Growing agribusiness entrepreneurs in East Africa

by Agripreneurship Alliance
Growing agribusiness entrepreneurs in East Africa

In early November the opportunity of a brief window in the COVID-19 pandemic was seized to organise an in-person Training of Trainer event in Uganda. This course provided the opportunity for universities who had not previously participated in face-to-face training as well as new trainers. Thus, Jaramogi Odinga Oginga University of Science & Technology (JOOUST Kenya), the University of Bukavu (UOB DRC), Uganda Christian University (UCU Kenya) and University of Namibia (UNAM) were offered two places each and from Uganda: Gulu, MUBS, BSU, Laikipia in Kenya and ISTUS in Somaliland one place each. This was a significant investment for the Agripreneurship Alliance with total cost being approximately US$25,000 for the 13 participants and the 3 Trainers. We were delighted to welcome the new partners, UCU & UNAM, to the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness family. The week was very successful and proved to be a powerful learning experience. The programme focused on introducing the course, exploring the potential to reinforce the social and environmental impact, which was particularly pertinent as this was run in parallel to COP26. Specific training elements included an ideation session delivered by an expert in design and creativity, a lengthy focus on the online platform supported by the African Management Institute and an in-depth consideration of the finance tool. Importantly the week was designed with a very interactive programme, with much engagement, activities, and exercises. This provided the opportunity to embed an experiential learning methodology across the participants and enabling the development of a strong personal and professional network. The week finished with each participant facilitating a short session from the course with the others role playing as students. This was followed by in-depth reflection and review and the opportunity to analyse two business plans to allow an understanding of the opportunities and challenges of the business plans and how they can be strengthened and improved. It was gratifying to find that participants gave the week a rating of 4.7 out of a total five – the main comment being that it should be extended to 2 weeks!

We are in the final stages of the registration of the Agripreneurship Alliance as an official international NGO in Uganda. Once the final approval is obtained, we will open an Agripreneurship Alliance office in the facilities of the CURAD Agribusiness Incubator on the outskirts of Kampala.

In early December we organised a part physical, part virtual, Side Event at the RUFORUM triennial conference in Benin (the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building is a consortium of 143 African universities from 38 countries across the African continent). The side event was entitles ‘’Evaluating the impact of the ‘Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness Training’ and included presentations from our partner universities as well as the University of Abomey-Calvi in Benin and the University of the Free State in South Africa. Other speakers included a Venture Capitalist speaking on the need for Governments to develop policies and regulatory frameworks that create enabling environments. Two young entrepreneurs from Uganda spoke about their own journeys, developing and growing SME businesses within the value addition (hygiene products) and coffee sectors. The event was summed up pertinently by the event chair, Dr. Basil Mugonola (Gulu). He raised three key areas that the university and wider sectors, need to consider when promoting entrepreneurship in general and supporting young African agri-entrepreneurs in particular:

  1. The vital need for partnerships on a south-south and a south-north basis. These promote knowledge, increase capacity, enable resourcing of initiatives, and assist in the creation of entrepreneurial eco-systems within and across the African food system.
  2. The importance for entrepreneurs, and others, to ‘Act local and think global’. This is crucial, entrepreneurs should be aware of the challenges that face the communities of which they are a part, food insecurity, changing climate, gender inequality and poverty, seek to create businesses that create a good future for themselves, but also support their communities as an integral part of their business model, while at the same time, seeing the connections and potential for their businesses on a much larger scale.
  3. Connectivity is key, relationships should be developed and enhanced to move away from ‘silo thinking’ and to capture the potential in developing multi-disciplinary approaches, bringing strengths from different sectors to create the answers needed to address fundamental issues.
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Blended learning Training – Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness

The cohorts of students in the 6 Universities in Uganda, Kenya and Somaliland all completed the 2020-2021 Training and submitted a total of 35 business plans. There were some particularly interesting projects this time including a silk farm in Kenya.  The University of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a new University, and the training is still underway.  We are particularly pleased with the results of these cohorts given all the challenges that trainers had during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Universities were partially or fully closed, and many students went back to their home villages where internet connectivity is frequently very poor.

In November we are delighted to able to travel to Africa again and will be conducting a week-long Training of Trainers workshop in Uganda.  This will be for new Trainers from our current Universities, and we are very pleased that two new Universities are joining - the University of Namibia and the Ugandan Christian University. We will have a particular focus on ideation this time and Angela - an experienced designer and creator from Creaholic in Switzerland - will be coming to teach this part of the programme. This trip will also allow us to meet many of our partners and friends that we have only seen via Zoom over the past 2 years!

Over the past weeks we have been working with a specialised legal firm in Uganda to register the Agripreneurship Alliance as an official international NGO in Uganda. A lot of documents are required but the process is well under way, and we hope to open an Agripreneurship Alliance office in 2022.

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Kitsoyaone on his cattle farm
Kitsoyaone on his cattle farm

On-line Business Readiness Training for South Africa smallholder farmers

We have just completed an exciting new on-line training programme with over 200 smallholder cattle and poultry farmers in South Africa - 75% of whom had never followed a webinar before.  It was a Business Readiness training aimed to sensitise these emerging farmers to agriculture as a BUSINESS and support their journey to become commercial scale farmers, complementing the agri-training they receive from the Sernick Group. Many of them are intending to diversify their farm activities to have more regular cash flow and facilitate investments for expansion.  During the 10-week course, there was high engagement during the weekly webinars and the WhatsApp group which also encouraged a lot of peer-to-peer exchange.  Video testimonies from some of the participants are available via the link below.  This type of on-line training with farmers in remote areas would have been extremely difficult pre-COVID-19. The leap forward in connectivity has opened significant new opportunities. The participants were still plagued with unstable internet and regular power cuts, but the Zoom recordings allowed everyone to follow the course if they missed a session.  The success of this training indicates that it is a model that can be implemented in other African countries.

Blended learning Training – Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness

The blended learning training Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness in the Universities in Uganda, Kenya and Somaliland is progressing with the 3rd cohorts of students.  It has been slowed down by the partial, or full closing, of the Universities. However, the Trainers have forged on - teaching the course in person when possible and continuing on-line as required. There are over 150 students following the programme currently and we are expecting the first business plans to arrive soon. We are also delighted that one of our Trainers from Somaliland has won a scholarship to study for a Ph.D. in the University of Florida.

Impact Study

With almost 4 years of experience and having trained over 700 young people, we are conducting a detailed study on the impact of the Agribusiness training and will present the results at a conference in Benin in December. The analysis will include the effect on the Universities and their teaching methods, the impact on the Trainers and their personal development, and of course the impact on the students in terms of the number of businesses created - the results they have achieved and the opportunities that have opened for them.

Study on Agribusiness Incubation across Africa

The Study that we have been conducting for the UN-Food & Agriculture Organisation and the Africa Union is now completed and is under review. We analysed over 400 Entrepreneur Support Organisations across Africa to evaluate the strengths, limitations, and opportunities. Concrete actions have been formulated across 10 areas that include: Enhancing networking, communication, and co-operation across the sector, Capturing & sharing best practices; Building a Benchmarking framework to measure impact; Specific areas of capacity building; Strengthening Agribusiness Programmes focused on women; Expanding Agri-processing to capture more value; Agri-tech; Improving Food Safety & quality and Capturing the opportunities of the newly implemented African Continental Free Trade Area.

The African Union has decided to release the Report in September for the Constitution of African Ministers meeting in October for adoption and implementation of the recommendations. We are also contributing to a working group with the FAO and the African Union to build a pan-African programme to further support agribusiness SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises).

Link to testimonies:

Lenah starting up her vegetable farm
Lenah starting up her vegetable farm
Felicity - cattle & sheep farm
Felicity - cattle & sheep farm
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Blended learning Training – Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness
In November we organised the first VIRTUAL Training of Trainers for our partners which was a week-long session using Zoom with group work, team feedback and sharing of experiences. Many of our previous partners: Gulu University, Bishop’s Stuart University, Makerere University Business School, and the Youth Agri-Hub in Uganda, Laikipia University in Kenya and IGAD Sheikh Technical University of Sciences in Somaliland, took the opportunity to train additional staff. The new Universities that participated in the Training are the Jaramogo Oringa Odinga University of Science & Technology in Kenya, Bukalasa University in Uganda with the Marula Creative Consultancy, and Bukavu University in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several cohorts of students have already started, despite the considerable challenges since many of the Universities are only partially open due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus the trainings are being conducted via a combination of virtual and in-person sessions. The students still have significant issues with access to computers and connectivity, but the Trainers are forging on with much passion and engagement.

On-line Training Course

We are currently planning a training series on “Business Readiness” in terms of business models, markets, bookkeeping, financial modelling and pitching for an extensive network of farmers in Southern Africa. This training would focus particularly on women and be a 10-part series via Zoom with presentations, testimonies, and interactive discussions. We believe this can be a model that can be replicated on a much wider scale and reach smallholder farmers to improve their business acumen. Discussions are also underway with Generation Africa-Go Gettaz to run again the complete on-line training course Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness (that was organised in 2020 for 350 young people from 32 African countries).

United Nations – Food Systems Summit (FSS)

Through our work we the FAO we have been involved in the work leading up to the UN Food Systems Summit to be held in September this year. In November we convened two webinar consultations on Strengthening SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) for Resilient Food Systems. There were over 200 participants in these Consultations from 42 countries. Seven concrete action areas were defined, and work is underway with a group of international organisations and entrepreneurs. One of these actions was to co-convene a FSS Dialogue on Catalysing Finance for Young Food Entrepreneurs. This was already held on February 23rd with strong participation and some clear pathways to address the crucial issue of financing agri-SMEs. A further FSS Dialogue focusing on Catalysing Finance for Women Food Entrepreneurs is planned for April 8th.

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Enhanced on-line Training Course

From July to September 2020 the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course was organised as completely virtual course working with entrepreneurs through the GoGettaz Generation Africa Agripreneur Prize 2020.  Over 300 participants actively followed the course from over 32 African countries.   To enhance engagement and exchange, weekly webinars were held, and a WhatsApp group created which proved to be extremely dynamic. The course closed at the end September and close to 80 business plans were submitted.  They are currently being reviewed by experts and individual feedback will be given to each participant or team.  It was a strong learning experience for us to organise the course virtually and yet provide individual support to the participants across all these countries.  With this support the completion rate was five times higher than the average for an on-line course!

Blended learning Training

The new cohorts are starting in our partner Universities in the coming weeks.  In mid-November we are organising a virtual Training of Trainer session with several new Universities in Uganda and Kenya and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a new country for our activities),

Study on Agribusiness Incubation in Sub-Saharan Africa

The FAO and the African Union commissioned the Agripreneurship Alliance to conduct a comprehensive Study on Agribusiness Incubation. Before the lock-down, trips were made to South Africa, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria to do 'deep dives' on incubators in those countries. From the desk research over 450 organisations were investigate and over 300 mapped for inclusion in a Directory - the first of its kind. As physical workshops are not possible,  the African Union and the FAO decided to organise a series of webinars  3 sub-regional webinars covered Southern, East, West & Central Africa and included  a total of over 600 participants and 20 panellists.  The final webinar is on November 5 and will be cross-regional.  The panel includes the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and other key organisations.  The aim of these webinars is to share the findings thus far and get feedback and validation from stakeholders. The webinars also aim to draft the way forward for a proposed programme to build the network and strengthen the agribusiness incubation and acceleration across the different regions in in Africa. The FAO is very pleased with the work so far and has asked us to extend the Study to North Africa in 2021.

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Agripreneurship Alliance

Location: Montreux - Switzerland
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Agripreneurship Alliance @the_agripreneur
Project Leader:
Anne Roulin
Montreux, Switzerland
$11,723 raised of $40,000 goal
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