BY AMMA GYAMPO
I have been advocating for several months, and in previous articles, for holistic, sustainable adoption to grow our businesses in the Region. As a speaker on Agric Innovation last year, at African Innovation Fund’s (AIF) Innovation Prize for Africa http://innovationprizeforafrica.org @JClaudeBastos (IPA 17) , our focus was on solutions to the common problems, including lack of credit and data, poor storage, pricing issues and making agriculture attractive to the youth demography.
The over-arching conclusion, from that African Innovation Fund’s (AIF) Innovation Prize for Africa event, was that “Agriculture should be regarded as a Business and that we should develop an education system where people are trained to take risks.
Solutions suggested included building mobile apps that connect farmer based organisations with investors, crowdfunding, distribution using drones, and the creation of TV Shows and competitions targeting the youth.”
Fast forward to April 2018, I am pleased to have witnessed the recent launches of the “Ultimate Farmer Reality TV Show” and the University of Professional Service/ MBC Africa’s Business Incubation Centre. I am impressed by a number of innovative players both emerging and continuing to rise, including FarmCrowdy (www.farmcrowdy.com) which is a visionary crowdfunding platform for small-scale farmers; Trotro Tractor (www.trotrotractor.com) a powerful platform that connects farmers and tractor operators, who can also monitor movement and work progress of their equipment; and finally, the multi award-winning, AgroCenta – www.agrocenta.com – an online platform that connects farmers to an online market, truck delivery services and real-time market information delivered to their mobile.
This evidence of collaborative design, prototype and launching of solution-based products and services is the very basis of sustainable entrepreneurship; starting with a deep understanding of the problem and designing a solution which is fit for purpose.
Why Value Chains?
I am an advocate for holistic, multi-stakeholder models towards solving development problems and supporting businesses. That is why I agree wholeheartedly with the manner in which Ashwin Ravichandran, General Manager of the MEST Incubator (Meltwater School of Entrepreneurship and Technology www.meltwater.org ), hit the nail on the head in summarising how MEST’s own value chain related businesses work in a synergistic value chain. Each company empowers the next to solve a problem faced further along the value chain, ensuring multiple problems faced within the process can be addressed by individual start-ups.
The reason we’re adopting the value chain approach is twofold:
By diving deep into a value chain, each entrepreneur or start-up is able to go farther into problem diligence and better understand the core of the issue they’re solving. As well, they can gain better insight into user behaviour. By collaborating with other companies working in a similar environment, they can share learnings and better understand the full customer journey, as well as how problems faced at each point in the value chain might be related. As a result they are able to think in terms of a more human-centered design approach.
Entrepreneurs often attempt to tackle massive, complicated problems that prove to be too large for a single startup to effectively solve alone. By thinking of collaboration as a win-win, several startups can focus on solving multiple angles of the same problem existing in the value chain. The aim is then to see one market leader rise, or multiple successful companies solving niche problems.
MEST doesn’t want to simply invest in horizontal value chains but also in vertical value chains so we can see intersections between them on multiple levels and problems that can be solved more organically and more diligently.
As soon as there are both vertical and horizontal intersections, and problems become clearer, solutions will become easier to make or break. At this point, the need for money will become clear, and investments start increasing as the ecosystem becomes enriched.
Mass Media & Mindset
I have had the pleasure of advising a young team of media entrepreneurs totally committed to using mass media to transform the mindset of Ghanaians towards farming as a business and profession. With various TV shows springing up across the continent with catchy, pun-filled titles such as ‘Can You Dig It?’ and “Don’t Lose the Plot,” there is a new wave of attempts to draw in a younger demographic into the highly lucrative agric sector. The format generally goes like this: contestants are allocated arable plots of land to cultivate and, based on their technical, management and overall performance, they stand the chance to win prize money for the most productive. The objective and impact of these mass media innovations are to showcase agric as a viable, modern work option and to prove to young people that agriculture can be respectable and profitable. In the West, there is a well-known and widely reported phenomenon of city slickers, investment bankers and the sort, giving up their suits and ties to pursue a career in farming; armed with their sharp business and finance acumen, they typically excel at agribusiness.
With great fanfare and a raft of stakeholders present to support, a new TV production, dubbed “Ultimate Farmer Reality Challenge,” was launched. The producers of the show are aiming to demystify what it takes to build a sustainable, value-chain driven agribusiness; the production will also challenge the prejudices against farming as a viable, respected career option.
“We have identified various agribusinesses along the Value Chain; developed them into modules that will be rolled out through the TV show,” according to Benjamin Nana Dwomoh-Doyen, CIEDOM-HOG International’s Director of Communication & Media Relations www.facebook.com/ciedomhog @ciedomhog). “We are finalising commercial partnerships and sponsors for the production but, (we) have been fortunate to have secured strategic partnerships including, The School of Agriculture, University of Cape Coast, International Association of Students in Agriculture and Related Sciences (IAAS), Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness and other stakeholders with whom we have developed a comprehensive value chain approach,” Dwomoh-Doyen adds.
African Art Archive (http://www.africanartarchive.com), an online art platform, has rolled out its ambitious plans to use a suite of innovative new technologies, including BlockChain and Virtual Reality, to document, broker and promote contemporary African Art on the global stage. The company aims to become the primary art online platform for consumers to interact, collect and learn about African Art. African Art Archive provides an enabling online platform for artists and art enthusiasts by documenting and curating art with advanced technology.
The role of mass media, art and culture will beat the forefront of the drive to motivate, inspire, develop the talents and change the mindsets of Africa’s young workforce. In seeing others like themselves execute innovative new solutions, build businesses and effect fundamental change, they too can be inspired to follow.
There is an army of professionals working to support, train, re-educate and build sustainable “African Business Solutions to African Problems”. Ravichandran conclude: “By working on Value Chains, the aim is to make scale, independent of individual solutions, and more about the problem to be solved as a whole.”
Amma Gyampo is Founder of AmDeCo which develops Agri and Tech SMEs. She advises leaders on how to tap into disruptive technologies to solve local problems; creating synergistic and sustainable competitive advantage. She is an advisory board member to several Tech companies and has built up a consulting portfolio across several industries including Telecoms (BlackBerry and Vodafone), IT Management, Real Estate, Public Sector and Hospitality. She brings a unique perspective and global entrepreneurship network to forward-looking African CEOs and Founders seeking to harness the full potential of business processes, innovation and technology. AmDeCo also assists established companies to innovate through entrepreneurial collaborations, innovation labs, accelerator and incubator programmes. Amma is also an active advisor on such programmes.
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