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Supported institutional development and applied agripreneurship

Since 2018, SIANI has supported the expert group led by the Agripreneurship Alliance. During this time, the expert group has designed and disseminated a blended course, Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness, that has supported young agripreneurs across several African countries to develop skills in agribusiness. The funding to the Agripreneurship Alliance is now coming to an end. Dr Catherine Tindiwensi, lecturer and programme coordinator of the course at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) in Uganda, relates the impact of the course to SIANI intern Marika Kronberg. According to Dr Tindiwensi, embedding the course at MUBS has greatly benefitted students and strengthened institutional development.

Rise of an agribusiness agenda

Dr Tindiwensi attests that the partnership with Agripreneurship Alliance, through the course has contributed to advancing an agribusiness agenda at MUBS. “While I cannot attribute it all to the Agripreneurship Alliance, our collaboration is what made it really alive,” she states. Dr Tindiwensi believes the linkages that have been established at an institutional level with industry are very important. It means that MUBS is gradually being recognised to play a role in Uganda’s agribusiness sector. MUBS is increasingly going into consultancies, and in addition, there are plans to set up an agribusiness hub. This would be a way of structuring the engagement and participation in the sector, she explains.

Bridging the gap between business and agriculture

The recent development at MUBS has supported the integration of business with agriculture. At Makerere University, the disciplines are rather separated. For instance, the courses in each field are given at the main campus and at the business school, respectively. Yet, as Dr Tindiwensi points out:

“Uganda’s economy is agro-based, and agriculture plays a significant role in the country. We cannot talk about business and ignore the agriculture sector.”

Dr Tindiwensi believes that MUBS is now coming in and bridging the huge gap that has been existing between agriculture and business. The common notion of agriculture is that about poor, smallholder farmers. Regarding this, Dr Tindiwensi rhetorically asks: “Why not bring the business skills from the business school and merge it with the agricultural knowledge that is out there?” Dr Tindiwensi believes that the Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course and the programme of Agripreneurship Alliance is a great platform to build on, as nurturing the youth can lead to good spinoff effects.

Photo: Mer / Flickr

Students get immediately applicable knowledge

The Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness course is based on an experiential learning approach. The students undertake assignments supported by comprehensive materials accessible on an online platform. The in-person sessions in class are an opportunity to present and get critical feedback from other participants. Dr Tindiwensi reflects upon the typical learning process in Uganda, and how knowledge often is not translated into something practical. However, she believes that experiential learning can help break that barrier:

“Knowledge becomes immediately applicable. We see better results as facilitators.”

Dr Tindiwensi is convinced that the students benefit a lot from the course. She recalls talking to one of the previous award winners of the programme: “I asked her whether she would have gone ahead to start her business without this training – and she said no.” The course is rigorous and equips students with skills from ideation to market analysis and development of a business plan. By the time the students have gone through all the stages, the result is a workable business plan. “The students really get skills and knowledge that enable them to do some business that can stay, that is sustainable,” Dr Tindiwensi concludes.