Agribusiness Opportunities for African Youth

24 Aug 2017

Portfolio photo of Pierre Brunache JrThree years ago, I was privileged to speak with more than 100 students at a local University in Ghana during a Youth Summit Day. The topic was about “Agribusiness Opportunities for African Youth “. I began to ask them about the difference between agriculture and agribusiness. Most of the answers were – sadly- related to rain-fed production mainly by smallholder farmers. Those who came from the rural areas recalled stories of engaging in “agric activities” as a form of punishment whilst in primary school. Well, for those folks, agriculture was a “no-go area”. Other students also mentioned stories of siblings and family members who studied agriculture only to end up as bank tellers and telecom employees. Needless to say, agribusiness wasn’t a popular topic for them.

Why would they spend opportunity time in school to pursue an agric degree instead of finance, technology, actuaries, engineering, law, medicine, etc? Why on earth should they be interested in a declining sector according to GDP report? How could they ever succeed in a sector, which lacks a robust ecosystem with R&D, Affordable Capital, and Access to Market?

By the end of my talk, some of the naysayers discovered that there were indeed significant opportunities in “agribusiness”. I mentioned that everyone must eat and drink everyday to stay alive and perform . So, an entrepreneur could become wealthy via agribusiness. He or she is called an “agripreneur”. This agripreneur would in turn create jobs for the hundreds of millions of unemployed African youth both illiterate (133 million!: and educated.

Below are excerpts of my talking points including recommendations [updated now with new information, which I also learned since 2013]:

  1. Provide farm advisory services to farmer-based organizations (FBOs) – opportunity
  • Farm sanitation & preparation with mechanized equipment where possible
  • Mobile applications for agriculture calendar, rain patterns, etc
  • Product demand forecast so production could be based solely on market demand instead of “status quo/traditional production”
  • Demand forecast for fertilizer and seeds
  • liason to off-takers/buyers for their products

2. Represent equipment mfg such as tractor, harvesters, irrigation systems, planters, as well as green houses mfgs, etc- opportunity

3. Represent global fertilizer and seeds manufacturers as: Retailers; Hub Agro dealers; Importers- opportunity

4. Post-harvest: example of businesses to reduce post-harvest losses – opportunity

  • Establish trade hubs to help farmers sell directly to consumers
  • Become a farmer broker to market women
  • Become a farmer broker to sell output to agro-processors or exporters (fruit, cashews, etc)
  • Create a supply chain mgt company to serve the hospitality sector (e.g., hospitals, restaurants, hotels, caterers & private chefs who work for wealthy people or diplomats
  • Develop a packaging company to add value to local goods sold to supermarkets

5. Livestock, Poultry, Fishing, Vegetables, Spices- opportunity

  • Engage in the livestock business and create value with 1) a modern abattoir and a professional butcher; 2) milk, yoghurt, and cheese production; ice cream production, etc
  • Consider commercial ocean fishing with the help of GPS system and modern boats. Then set cold storage near the ports
  • Innovate in fish ponds &/or vegetable via aquaponics and/or vertical gardening in backyards and public places (with local gvt consent)
  • Establish green houses to produce high value vegetables and spices year-round
  • Sell spices in small container to end-users, supermarkets, and/ or in powdered forms to food companies
  • Engage in the high standard poultry business and generate revenue from: 1) selling eggs ; 2) selling young chicks; 3) sales to local bbq vendors; 4) sales to fast food companies such as KFC, etc.

6. Oil (edible, medicinal, aromatic )- opportunity

  • Engage in neem oil processing and export
  • Become a broker for shea butter farmers
  • Develop cosmetic business based on shea butter and others such as cocoa, almond, mango, etc
  • Become a broker for palm oil farmers
  • Become a broker of aromatic oil such as patchouli, vetiver, lime, lemongrass etc.

7. Recommendations

  • Set-up an “Intra-Africa Travel Fund” to visit at least 5 African countries every year with at least 5 like-minded friends or classmates 
  • Identify your target market via field research: mass or niche customers
  • Establish strategic partnerships with other African youth to diversify business and commodity opportunities
  • Acquire knowledge of fertilizer, seeds, soil, etc
  • Create nursery business of fast growing trees such as Mulberry for erosion prevention and reforestation 
  • Obtain knowledge of climate change, water management, irrigation and fertigation
  • Learn how to grow fruit and vegetable in greenhouses
  • Develop relationship with financial institutions and/or wealthy people to fund your business
  • Select an agribusiness sector: food crops, cash crops, vegetable, tubers, livestock, & fisheries, etc
  • Explore new technologies such as drones to determine soil types, fertilizer recommendations, and agrochemicals application
  • Develop a realistic value-added action plan for an enterprise instead of employment
  • Seek an agribusiness mentor & share your plan with that person
  • Take action from your mentor’s advice
  • Use ICT to manage your agribusiness venture
  • Include corporate social responsibility initiatives in your venture
  • Don’t be afraid of failure
  • Read “How rich countries got rich & why poor countries stay poor?”
  • Network with influential & affluent people regardless of national, political, religious, tribal affiliation