It’s nothing less than a phenomenon: Agribusiness TV, a web-based video channel that brings you news on successful young innovators in African agriculture. Founded 7 months ago in Burkina Faso, the channel’s videos have already been viewed over 1 million times, their Facebook page has over 63,000 fans, and over 3,000 people have downloaded their mobile application.
In their short, informative videos, we get to meet young agripreneurs – producers, processers, and innovators – who share their stories. So far, the channel has videos from eight different sub-Saharan countries. All stories are broadcasted both in English and French, and shared on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
We talked to founder Inoussa Maiga and co-founder Nawsheen Hosenally of Agribusiness TV about why it is so important to encourage youth in this sector.
Q: What was your motivation for starting up Agribusiness TV?
IM: When I was at school, the moment when we used to get the results of our final year exams, the class was divided into three groups: those who were promoted to the next level, those who had to retake exams and those who were “sent back to their parents to farm”, like the teachers used to say.
We all grew up with this negative image of agriculture, which is considered a job for those who have failed. And this is the case in most countries in Africa. Agriculture is suffering from an image problem, which leads to young people being less and less interested in agriculture. And those who are successful in the sector are not well promoted.
With a growing population that we need to feed, Africa needs the youth to get into agriculture, take over from an ageing farming population, and bring their innovations to make the sector more productive. But how to encourage young Africans to start a business in agriculture and innovate?
Q: Why does your network focus particularly on young people?
NH: After school, many young people are finding themselves unemployed. With 12 million youth getting on the African job market every year, there are not enough jobs to absorb all of them. Many of them are migrating from rural areas with the hope of seizing a better future, but it is rarely the case since it is difficult to find jobs even in the cities. And on the other hand, agribusiness is offering so many opportunities all along the value chain – from production to processing, marketing, and services. Getting youth into agriculture can tackle both the problem of unemployment and food insecurity. In addition to creating jobs for themselves, when young people have their own business, they are employing more people, including women. Hence, the focus is on youth, because we believe that with their energy, innovative minds and new ways of doing things, they can change the state of agriculture in Africa, to be more business-oriented, rather than subsistence.
Q: Your network has grown large very quickly. Why do you think Agribusiness TV has become so popular?
NH: We think that first of all, it is the content that we are creating that is making a difference. We produce high definition videos and bring forward stories that are usually not covered in the media. Furthermore, Agribusiness TV is responding to a need. Young people are looking for ideas and inspiration to start a business. And this is what we are providing.
In addition to that, at the beginning of the project itself, we identified where the youth are and chose those channels to reach out to them. They are very active in social media and also keen to use mobile applications, since most young people in Africa are connected to the Internet through their mobile phones. So, we made a social media strategy and developed a mobile application that would get us closer to our target audience.
Q: What has been the most challenging with starting Agribusiness TV?
NH: Agribusiness TV was initially just an idea. It was a section of Inoussa’s blog “Googol Farmer”, whereby videos he used to take from the field were uploaded there. The initial challenge to start Agribusiness TV was to bring the idea into something concrete, which required funding. But fortunately, following a call for proposals by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Agribusiness TV won a grant in 2015, and this is where it all began.
After the launch of Agribusiness TV, the grant enabled us to have something concrete to show to people what we want to do, but the funds would not last for a long time. The production of these videos has a cost, but not many people or organisations are willing to pay for it. So, this is a challenge at the moment, but we are working on alternative solutions like partnerships with different organisations, which are able to pay for the production cost. And also we are planning to use targeted advertising on our platforms to generate extra income.
Apart from that, the day-to-day running of Agribusiness TV is affected by slow Internet connection in Burkina Faso, where we are based. Our work would have been much easier with a faster and reliable Internet connection.
Q: What advice can you give other young entrepreneurs that want to start a business related to media and agriculture?
NH: People are not used to seeing agriculture in traditional media. Information from the field is interesting and reflects reality on the ground. It’s this type of news that people want to see and that makes a difference. So, the first advice would be to bring forward news that comes from the field.
Secondly, depending on the audience, choose the right channel. For example, if the target audience are rural youth in villages, a web TV might not be the solution, as many of these youth are not connected to the Internet. Therefore, choosing the right form of media and channel to reach out to the audience is crucial.
Q: What do you think are the long-term impacts of Agribusiness TV and where do you see it go in the future?
NH: Even if Agribusiness TV is still a very young initiative, we already have some elements of impacts apart from the statistics on social media. After being featured on Agribusiness TV, people got to know these individuals, and they are now getting more opportunities. Some have been attending high-level policy meetings, others are using the videos we produced for crowd funding. One entrepreneur told us that an investor in Canada who watched his video contacted him and they are now working together after having signed a contract. Also, some entrepreneurs who did not know each other before Agribusiness TV are now collaborating together. That is impact!
We are currently covering 10 countries in Africa, and our next target is to cover more countries on the continent. We also want to develop new types of content that we are still working on. And in the long-run, we want to become a reference on agricultural videos in Africa!
For a glimpse of their work, check out one of their most recent videos below: Joshua Ayinbora, a young farmer from Ghana, tests the potential of using drones for improving his pineapple production.