How can agripreneurs be better supported to thrive?

In Musanze, Rwanda, near the border with Uganda and Congo, Jackson Fatirakumutima grows Irish potatoes

After three-months training with Technoserve, a non-profit operating locally, and a loan of US$770 he started his potato business. When it proved successful, a second loan of US$900 enabled him to grow garlic. The garlic business is very lucrative – Jackson can sell it to brokers for US$7 per kilogram at the farm gate. They then take it to Kigali and sell it in the markets. In fact, Jackson has been so successful, that in addition to the one hectare of land he already owns he is able to rent another hectare at US$300 per year to grow more crops like tree tomatoes and cassava. And during harvest time he employs ten people to help him on the farm.

This week at the African Development Bank’s annual meeting, leaders called for policies to unlock the potential of African entrepreneurs like Jackson. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Regional Director for Africa at the United Nations Development Programme said, “the key to successful development in Africa is to nurture the emerging culture of entrepreneurship”.

Africa has untapped potential for entrepreneurship. In 18 African countries for which statistics are available, 11% of the working-age population set up their own businesses. More than Latin America, at 8%, and Asia at 5%. However, few entrepreneurs invest to grow their enterprises, employ more workers or introduce innovations to markets. How can public and private partners better help entrepreneurs grow?

Technoserve works with men and women across 29 countries to build farms, businesses and industries. Their Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) progamme supports young people in rural areas to get their business ideas off the ground. They provide training on business management skills, financial literacy and personal development for three months; upon completion of the training graduates are supported to develop sound business plans and access loans.

More than 15,000 young people have successfully graduated so far. They have increased their incomes by an average of 133 percent, with 9 out of 10 of them now saving regularly – a ninefold increase. The Malabo Montpellier Panel recommends more be done to support entrepreneurs like Jackson to continue to grow their businesses and innovate. Policymakers should work with donors and the private sector to ensure farmers have better links to markets; support more programmes like STRYDE; invest in agricultural sciences at higher educational institutions; train entrepreneurs in management and leadership skills; ensure entrepreneurs have access to more credit at better rates that goes beyond microfinance and supports small and medium enterprises to flourish; and encourage partnerships and strong political leadership.

With the size of Africa’s workforce predicted to increase dramatically in the next decade, supporting entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and provide more and better jobs will remain a key opportunity for African policymakers.

The opinions represented in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of individual Malabo Montpellier Panel members and their organisations.