Alex Ariho's viewpoint
Alex Ariho is coordinator of the Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) facility. Launched in 2010, the UniBRAIN programme supports the setup of innovation centres in a joint undertaking between universities, research institutions and the private sector. UniBRAIN’s ﬁrst activity is the development of innovation and incubation centres.
Why do women and youth need speciﬁc agribusiness incubation?
In order to be able to grow and develop agricultural businesses, youth need to be trained in entrepreneurship, access to ﬁnance, and appropriate technologies and innovations. They also need an ‘enabling ecosystem’, which means an environment where private sector, research, government and universities operate as a true network. The majority of African women in agriculture work in basic production, which is less proﬁtable than if they are able to access credit to acquire assets and equipment for value addition. Incubation’s role is to engage women in the upper part of the value chain and help them organise in groups to enable access to ﬁnance and insurance. UniBRAIN incubation helps these ‘clusters’ access ﬁnance and some are now considered SMEs as a result of incubation programmes. For instance, Ghanaian farmer Brown, a participant in the CCLEAR livestock incubator dealing with grasscutters, has started a bulking service and buys grasscutters from 34 other fellow ‘incubatees’ to supply supermarkets.
Describe the main characteristics of successful incubation?
There are three important for success: ﬁrstly, proposed services must be demand-driven; the incubators must be self-sustaining; and ﬁnally, a successful business relies on passion. Initially, we wanted to work with agriculture graduates but ‘incubatees’ trained in ICTs can also have successful agricultural projects. Interest and passion is often more important than expertise.
What were the main outcomes of the African agribusiness incubation conference?
The conference gathered 450 participants from 38 African countries and 18 countries worldwide. A declaration was produced with four key points: asking governments to increase ﬁnancing to harness jobs; to bridge the gap between African universities, research and the private sector; for the African private sector to develop ﬁnancing and inﬂuence the research agenda; and, highlighting the priority to provide employment and support for youth, who are drivers of transformation.