During a webinar on food systems organized by the Bank as part of the Africa Green Revolution Forum (September 8-11), new African agripreneurs called for greater cooperation between small and medium enterprises (SMEs). )
ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, September 14, 2020 / – Some of the most promising agripreneurs (agricultural entrepreneurs) in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector in Africa met during a virtual roundtable as part of the Forum on the green revolution in Africa (AGRF, September 8-11), to call for more selective investments, an acceleration of business acquisitions and greater cooperation to help Africa feed itself and feed the planet.
The African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) organized this virtual meeting, entitled “The integration of African food systems from the perspective of SME champions”, in the form of a side meeting before the start of the Forum, the largest conference on African agriculture, held for the first time online.
The host of the webinar, Atsuko Toda, Bank Director in charge of Agricultural Finance and Rural Development, said that the participants in this roundtable were selected for their ability to use innovative solutions, for having developed their own business models, demonstrated their competence and have demonstrated their impact on food systems.
“We see the importance of the role you play and the risks you take, and the Bank wants to provide you with more visibility so that policy makers can understand the nature of the challenges you face and help SME champions to grow. develop, ”Atsuko Toda said.
The group of African “SME champions”, made up of SME leaders belonging to the sub-sectors of production, processing, logistics, digitization of agriculture and the cold storage chain within the food system on the continent, had set the stage for the participants of this webinar by presenting the challenges and opportunities they face when trying to meet the demands of Africa’s food systems. Some argued that policies, programs and funding in Africa were targeted at large organizations and corporations, and that there was still too much focus in Africa on agricultural imports.
“Especially if you are an SME, it is really difficult to break into the market and do something big,” said Nicholas Alexandre, international sales director of LORI, a technology-driven logistics company based in Kenya. .
Others shared their experiences with obstacles. For example, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, manager of ColdHubs, a Nigeria-based company, said that his solar energy and cold storage operator company allowed farmers’ produce to be stored for longer, thus reducing the pressure to sell quickly. products on the market at less competitive prices. He said ColdHubs was investing in storage infrastructure, so that farmers can benefit from its services at a reasonable price.
“We reduce the risk of having huge cold rooms for smallholder farmers because we design, operate and maintain them. We are offering a pay-as-you-go service model, ”said Nnaemeka Ikegwounu.
The Kenyan company SunCulture, which provides solar-powered irrigation services to farmers, also uses a similar “growth-aligned” benefit tariff program. Samir Ibrahim, CEO of SunCulture and champion of SMEs, said that African entrepreneurs have been able to benefit from sufficient development and investment assistance to let them know what is working and that it is time to step up efforts. “We know there are proven solutions, and now we need to target funding and partnerships to bring them to scale. We need donors and multilateral organizations to start signing much bigger checks for far fewer interventions so that we can see things moving forward, ”he said.
Other champions have indicated that strengthening the agricultural sector in Africa requires strengthening its agricultural value chains. Patricia Zoundi, the SME champion who created Canaan Land, a Ivory Coast-based company that trains women in rural areas to develop sustainable and inclusive agriculture, said: “We have North-North cooperation. We have South-South cooperation. Now it is time to have cooperation between SMEs. At this round table, I see three representatives of SMEs with whom I can collaborate in marketing. [Elles offrent] something that I need in my value chain. “
Atsuko Toda closed the session by reassuring the SME champions that the ideas exchanged would be translated into important messages intended to reinvent policies, which will lead to accelerated change in Africa’s food systems. “There is so much to share, so many proven solutions to apply more widely, to evolve and consolidate through partnerships and funding. “
To learn more about the Bank’s SME Champions, watch our video: https://bit.ly/35xTaLN
To learn more about African food systems, click on the link: https://bit.ly/3k0twD9
Distributed by APO Group for African Development Bank Group (AfDB).