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Securing Africa’s entrepreneurial future through agribusiness

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Ms Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union, with a bracelet made of banana fiber paper beads at the UniBRAIN stall.
Photo: B Kumar, ICRISAT

Providing a platform for promoting agribusiness entrepreneurship will lead to sustainable agricultural development in Africa. The African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN) aims to bring together agribusiness incubators, incubator leaders, managers, and partner with both state and non-state actors at continental levels. It aims to provide Africa a strong policy platform that can engage globally with other incubators and organizations for mutual benefit.

“AAIN aims to be a world-class networking and advocacy platform that encourages entrepreneurship, innovations in agriculture through the establishment of incubators, leading to sustainable agricultural development in Africa. It aims to make agribusinesses global, sustainable and flourish in Africa in the future,” said Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) at the recently held AAIN conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

AAIN was formed recently by the Universities, Business & Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN), interest group which aims to work together as a pan-African community of agribusiness incubators. ICRISAT is a key partner in the UniBRAIN project which supports the establishment of value chain incubators in African countries to commercialize agricultural technologies and produce graduates with entrepreneurial and business skills.

An AAIN workshop was held on the sidelines of FARA@15. FARA brought together key industry players including its program partners to review the progress made at country, sub-regional and continental levels and decide on milestones for Africa’s future over the next decade through science-led agricultural transformation.

Mr SM Karuppanchetty, COO, Agri-Business Incubator (ABI)-ICRISAT, shared his experiences and lessons on handholding the 22 Business Planning and Development (BPD) units of the Network of Indian Agribusiness Incubators (NIABI) in India as a possible approach in expanding the UniBRAIN and the AAIN network in Africa.

The annual conference of the AAIN was also held on the sidelines of FARA@15. Dr Kiran Sharma, CEO, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP)-ICRISAT, presented a special address on behalf of Dr William Dar, Director General ICRISAT, on Inclusive Market Oriented Development (IMOD) through Agribusiness in Africa.

“Through the IMOD approach in Africa, ABI-ICRISAT, through UniBRAIN has handheld six Agribusiness Innovation Incubator Consortia (AIICs). These AIICs have supported 188 incubatees, commercialized 35 agro-technologies, created 831 jobs and benefitted 240 interns. Further, 138 universities have adopted the new agribusiness education curriculum framework of UniBRAIN and 24 new countries have expressed interest to start new AIICs.

We look forward to working closely with different partners in Africa to further strengthen the agri- and food-processing sector through strategic interventions to strengthen value chains, promote food safety and development of innovative products and technologies, facilitate entrepreneurship and ultimately help the smallholder farmers,” said Dr Sharma. Operational guidelines and membership facilitation into AAIN were among the key areas that were discussed. The conference resulted in the submission of 46 new membership applications on the same day.

The annual conference was preceded by the UniBRAIN steering committee meet where lessons were drawn from milestones reached and discussions were held to come up with solutions that set the strategy for delivering sustainable solutions for the progress of UniBRAIN incubators. The steering committee members also visited the Timbali Business Incubator, Nelspruit, South Africa on a study tour.

In February 2015 ABI proposes to organize a training program for the managerial staff of AIICs at the Timbali Business Incubator, Nelspruit, South Africa.