August 2022

Generation Africa Ambassadors
Call To Action

The next generation is taking action to sustainably transform agriculture and Generation Africa is calling on all stakeholders to support them.

Generation Africa has engaged in in-depth discussions with young entrepreneurs in the GoGettaz ecosystem who are deeply involved in the African agri-food landscape. The conversations have shed light on some significant mismatches between the support provided by various stakeholders in the agri-food sector and the concrete needs for effective, responsive, and results-oriented support that young agripreneurs require to grow their businesses successfully.

If Africa is to achieve food systems transformation in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is an urgent need for action. Generation Africa, our Ambassadors, and our partners are calling for the entire sector including agri-food industry stakeholders, private sector, and government policymakers to take transformative, impactful, and results-driven actions that will lead to concrete and measurable successes for youth agripreneurs across Africa.

Our discussions with youth entrepreneurs have identified holistic youth support, including access to financing, research, and markets, along with government policy reform on land and more inclusive ICT systems development, as areas where the sector may affect tangible and most impactful results. However, several organizations have used numerous different strategies to promote entrepreneurship, with enterprise policies differing, because the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic growth is highly complex.

Holistic Youth Support

Youth agripreneurs highlighted the ineffectuality of short, events-focussed youth programs that do not allow for continuous learning, support, and empowerment. Similarly, organizations that coach or mentor without providing capital and networks to initialize growth plans for these young ventures have limited impact in generating actual successes.

To drive impact and growth for agripreneurs, development partners need to focus on holistic incubation and accelerator programs for continuous learning that understand the gaps and needs of different start-up companies and provide tailored training and precision financing that will catalyse a measurable and repeatable growth cycle for these agri-food businesses.

Training programs for entrepreneurs should emphasize personal transformation. Agripreneurs argued that learning begins with a deeper comprehension of one’s strengths and shortcomings, and that as a result, entrepreneurs must first develop a grasp of their own identities and personalities.

The educational approach required in the modern world is one that aids in the development of a person’s mindset, behaviour, skills, and capabilities and can be used to add value in a variety of contexts and environments, including the public sector, charities, universities, and social enterprises, as well as corporate organizations and start-up businesses.

Four main shortfalls of youth support programs according to our youth agripreneurs are:

1. Support Startup Ecosystem

Many SMEs do not have the resources and capacity to conduct R&D and rely heavily on third-party sources of information, as they are focusing on growth and innovation, and to manage their companies are outsourcing a number of tasks they consider non-core. R&D can be costly, especially to the start-ups and thus the need to avail technical value chain materials that will assist in reducing this cost or creating pathways for collaboration with local institutions to support this aspect. Access to research data is especially problematic in Africa.

Local universities and research institutions lack frameworks to engage youth and support their research needs, hence the need for government and public sector intervention. The manner in which entrepreneurship is taught needs to be significantly altered as the traditional model of entrepreneurship is no longer applicable to the modern business environment. Youth have found working with international universities more friendly than institutions that are within their communities. African institutions are called out to create a framework to support innovation, research, and technology for African youth, especially those in rural areas.

The aim of entrepreneurship education and training should be to ‘develop entrepreneurial capacities and mindsets’ that benefit economies by fostering creativity, innovation, and self-employment, therefore, stakeholders in the agri-food ecosystem should continue conducting research and make published research available to young entrepreneurs. Access to information is paramount to their learning and growth, and vitally important to inform business decisions they have to make for their start-ups.

Additionally, in-country partnership research between different sectors – academic, private, and public – should be better explored and enabled.

2. Access to Financing

Africa’s financial solutions are not working for the youth; the traditional financing instruments from banks remain a significant challenge. Most youth agripreneurs do not have collateral to provide a guarantee to the banks. This remains the biggest bottleneck in accessing funds from such institutions.

Additionally, interest rates on bank loans are not designed to accommodate longer-term profit horizons, as needed especially in agricultural production. Most youths are continuing to look to the West to access finance. An African solution is needed. 

A report conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that the financing constraints can be especially severe in the case of start-ups or small businesses that rely on intangibles in their business model, as these are highly firm-specific and difficult to use as collateral in traditional debt relations. 

Young African agripreneurs feel grant financing from development partners is effective in providing the opportunity to scale their businesses. However, to allow for diverse young agripreneurs and their enterprises – often at different stages in their business journey – to grow their businesses, a variety of funding mechanisms is required.

Access to finance is perceived as the most effective contributor to creating employment opportunities for other youth and moving forward in the drive towards zero hunger and food sustainability.

3. Access to Markets

Agripreneurs have highlighted that they need support to access markets. Positive and profitable growth is intricately tied with their ability to get their products not only to regional markets but also into higher-yielding international markets. Expanding young African networks forms part of the prerequisites to open markets to their solutions.

An International Trade Centre (ITC) report, Opportunities for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship: Understanding the African Continental Free Trade Area (2021), examines how youth stand to gain from the development of a single market and the promotion of important industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, and services.

4. Policy Reform / Policy-Shaping

A clear policy on land tenure and property rights is important for making progress in sustainable agriculture and for the elimination of poverty. The young agripreneurs interviewed felt that unutilized arable lands should be identified and profiled by the relevant government institutions.

Policymakers should make a concerted effort to grant access to these lands to youth businesses that are demonstrably positioned to make the best use of the resources. This will encourage youth engagement in the agri-food sector and contribute to both their business growth and their country’s economic growth.

The African Youth Charter and the AU’s 2009-2018 Plan of Action both stress the importance of instituting an appropriate policy framework (youth policies) and supporting institutions to implement it.

Generation Africa’s Commitment to Holistic Youth Support

Generation Africa is working toward creating the Generation Africa Fellowship Programme (GAFP) to evolve the holistic incubator and accelerator model. Our goal is to create an ecosystem where they are connected to everything they need to thrive based on direct feedback from young agribusiness leaders.

Concretely, the following requests are being issued:

  • Service providers are to include educational and research institutions to bring knowledge and skills to youth.
  • Mentors are to include coaching for business in their services.
  • Financiers are to bring flexible tailored and accessible investment services to youth agripreneurs.
  • Off-takers are to provide forward contracts for their produce.
  • Governments are to champion reforms of policies that shall favor youth-led businesses in agriculture and food chains.

Generation Africa plans to work with, and support, existing incubators and accelerators who are willing to incorporate youth feedback and adopt this holistic “one-stop-shop” model to create an African agrifood ecosystem conducive to success.

Generation Africa’s Commitment to Policy Reforms

Generation Africa is rolling out the Youth in Agriculture Ecosystem Development Framework (Y-EDF). The Y-EDF is a framework approach to strengthening the ecosystem supporting the youth by aligning the efforts of all actors. The model ensures that there is coordination of efforts and investment while ensuring voice and inclusion of the youth. After a successful case study in Senegal and the recent implementation of the Y-EDF in Rwanda, Generation Africa partner AGRA is already championing reforms of policy highlighted in the Y-EDF Country Youth Opportunity Reports and Mapping Report.

From the Y-EDF, an Investment Plan, also viewed as a Flagship Report, is realized. The investment plan gives emphasis on the remedial actions that need to be achieved to improve the state of the ecosystem. The Government of Rwanda shall use these recommendations to bring stakeholders together to channel resources to critical technical gaps. In the end, the framework approach will ensure a collaborative and well-coordinated approach toward youth support. A suitable structure, where all important actors are talking to each other and cooperating for conducive and positive outcomes. This will be the foundation to create sustainable youth opportunities and jobs at the country level.

A specific call to action for ICT agripreneurs to embrace inclusive systems development: language

Our young agripreneurs have identified language barriers as the primary challenge in the uptake of ICT-based solutions by local farmers. Useful Agritech applications are not available in local languages, effectively preventing highly elevated numbers of potential users from benefiting from technological advancements. However, there are reliable translation services such, which are user-friendly that agripreneurs can incorporate in their day-to-day activities.

In this regard, we raise a specific call to action for young innovators with ICT solutions to ensure that their applications are available to farmers in the local languages and also to invest in local dialect educational resources for their applications to assist farmers in discovery and appreciation of the value it offers them. This will foster long-term adoption of ICT technologies by farmers and help them sustainably grow their businesses as they expand to new markets.

The agri-food industry offers the most impactful and direct avenue to achieve the environmental, economic, and human goals set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By enhancing the ecosystem to better support youth in building resilient businesses for Africa’s food systems, Generation Africa is taking steps to achieve these SDGs. Together with stakeholders across the entire African food system – and not limited to the Generation Africa partners and Ambassadors – from local farmers to governments to multinational conglomerates, we will contribute to effecting the urgent positive transformation.

We call on you to act. Join Generation Africa’s mission to support Africa’s youth agripreneurs.

Signed:

Generation Africa Ambassadors

  • Dr Agnes Kalibata – President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • Ada Osakwe – Founder and CEO, Agrolay Ventures
  • Gilbert Houngbo – President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • Dr Ishmael Sunga – CEO, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU)
  • Prof. Mohamed Ait Kadi – President, General Council of Agricultural Development, Government of Morocco
  • Strive Masiyiwa – Group Chairman, Econet
  • Svein Tore Holsether – President and CEO, Yara International
  • Pierre Ferrari – President and CEO, Heifer International
  • Jens Hartmann – Head of Bayer Crop Science Commercial Operations Europe, Middle East & Africa
If you wish to support our journey, please reach out to the Generation Africa Secretariat through members@genafrica.org