The African Development Bank, in collaboration with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, held an innovation and entrepreneurship competition and an African Youth Agripreneur Forum, or AgriPitch, in Abidjan on April 9-13, 2018. The competition selected the most promising young innovators and entrepreneurs in agriculture and agribusiness and provided competitors with training in innovative capacity.
The event, entitled “Technology and Innovation for Youth in Agribusiness”, was organized by the African Development Institute, the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department and the Industry and Trade Development Department, in collaboration with the Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development Department, and the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department.
Welcoming the participants, Jennifer Blanke, Vice-President of Agriculture, Human and Social Development, noted that new technologies and innovations such as precision agriculture and block chain technologies are becoming more common in agricultural development and are critical for boosting agricultural productivity in Africa. She also pointed out that the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program is designed to empower youth by harnessing new skills, technologies, and innovative financing approaches so that they can establish viable, profitable agribusinesses.
Martin Fregene, Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry, reminded participants that Brazil moved from having modest agricultural production to becoming one of the top five food exporting countries in the world in two decades by using new technologies and innovations.
Chidozie Emenuga, Manager of the African Development Institute’s Program Development Division, reiterated the Institute’s commitment to developing the innovative capacity of Africa’s youth through various initiatives including AgriPitch.
For her part, Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development Department Director Oley Dibba-Wadda reminded participants to see Africa’s youth as the present rather than the future.
The competition and the forum present several important opportunities for the Bank’s member countries to create a culture of innovation and especially to nurture technology-led agribusiness innovations in Africa. Participants included 71 young agripreneurs from over 30 African countries and over 400 youth from Côte d’Ivoire.
The call for proposals, launched on the Bank’s website, drew 386 applications from which 36 competitors, representing all regions of Africa, were invited to compete under Early Startup or under Matured Startup. Sixty percent of the AgriPitch competitors were women – demonstrating their high engagement in agripreneurship. The competition was preceded by a series of training sessions on innovation, business model development and communication at which Bank staff and experts in Africa with proven experience and enthusiasm in entrepreneurship development coached.
After a rigorous evaluation of the 36 pitches, ten participants were selected for the final pitch. Their agribusinesses spanned the agricultural value chain from inputs services, to production, to processing and marketing. Six winners – three in each category – received combined cash prizes totaling US $30,000. The competition was supported by the Korea Trust Fund through the eAgriculture and AgriPitch programs under the Korea-Africa Cooperation Action Plan 2017-2018.
Women won all three prizes in the Early Startup category: Aboègnonhou Agossou of Seed Services, Benin, won first prize; June Syowia of Farmaction, Kenya, took second prize; and Veronica Magaji of VEMAG’s Agrolinks, Nigeria, took third prize.
The winners of the Matured Startup category were Aboubakar Karim of Investiv, Côte d’Ivoire, who took first prize; Beata Adonon of Homeland Tastes, Benin, who took second prize; and Abdullateef Olaosebikan of NaFarm Foods, Nigeria, who took third prize. In addition to the cash prizes, all agripreneurs received certificates of participation for training and will receive additional training and mentorship during the year.
The Ivorian Minister of Youth, Employment and Civic Service, Sidi Touré, closed the event by thanking the Bank for its collaboration in co-hosting and reiterating the government’s commitment to support youth employment in Côte d’Ivoire, especially in the the agri-business sector.