By Folasade Akpan
Abuja, Nov. 19, 2020 The African Development Bank (AfDB), has awarded cash prizes of 120,000 dollars to some African youth “agripreneurs”, winners of the bank’s AgriPitch competition.
The bank made this known in a statement it issued on Thursday in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
According to the bank, the founder of a cassava processing business in Kenya, a co-founder of a novel food processing technology start-up and the owner of a smallholder farmer food procurement company in Nigeria won the top cash prizes.
The AgriPitch competition offers young entrepreneurs in Africa’s agricultural sector the opportunity to pitch their agribusiness proposals to a panel of experts and investors who selected winners in “early start-up”, “mature start-up” and “women-empowered businesses” categories.
Held virtually, AgriPitch saw more than 2,500 applications and 605 proposals from 30 countries shortlisted down to 25 finalists from 12 countries.
According to the bank, the finalists qualified for a two-week business development boot camp and a select top nine AgriPitch competitors will make their final pitches to an online panel of judges and investors.
The competition was part of the bank’s fourth African Youth Agripreneurs Forum (AYAF), one of the continent’s most exciting platforms for African youth in the agriculture start-up scene.
It was launched on Nov. 3 with weekly webinars and ended with the AgriPitch winners’ ceremony in collaboration with partners.
They include UN Women, African Leaders for Nutrition and the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative (AFAWA).
Winner for the mature start-ups category, Femi Aiki of Foodlocker, Nigeria was awarded 40,000 dollars, while runner-up Noel N’guessan of Lono, Côte d’Ivoire got 20,000 dollars.
For the Women-empowered businesses, the winner Elizabeth Gikebe of Mhogo Foods, Kenya won 20,000 dollars, while runner-up Oluwaseun Sangoleye of Baby Grubz, Nigeria won 10,000 dollars.
Meanwhile, for the early start-ups Ikenna Nzewi of Releaf, Nigeria won 20,000 dollars and David Matsiko of Bringo Fresh, Uganda won 10,000 dollars as runner-up.
Aiki, Chief Executive Officer of Foodlocker, winner of 40,000 dollars for the mature business category prize said the seed funding provides “a lot of fuel for the road” for his business.
Foodlocker supports smallholder farmers with technologies for the production of foods such as tomatoes and chicken.
Aiki said one of the major areas where the company needed support was in working capital.
“Now we can afford to buy more inputs. We can now afford to bring on board more experts in those value chains who can support smallholder farmers more remotely.
“That money will support the company to get results,” he said.
Gikebe, founder of Mhogo Foods in Kenya, who won the women-empowered businesses category 20,000 dollars prize, said she was so excited when she was called as a winner.
She said she started Mhogo Foods, a company that adds value to cassava production by processing the tubers into gluten-free flour, cassava snacks and animal feeds into the competition in 2018 and in 2019 without success.
“With a lot of persistence, you can get what you are looking for. It showed me that everything has its time,” Gikebe said.
Another beneficiary, Nzewi, the early start-up category winner, representing Releaf, a food pre-processing technology company said the company planned to save the 20,000 dollars’ competition prize for future investment.
“To be chosen from such a qualified list of businesses is always exciting.
“We are very confident about the work that we are doing to catalyse industrialisation in food processing.
“It is excellent to see the AfDB with its high fives focus – one of them being industrialisation, to also be supporting us,” Nzewi said.
Edson Mpyisi, Coordinator of AfDB’s Enable Youth programme responsible for the event said it aimed to empower youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain by harnessing new and innovative skills, technologies and financing approaches.
“This is so that the youths can establish viable and profitable small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Through the AgriPitch competition, the bank is committed to supporting youths who are ambitious, creative, technology-savvy and who have an entrepreneurial spirit to establish profitable small and medium-sized enterprises for a prosperous and inclusive Africa,” he said.
In addition to receiving seed funding prizes and post-competition mentoring, AgriPitch winners will be invited to the AYAF online DealRoom.
The DealRoom connects expansion-ready, youth-led African businesses with global investors, the statement said.