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Flagship summit to support growth of digital agriculture start-ups in Africa

December 2, 2020

African entrepreneurs in digital agriculture will have new opportunities to secure support and investment as the African Green Revolution Forum takes on the AgriHack Talent project.

Launched in 2014 by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), and supported by partners including incubators, the start-up competition has seen winners raise more than €2.5 million, reaching at least a million farmers with their services. These have involved various technologies, from e-commerce platforms to artificial intelligence, and have facilitated market linkages, advisory services, financial services or supply chain management.

With CTA preparing to close at the end of this year, the entrepreneurship project, which includes the Pitch AgriHack competition, will be handed over to the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), the flagship annual summit for African agriculture.

The competition will form part of the Forum’s ongoing efforts to inspire greater coordinated investment and support for digital entrepreneurship across the sector.

Dr. Debisi Araba, Managing Director, AGRF: 'Over the years, Pitch AgriHack has helped uncover, build the capacity and channel investment into some of the game-changing, youth-led innovations emerging in agriculture across Africa. I’m delighted that the AGRF can continue what CTA started, and encourage not only greater innovation but also more opportunities to scale up digitalisation across the continent with all the benefits this brings for food, nutrition and economic security.”

The handover of the AgriHack project will officially take place during an online event on Tuesday, December 8, entitled Building alliances to scale-up youth digital agtech entrepreneurship in Africa, which will explore how public and private sector organisations can collaborate to better support agricultural entrepreneurs across Africa.

Previous winners of the competition have included animal vaccine app CowTribe, mAgri, a mobile phone application developed by Brastorne Enterprises in Botswana to provide farmers with access to information and marketplaces, and Ensibuuko, a Ugandan fintech that links farmers with financial services.

Naledi Magowe, cofounder, Brastorne Enterprises, a Pitch AgriHack 2016 winner: “Collaborating with the AgriHack Talent project of CTA has been an incredible journey and has been impactful, particularly to our growth strategy, exposing us to a valuable network and capacity building. “It is crucial for digital enterprises such as us to be empowered in the same way for maximum impact and transformation. We have reached 700,000 users now and have received feedback from the telecom operator we collaborate with that it is the highest revenue generating mobile agri-platform they have had on their network across the countries they are in.”

In 2018 and 2019, half of the Pitch AgriHack finalists were women, illustrating how the competition has engaged young women in digital agtech in Africa. While winners have seen on average an increase of more than 115 per cent in the number of employees since they engaged with the initiative, the size of the staff of some of start-ups involved have quadrupled over the years.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in countries including Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia have hosted their own hackathons using the “AgriHack” label. The project has also collaborated with many organisations including the UN’s FAO and African Development Bank to support the expansion of other youth-led activities with digital focus.

“I am very proud of the pioneering role played by the AgriHack project and that it has helped to profile CTA as a leading supporter of innovative agripreneurship. I thank our partners for their invaluable contribution and wish outstanding growth for the young entrepreneurs who have been involved,” said Ken Lohento, who led the project at CTA.

The AGRF, which has hosted the Pitch AgriHack final and prize ceremony for three years, brings together 26 of the leading actors in African agriculture, including the African Union, CGIAR research network and the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

This year’s summit, which took place virtually, generated $4.7 billion worth of investment opportunities.

Dr. Ibrahim Khadar, director at CTA, said: “As the pre-eminent forum for African agriculture and an ongoing supporter of the competition, the AGRF is the ideal venue for AgriHack.

“I look forward to seeing how the initiative evolves under new leadership to continue to support youth, foster African innovation and expand digitalisation in agriculture.”