African Youth's Got Talent!

Ten young agripreneurs making money from Agriculture and Agribusiness

05/05/2017
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In a talent show style, ten presenters showcased brilliant ideas that have been turned into innovative solutions to address community needs across Africa. The ten were chosen from among hundreds of proposals to compete during the AgriPitch segment at the end of the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum, held in Ibadan, Nigeria, from 25-26 April 2017.

While natural resources are richly abundant in Africa, technology and capital are not. Naturally, the majority of the ideas presented center around how to circumvent these two major hurdles.

Ghanaian Kwame Ababio of Green Afro-Palms found a way to make technology more available and more affordable to traditional oil palm farmers in Ghana. By scaling down the 100,000 US dollar technology farmers need to process their produce to about 40,000 US dollar for a functionally similar technology. But because 40,000 US dollars is still a high cost for local Ghanaian farmers, Green AfroPalms devised a revenue integration model whereby technology is rented to farmers along with marketing assistance. The farmers then pay the company back from their profits. The company’s revenues currently stand at 100,000 US dollars with expansion plans to include Nigeria, Liberia and beyond. The aim is to make 1 million US dollars in the next three years.

Liberia-based Mahmud Johnson of J-Palm Liberia found his company on a similar model that attempts to avail technology to more than 29,000 households who extract palm oil using their bare hands. The mobile machines J-Palm Liberia provides these poor families with a machine which allows them to increase their productivity many folds and achieve a high level of efficiency while earning 50-80 percent additional income. J-Palm Liberia also uses palm oil to make different hair and skin products while creating jobs by recruiting marketing agents.

Another model to help local farmers targeted the cassava industry in Nigeria where the cassava-based market is worth more than ten billion dollars and where medical doctor-turned-agripreneur Aroge Temitope noticed that despite this enormous potential, cassava farmers are too poor to even afford basic healthcare. His company Bio Allied Agro Services is working to revolutionize the industry by mechanizing cassava planting and investing in value addition. The latter is an arena for much innovation. Bio Allied Agroservices is now producing cassava chips and garri (a staple in Nigeria) from raw cassavas. The value addition market for cassava agripreneurs, however, still remains largely untapped with room for producing more cassava flour, cassava starch and ethanol among other cassava-based products.

The other hurdle is access to financing, which was discussed extensively during the two days of the Forum. It remains a thick wall facing thousands of young agripreneurs who have brilliant ideas but no access to proper funding. In Ghana, Atem Ernest Lefu is ingeniously contributing to solving this problem. His company Agro-Hub Enter works with banks and local farmers to avail financing in the form of monthly salaries given to farmers. The farmers can get loans from the bank based on the salaries deposited by Agro-Hub and pay the company back in crops that they produce. The model, if scaled up enough, could help with meeting the estimated 80 billion dollars needed annually to invest in agriculture in Africa

While the growing urban population of Dar El Salam struggle with a huge waste management problem, innovation was called upon to save the day. Tanzania-born Industrial Engineer Ahad Katera started a company (Guavay Co. Ltd) by developing a manufacturing formula to make organic fertilizers by injecting biological nitrogen into organic waste. The model is working to turn organic waste into useful products that catalyze agriculture. It also kills a couple of other birds. The fertilizers are intended to be rich enough to counter soil degradation as well as cut down the exorbitant costs of importing fertilizers from Norway and China.

Another project to reduce the high cost of fertilizers came from Kenya-based Samuel Rigu through his company Safi Organic. Safi organic provides the technology to locally produce fertilizers and sell them to farmers at much lower prices. The farmers pay to use the fertilizer-producing facilities that capitalize, again, on organic waste and pay the company back from their yield. The model has the capacity to increase production by 30 percent. 

Technology itself can be leveraged brilliantly to attain capital. That is certainly what Nigerian-born Mary Joseph of Farm Drive is doing in Kenya. She uses different data sources such as Weather and Soil Quality as well as satellite imagery to find capital for smallholder farmers. Her company has developed a credit scoring algorithm to score farmers across Kenya and get them credit from financial institutions. Farm Drive aims at reaching 40,000 farmers by the end of 2017.

Quality agricultural input can also be hard to find among a huge amount of counterfeit and low-quality products in the African market. Samuel Munguti co-founded Farmers Pride in Kenya in order to make quality input reliably available to farmers. Through Farmers Pride agribusinesses can find certified quality seeds, fertilizers and agrochemicals. The company has so far raised 130,000 US dollars and helping 10,000 farmers find quality input and information.

Uganda is the second largest producer of bananas in the world. Sam Turyatunga of Tursam Investments saw an opportunity in producing his own brand of banana juice. As a college student, Sam produced the juice in his own dormitory and sold it among his colleagues. But for two years now, after he graduated, his small business has grown phenomenally where Tursam Investments today produces 1500 liters of banana juice every day and sells its product to three other countries in east Africa. The company supports 500 banana growing farmers.

Another juicy product that supports farmers came from Tanzania where Japhet Sekenya established BIOTET. The company developed a lactose-free substitute for milk because an estimated five million of Tanzania’s population are lactose intolerant. The product is made of peanuts and mangoes and has similar nutritional elements as those of normal milk. It also help fight malnutrition in children.

The three winners are Kwame Ababio of Ghana, Mahmud Johnson of Liberia and Mary Joseph of Kenya. The trio will be attending the African Development Bank’s Annual Meeting this month.

The African Youth Agripreneurs Forum comprised of the following: the AYA Forum, a 2-day Conference/Workshop with thematic discussions and presentation of success stories; Agri-Pitch Entrepreneurship Competition that lead to a selection of 3 finalists for presentation at the AfDB’s Annual Meetings in India in May 2017; and side events including a mentor and incubator training programme. It was organized by the AfDB, in cooperation with the IITA, the African Agribusiness Incubators Network and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA).