For Miriam Ahuna Ofoeze, a young processor at the National Root Crops Research Institute in Umudike, Abia State, nothing now stands between her and her goal of becoming a successful agribusiness entrepreneur.
Thanks to an innovative training programme sponsored by the African Development Bank (AfDB) at Purdue University, Indianapolis, United States of America, as she is more convinced that she now has what it takes to become a future world food prize winner.
Ofoeze, one of seven beneficiaries of the training, says she has been inspired by the training facilitated by Purdue University’s agribusiness experts and is grateful to the bank for the opportunity.
“I have a dream that one day, I will make some impacts in Africa and win the World Food Prize. Attending the programme was a great lift and insight into how to move my career forward. 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,” she said.
As part of its Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment Youth Program (ENABLE Youth), AfDB partnered Purdue University to expose seven young African agribusiness entrepreneurs to innovative opportunities to expand their technologies and agribusiness enterprises.
Enable Youth is a programme for young African people (18-35 years old) wanting to start a business in the agricultural sector, borne out of the Dakar High Level Conference on Agricultural Transformation in Africa.
It enjoys the support of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Speaking on the initiative, AfDB president, Akinwumi Adesina, said, “We must think big for African agripreneurs.ENABLE Youth is working to help launch 300,000 agribusinesses and create eight million jobs in some 30 African countries over the next five years.
“Above all, it is counting on young people to develop Africa’s agricultural future, an African agriculture that relies on innovation, technologies, and modernization of techniques and practices, as well as on the development of the value chain in the sector. Offering strong and strategic support to young agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa is in keeping with the High Five priorities the bank,” he added.
The ‘Scale Up Conference’, as the Indianapolis workshop was called, was a partnership between the AfDB 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 commercialising 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.
Another participants, Aboubacar Karim, founder and CEO of INVESTIV, a start-up company in Cote d’Ivoire specialising in precision agriculture using drones, stated that the training helped him on several levels, and like Ofoeze, 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,” he said.
Expressing optimism that the bank’s support would transform agriculture for future generations and encourage young people to see the potential in farming and agribusiness, AfDB’s Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry, Martin Fregene, said the selected youths run innovative agribusiness enterprises, which demonstrate the modernisation of agriculture.
“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,” he stated.He noted that the training programme 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.
Fregene added that the Scale Up Conference on innovation in agriculture helped participants gained better understanding of successful, sustainable large-scale implementation and best practices for expanding agricultural technologies.
Coordinator of the programme, Edson Mpyisi, said AfDB was working with African 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.
For Elyse Habumukiza, a young entrepreneur, “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.”
Commending the drive, passion and natural inclinations of the young entrepreneurs, Distinguished President, Fellow for Global Development at Purdue University, Carolyn Woo, said the foundry provided a systematic approach and discipline that would enable them to anticipate challenges and make critical decisions.