Young agripreneurs extend networks, sharpen skills at conference

October 2016 will be a memorable month for three young agri-preneurs from SACAU who participated in the Pan African Agribusiness Incubators Conference and Expo that was held in the capital city of Ghana, Accra, from 4th to 6th October. The conference whose theme was “turning science into business – inclusive agribusiness incubation for vibrant economies in Africa”, exposed young farmers to different technologies and innovations that are likely going to change the landscape of agriculture in Africa. Delegates extensively discussed the future of African farming and agribusiness and considered emerging opportunities for youth in the development of the sector. The three young agri-entrepreneurs from SACAU who participated are Ms. Manes Nkhata from Malawi, Mr. Sibusiso Gule from Swaziland and Ms Magdalene Shirima from Tanzania. They were accompanied by Mr. Benito Eliasi from the SACAU secretariat.

The three-day conference involved plenary and group discussion as well as well as displays of various new innovations, technologies, services and products that are developed through the incubation programs. The event brought together more than 700 delegates from around the world from various segments of the economy including academia, policy makers, researchers, investors, development partners and incubators and incubatees in the continent. One of the youth, Mr Gule said that “what interested me most were the discussions around commitments of stakeholders to engage the young generation in promoting “value chain transformation’. This is a way to go if the sector is to attract the youth. “Looking at the enthusiasm of participants, especially the youth in this conference, I think Africa has a bright future in agriculture” added Ms. Shirima.

Also commenting on the conference, Ms. Nkhata said, “this conference has extended my horizon in business and has created greater awareness on agribusiness incubation, trade and investment options in Africa and I will definitely utilise the knowledge gained at this conference when I go back home to Malawi”. “The conference offered me opportunities to exchange information on best practices and lessons in managing agribusiness, establishing agribusiness and incubators, development and commercialisation of agro-technologies and innovations and improving agribusiness education”, said Ms. Nkhata.

On her part, Ms. Magdalene Shirima indicated that the conference has enabled her to link with partners for business opportunities. “Young agri-preneurs should love reading business books and I was impressed when one of the panellists encouraged us young people to read”, said Ms. Shirima. “I will definitely come back to Ghana for business linkages,” she continued.

Overall the conference was worthwhile and the African Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN) was commended for the effort they are making in Africa in incubation though some incubatees that drop out of the program. Delegates advised AAIN to consider different options of funding streams for the sustenance of the program. “AAIN should strengthen their coordination mechanisms with partners in implementing the incubation programs”, commented one participant from east Africa. Another delegate emphasised that agriculture cannot survive from lending opportunities only, thus there is need for strategic partnerships for funding the entire value chains, and in the process enable stakeholders to identify missing gaps especially for youth inclusiveness. The SACAU delegates attended the conference with support from the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA).