Entrepreneurship plays a pivotal role in innovation, new agribusiness and generation of capital, but few African countries have policies, strategies or dedicated incubation support programmes. Ways to build up Africa’s capacities in agribusiness incubators and accelerators to find the continent’s next agribusiness success stories was the focus of a 5-day workshop in Kampala this week.
Agribusiness incubators play a pivotal role in the ideation, start-up and scaling-up of agricultural businesses and small to medium enterprises (SMEs). But Africa’s agribusiness incubation ecosystems remain under-developed, and incubators continue to face various challenges, limiting their scale and impact.
Adequate policy frameworks, strategies and dedicated incubation support programmes are needed to design and develop conducive agribusiness incubation ecosystem and support programmes.
“We strongly believe that agribusiness incubators can create a huge push for development and transformation of agrifood systems in Africa,” said FAO Representative in Uganda Antonio Querido. “When we look at the agriculture sector [in Uganda], the opportunities are immense…We believe that creating the space for skills, for entrepreneurship is the way forward,” he said.
Five African countries in focus
Key stakeholders from governments, agribusiness incubators, such as the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI), the Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (CURAD), Excelhort, the private sector, financial institutions and donors attended the workshop.
Participants carried out a participatory needs assessment to identify areas for building the capacities of agribusiness incubators and accelerators in five African countries: Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They also collaborated to develop a common understanding and shared vision of the overall project approach and principles, and identified potential gaps and areas of support.
South-South Cooperation learning and peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges also took place on agribusiness incubation policies and support frameworks in Africa.
“South-South Cooperation can play a key role in strengthening agribusiness incubation ecosystems in Africa and in Uganda. If we can learn from the diverse knowledge and good practices that exist within and outside Africa, and strengthen networking and collaboration among the different actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – I am confident that we will be able to transform the lives of Ugandan entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises” Director of FAO’s South-South and Triangular Cooperation Division Anping Ye said.
Implementing incubation programmes in Africa
South Africa is the only country in the region with an incubation policy (SEDA 2018) and a well-established incubation support programme – an initiative of South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry that co-funds new incubators and helps to expand those already in place.
“Agribusiness incubators provide important support that can significantly reduce the risks and transactional costs of SMEs and set them on a path towards becoming competitive businesses. The role of government is critical. Governments across Africa need to engage to ensure that policy, strategy and investment priorities favour the development of new agro-enterprises,” Dr Janet Edeme, Head of the African Union Commission’s Rural Development Division said.
The workshop was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the African Union (AU), the African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN), the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), the Agripreneurship Alliance, and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI), with the support of the Government of Uganda.