insight into how to move my career forward,” said, Ofoeze, one of seven beneficiaries of the Bank-funded training. “I learnt how to consider every part of agriculture as a business and to be able to scale it up. Interacting with conference attendees also increased my network, and I hope to collaborate with some of them soon.”
As part of its Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment Youth Program (ENABLE Youth), the Bank partnered Purdue University to expose seven young African agribusiness entrepreneurs to innovative opportunities to expand their technologies and agribusiness enterprises.
The Scale Up Conference, as the Indianapolis workshop was called, was a partnership between the Bank and Purdue University and focused on how sustainable agriculture technologies could be extended to millions of farmers to help feed the world’s growing population.
The mentorship programme involved a special ‘Firestarter’ at the Purdue Foundry, a business incubation hub, where Purdue professors provided useful insights on commercializing ideas and products. The group of seven selected from Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe, had interests spanning precision agriculture using drones, innovative nutrition solutions, seed production for indigenous crops, and mechanization in harvesting gum Arabica.
Aboubacar Karim, one of the participants, said the training helped him on several levels, and like Ofoeze, said he hoped to collaborate with some of the people he met on the course.
“I have made contacts with experts in the field of precision agriculture, who work on interesting projects and with whom I can have concrete collaboration. The ‘Firestarter’ entrepreneurship training made me re-evaluate and improve my business approach. It is always a pleasure to meet people who are enthusiastic and passionate about what they do,” added Karim, founder and CEO of INVESTIV, a start-up company in Cote d’Ivoire specializing in precision agriculture using drones.
Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry at the Bank, Martin Fregene, said the selected youth all run innovative agribusiness enterprises which demonstrate the modernization of agriculture. He expressed optimism that the Bank’s support would transform agriculture for future generations and encourage young people to see the potential in farming and agribusiness.
“The Bank is committed to support youth agripreneurship on the continent and has invested over US$320 million in Enable Youth projects in nine countries (Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan and Zambia) which will create over 50,000 jobs,” Fregene said.
Participants also attended the Scale Up Conference on innovation in agriculture at Purdue, where they gained better understanding of successful, sustainable large-scale implementation and best practices for expanding agricultural technologies.
The Bank’s Enable Youth Program is designed to empower youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain by harnessing new skills, technologies and financing approaches to help them establish viable and profitable agribusinesses.
Edson Mpyisi, Coordinator of the Enable Youth Program said the Bank is working with Africa’s youth and women to catalyze entrepreneurship, facilitating access to technologies and networks.
“This will in turn create a thriving agribusiness sector in Africa, thereby increasing rural jobs and improving livelihoods while making agriculture attractive and profitable to youth,” he said.
"Being a part of the Scale Up Conference helped me to expand my network of partners who will help me attain the mission of my agribusiness to eradicate the malnutrition problem,” said Elyse Habumukiza, one of the young entrepreneurs.
Carolyn Woo, Distinguished President’s Fellow for Global Development at Purdue University, lauded the “drive, passion and natural inclinations” of the young entrepreneurs, and said the Foundry provided a systematic approach and discipline that will enable them anticipate challenges and make critical decisions.