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Who runs the world? Agripreneurs!

Photo: PeopleImages / GettyImages.

Agricultural entrepreneurship is a bustling frontier, especially in Africa. Young people are changing the way we think about agriculture, pioneering new business ideas and injecting our food system with innovation. What is more, this shrewd crowd has what it takes to not only supercharge economic growth, but also reduce malnutrition, inequality, and disengagement. However, it all starts with a sound business plan.

During our recent digital coaching session Matthew Fielding, Deputy Director at SIANI sat down with the co-founders of the Agripreneurship Alliance, Steven Carr and Anne Roulin, and a piggery agripreneur Ritah Najembe, based in Uganda.

Steven grew up in a farming community in the UK and has an extensive background in community development in Africa. Anne is an academic who worked with sustainability and nutrition at Nestlé. An avid member of the Agripreneurship Alliance, Ritah is a successful and passionate agripreneur, who rerouted from her career in accounting after being inspired by a visit to a major piggery production in her home country. Their conversation revolved around tips and tricks for getting an agribusiness up and running.

So, what do you have to have in mind when starting-up your agribusiness?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that 60% of global arable land is in Africa. At the same time, Africa’ food imports are expected to more than triple by 2025. So, the potential for young entrepreneurs is huge. However, a catch-all approach won’t work. Anne stresses: “Market segmentation is extremely important and is really one of the foundations in a good business plan to get started.” Clearly identifying your target market and developing value proposition is crucial for the survival of an agripreneurial business.

During the webinar, both Steven and Anne repeatedly highlighted the main challenges and opportunities in the agribusiness sector. Steven explained that there is a huge demand for pork, particularly in Uganda, while a lot of people in East Africa do not eat enough protein. So, the demand is there, but the challenge lies in creating a model that brings sustainable revenue. How to monetize? What sort of land do you need to have? Do you have access to pig feed and medical supplies? And crucially, what is your market? All these questions should be considered for your business to be successful.

Importantly, businesses can exist at any segment of the value chain, from a slaughterhouse to pig feed to packaging. According to Steven, a vital component is “to work out what is best for you in terms of the local market and the resources you have. This is the business plan foundation.” Identifying the strengths in a certain space and available resources is a starting point for shaping a business idea.

Ritah continuously provided valuable insight into her own experiences as a pig farmer. She has applied the concept of market segmentation to her own business by selling different parts of the pig to different consumers, thereby maximizing profit and financial stability of her production. Furthermore, Ritah decided early on to empower the local population through her business. She did that by supplying unemployed Ugandans with piglets that they could later sell back to her farm.

Empowerment came through the discussion, and that is where business can make a big difference: “We used to do agriculture as punishment. I want to go to schools and universities to empower young people and change their attitudes. You can go into agribusiness and earn money!” says Rita. Her drive is undeniable, and so is her success in business.

Certainly, we will hear many more inspiring and empowering stories about agripreneurs from the African continent. There is no doubt that young people will transform our food system, but it is always good to have a plan, and it definitely won’t hurt if this plan is a creditworthy business ploy.

Watch the webinar