Experts in the agricultural sector have said that Africa will only experience an agricultural revolution when technology and innovation are adopted to address issues limiting food production.
The experts who spoke at the just-concluded annual Sahel Scholars Conference – organised by Sahel and Nourishing Africa urged agripreneurs across the continent to leverage technology to address problems limiting food production.
In his Keynote address, Obi Ozor, chief executive office co-founder, Kobo360 encouraged African youths to identify problems in agriculture that can be solved through technology and education.
He highlighted a few of these problems ranging from land acquisition for subsistence farmers, to funding for crop production, food wastages, and extension services for improved farming methods among others.
He emphasized that young entrepreneurs must focus on their core competence areas and avoid distractions into many verticals until they can prove their market.
Stressing the need for sophistication in addressing the problem of financing for farmers, Ozor emphasized that there should be ag-tech companies that focus strictly on financing farmers, leveraging existing data, integrating with incumbent financial services platforms such as banks, and proving the bankability of these farmers – thereby making financing them attractive.
The panelists in the first panel themed ‘Leveraging Innovation & Technology: How Young People are Creating the Food Ecosystems of the Future,’ call for investment in behavior change through the deployment of simple technology models to drive innovation in agri-businesses and improved farming methods.
Femi Aiki, CEO/co-founder, Food Locker one of the panelists urged Nigerian youth to seek education in agri-tech and be fully involved in the sector by identifying sector-specific career opportunities that can facilitate production on the farmlands.
In the second panel themed ‘Tapping into the $1trillion Industry: Empowering the African Youth to Build Resilient and Sustainable Agribusinesses’ Peter Njonjo, co-founder and group chief executive Twiga Foods said that the high cost of food on the African continent has a strong linkage to the fragmented informal retail sector.
To address the problem of fragmented retail in most of Africa, he called for the need to use technology to aggregate the demand of informal retail to build efficient supply chains that can feed the demand.
Similarly, Josephine Katumba, founder, Biakudia Urban Farming Solution expanded on the conversation by discussing her journey into becoming an agribusiness entrepreneur and the realization of agriculture as the backbone of humanity.
Lanre Wilton-Waddell, founder, Dilos Foods highlighted the enormous opportunities in the food and agribusiness space given the need to feed Africa’s growing population and the fact that there’s room for many young entrepreneurs to be innovative and develop great products.
However, he noted that the journey as an entrepreneur in food processing in Nigeria can be daunting given regulatory bottlenecks and informal supply chains, and retail distribution.
Peter Ngunyi, CEO, Earlybird Ventures dovetailed into the $1 trillion food and agriculture opportunity across many crops value chains that Africa is known for such as tea, rubber, and cocoa as well as the need to have more African companies capturing a larger share of the value in these crop value chains through innovative business models.
He highlighted that some of the key differences between successful start-ups and not-so-successful ones include finding the right mentors, having the right team & collaborations, and showing traction – measurable progress.
Following the second panel session, the conference was split up into two breakout sessions for one-on-one engagements with experts – Nouran El-Said and Chef Winifred Nwania on modern farming techniques and culinary.
From the session anchored by celebrity chef Winifred Nwania, CEO, Zeelicious, the charge was for participants to disregard comfortable terrains and press on deliberately towards purposeful learning that can translate into visionary ideas and business outcomes, based on her experience of creating a culinary business from her passion for cooking.
The second session with Nouran El-Said, CEO, Plug’n’Grow, Egypt unveiled opportunities in soilless technology such as hydroponic farming and how unlocking affordability for agricultural produce using this technology can unlock new dynamics for agri-businesses.
Temi Adegoroye, partner, Sahel Consulting urged youths to change their mindsets about the opportunities in the agricultural landscape and food ecosystem by active involvement, innovative thinking, and leveraging of existing platforms and resources.