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Infusing African agriculture with business competency

Photo: Hugh Rutherford for CIP/ Flickr.

In a world steered by the market small-scale farmers have little chance to succeed without running their farms as a business.

Many farmers have excellent produce. However, that is not enough. To have a successful business modern farmer-entrepreneurs not only have to be technically competent, innovative and adaptable, they also have to be skilled managers, marketers and savvy financial analysts. It is not only about financial capital, it is about making this capital work.

Acquiring and mastering these skills isn’t easy, even if you enter a highly supportive start-up incubator in Switzerland or Sweden. It probably is even harder if you are a young novice agripreneur in Africa and don’t have access to highly skilled and experienced mentors.

One of our Expert Groups is set to confront this challenge. With support from SIANI, Agripreneurship Alliance partnered with Egerton University (Kenya), Laikipia University (Kenya), Gulu University (Uganda), IITA Youth Agripreneurs Group (Uganda) and IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (Somaliland) and is developing an innovative learning programme to step up agribusiness in Africa.

The ‘‘Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness” is a blended learning programme based upon an existing course originally developed by the African Management Initiative (AMI). The Expert Group has been working closely with AMI to adapt their introduction to entrepreneurship course into the context of the Agri-Food sector and this has involved the development of new case studies, resources and materials.

The resulting course consists of ten group-work sessions, each session lasts three hours. The course can be spread over 10 – 14 weeks and embedded into the work of the facilitating institution. The course takes a budding entrepreneur through the process of developing a high-quality business plan: from identifying problems to creating solutions (the business idea), through analysing the market, identifying their value and supply chains and considering revenues and capital.

This process is achieved through group work and individual learning, encouraging students to practise and hone their communication and presentation skills as well as their critical thinking. At the end of the course, the students will present their completed Business Plans to their peers, providing the opportunity for feedback and review. ​

The approach combines in-class and online learning. The ‘in-person’ component is achieved through training of trainers, during which a group of educators is trained so that they can pass the knowledge further to students in their locations.

In March 2018, ten amazing people from Somalia, Kenya and Uganda came together to participate in the inaugural ‘Training of Trainers’ course that took place in Nairobi over four days. The trainers were introduced to the course, its online platform and the embedded experiential learning approach to enable them to facilitate the course with their own students. The plan is that 100 students will have completed the course by the end of September 2018. ​

For many of the course participants, this was the first time they explored ‘experiential’ group work learning. Many immediately realised the special feature of this methodology: this approach provides an opportunity to link classroom theory with real-world experience. Indeed, one professor clearly articulated the strategic linkage between this education initiative and national strategy that seeks to promote competency-based learning. ​

During the next step 5 participating Universities and the Institute are to recruit their students and begin to facilitate the programme ‘in-house’. During this phase students and facilitators will use the online learning platform to build online communities, access the curricula, tools and resources and support each other through this exciting journey. Each of the implementing partners will also receive real-time support from AMI and the Agripreneurship Alliance which will include an in-person visit, providing for in-depth guidance and advise to facilitators. ​

Find out more about this project and get in touch!