AFRICA – The African Development Bank has crowned the founder of a cassava processing business in Kenya, co-founder of a novel food processing technology start-up, and the owner of a smallholder farmer food procurement company both from Nigeria as the winners of the US$120,000 AgriPitch competition.
The winners were selected in the early start-up, mature start-up and women-empowered businesses categories.
Nigeria’s Femu Aiki clinched US$40,000, the largest portion of the seed capital under mature start-ups category with his farm Foodlocker.
Foodlocker supports smallholder farmers with technologies for the production of foods such as tomatoes and chicken.
“Now we can afford to buy more inputs. We can now afford to bring on board more experts in those value chains who can support smallholder farmers more remotely. That money will support the company to get results,” said Femu.
Noel N’guessan, Lono of Côte d’Ivoire was the runners up of the category receiving US$20,000.
Under the women-empowered businesses category, the founder of Mhogo Foods from Kenya, Elizabeth Gikembe finally won US$20,000, after two consecutive unsuccessful attempts in the competition.
“I was so excited when I heard my name,” said Elizabeth being glad she didn’t give up. “With a lot of persistence, you can get what you are looking for. It showed me that everything has its time,” added.
Mhogo Foods is a company that adds value to cassava production by processing the tubers into gluten-free flour, cassava snacks and animal feeds.
Her runners up in the category was Oluwaseun Sangoleye owner of Baby Grubz of Nigeria clinching US$10,000.
“Through the AgriPitch competition, the Bank is committed to supporting youth who are ambitious, creative, technology-savvy, and who have an entrepreneurial spirit to establish profitable small and medium-sized enterprises for a prosperous and inclusive Africa.”Edson Mpyisi – Coordinator of the Bank’s Enable Youth Program responsible for the event
The early start-up category saw Nigeria’s Ikenna Nzewi of Releaf, a food pre-processing technology company win US$20,000 in seed capital.
Started by Nigerian-American graduates from MIT, Yale, and Duke universities who set up shop in Uyo, Nigeria, Releaf plans to save the US$20,000 competition prize for future investment.
David Matsiko owner of Bringo Fresh from Uganda came in second winning US$10k.
Held virtually, AgriPitch saw more than 2,500 applications and 605 proposals from 30 countries shortlisted down to 25 finalists from 12 countries.
The finalists qualified for a two-week business development boot camp, and then a select top 9 AgriPitch competitors made their final pitches to an online panel of judges and investors.
The AgriPitch competition was part of the Bank’s fourth African Youth Agripreneurs Forum (AYAF), one of the continent’s most exciting platforms for African youth in the agriculture start-up scene, which kicked off on 3 November with weekly webinars and ended with the AgriPitch winners’ ceremony.
“The Bank’s Enable Youth Program aims to empower youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain by harnessing new and innovative skills, technologies and financing approaches, so that the youth can establish viable and profitable small and medium-sized enterprises,” said Edson Mpyisi, Coordinator of the Bank’s Enable Youth Program responsible for the event.
In Africa, small and medium-sized enterprises account for 90% of all businesses and create 70% of all the jobs and are the drivers of economic growth and long-term sustainability.
“Through the AgriPitch competition, the Bank is committed to supporting youth who are ambitious, creative, technology-savvy, and who have an entrepreneurial spirit to establish profitable small and medium-sized enterprises for a prosperous and inclusive Africa,” Mpyisi added.
In collaboration with partners, including UN Women, African Leaders for Nutrition and the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative (AFAWA).
In addition to receiving seed funding prizes and post-competition mentoring, AgriPitch winners will be invited to the AYAF online DealRoom, which connects expansion-ready, youth-led African businesses with global investors.
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