Noah Ssempijja of Youth Initiative for Community Development - YICE Uganda - clinched the top position in the 2016 Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition Start-ups category in Nairobi Kenya. Sssempija beat other 14 contestants from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi to receive $5,000 (Shs 17million) seed capital.
Mercy Kitomari from Tanzania took the second position while Lilian Uwintwali from Rwanda took the third position. The two received $3,000 (Shs10 million) and $2,000 (Shs6million) respectively. YICE Uganda is a one stop shop for rural smallholder farmers and offers farmer training, farm inputs, micro loans and finance management services among others.
The event at Crown Plaza involved 30 contestants from the Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition selected from 120 eastern African youth entrepreneurs with start-ups or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agricultural sector. The 120 entrepreneurs earlier participated in business training, pitching and presentation sessions.
The competitors, aged between 18-35 years, run SMEs or start-ups that address needs arising from various agricultural value chains in their respective countries. They specialize in processing, finance, software and apps development, agro-mechanization, packaging and export services.
The key objective of the Agribusiness Innovation and Trade Fair is to create an ecosystem of trade, financing and capability support for the start-ups and SMEs.
Among the competitors in the Start-ups Category, seven were from Kenya, two from Rwanda, four from Tanzania, and one each from Uganda and Burundi. The SMEs Category featured five Kenyans, three Rwandese, two Tanzanians, three Ugandans and two Ethiopians.
In the SMEs category, Abrhame Endrias of Green Agro Mechanization from Ethiopia took the first position; Edmond Murindahabi of Pebec Ltd from Rwanda the second Position and Anzazi Kiti of Taste Afrique from Kenya the third position.
Scaling up agribusiness
“Our main goal is to offer our young innovators an opportunity to scale up agribusiness activities through training initiatives with a view of stimulating enterprises that are investible, sustainable, competitive and ready to play an active role in the larger East African market,” said Mr James Shikwati, Director, Inter Region Economic Network and Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition Team Leader.
“We are proud to support eastern Africa youth to meet financiers and investors, and thereby grow their enterprisers,” according to Nelly Ngunguru, Sector Analyst, East Africa Trade Investment Hub.
The head of Corporate Affairs for Syngenta in Africa and the Middle East, Kinyua Mbijjiwe said: “At Syngenta, we believe in the power of innovation and are glad to be part of this agribusiness competition that brings excitement into the region’s agricultural space and offers unlimited potential for growth to our youth.”
Skills gap determine the success of business ventures.
“At Toyota Kenya, we are proud to be part of the process of bridging the skills gap among the Young Innovators in Agribusiness,” said Florence Sujji, Manager, Toyota Kenya Academy.
The competition featured Pitch for Funds or Partner Session (Dragons Den); Poster Sessions (Bus Station Pitching), financial services and Product Sourcing Stations; discussions with potential mentors and grant giving organizations. The “investment ecosystem” broadly included financial institutions, key players in agribusiness value chains, insurers, sourcing agents from retailers and mentors.
This was the final journey of the Young Innovators in Agribusiness competition which began in 2014 through an agribusiness competition that attracted over 800 participants from sub-Saharan Africa as well as the participation of Young Innovators in Agribusiness at the 2015 Africa Green Revolution Forum in Zambia and Arusha at the beginning of the year.
This year’s edition was made possible by the USAID-supported East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Syngenta, Inter-Region Economic Network and Toyota Kenya Academy.