After sleepless nights, hours of public speaking practice and overcoming curveball questions, Agritech entrepreneurs from across West Africa pitched their way to success at a competition in Cote d’Ivoire, with two Ghanaians winning top spots.
With adrenaline pumping through their veins and business plans on a large screen, 25 entrepreneurs from across the region worked to wow judges at the Pitch AgriHack West Africa 2017 - a Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) competition that searches for the region’s top tech startups working in the agric sector.
Over a week of training and pitching sessions in Abidjan as part of the African Green Revolution Forum, the 25 finalists, wilted down from 130 applicants, were given a few minutes to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges and an audience that could include future investors or development partners. The competition was divided into early stage and advanced platform startups.
Francis Obirikorang, chief executive and co-founder of AgroCenta was runner-up in the advanced platform category for his tech-reliant platform that links farmers directly to markets - removing the middleman.
It has an online trading platform where farmers can connect to customers “to sell their commodities at a fair market price”. The company also uses on-demand trucks and logistics platform - an uber for trucks - where a farmer can request for truck delivery services at a click of a button.
In an important aspect for Obirikorang, AgroCenta works with other startups including Ghana’s Trotro Tractor (also at the event) to offer services to its users.
Obirikorang wanted to use the prize money (12,500 euro) to expand a project that gives women access to land.
Currently, AgroCenta works with 8,000 farmers and has 30 direct employees.
The winner of this category, taking home 15,000 euro was Senegal’s Bayseddo, which connects farmers to financing. Taking home the early-stage platform top prize was E-Farm from Nigeria - run by the only female finalist.
Divine-Love Ifechukwudoziri Akam started her platform in 2016 which works to help train young people to get into farming as well as attract financial investments.
Farmart Limited’s Abraham Quaye, from Ghana, was a step behind Akam, as the runner up in the early-stage platform for his online farmer’s market, linking homes and businesses. It sells a range of produce including fruit, vegetables and meats, all online, delivered to customers within five hours of their order.
Quaye says the focus is on quality, and he counts supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and households as his customers.
He has high hopes for the agric tech scene in Ghana seeing it as a great way to offer graduates jobs while increasing food security.
In its second year, the AgriPitch programme and awards ceremony works to help develop business services offered by young e-agriculture startups as well as contribute to the acceleration of the adoption of innovations for stronger productivity in the agrifood sector.
The competition reflected the agric industry’s growing interest and need for better technology development in the sector. Much of the African Green Revolution Forum kept a tight focus on the need to mechanise farming, and bring in ICT to interest young people in the sector and increase value and productivity.
The forum also saw the release of the Africa Agriculture Status Report which noted that the power of entrepreneurs and the free market was driving Africa’s economic growth from food production, as business wakes up to opportunities of a rapidly growing food market in Africa, that may be worth more than $1 trillion each year by 2030 to substitute imports with high-value food made in Africa.
The report argued agriculture will be Africa’s “quiet revolution” with a focus on SMEs and smallholder farmers creating the high productivity jobs and sustainable economic growth that failed to materialise from mineral deposits and increased urbanisation.