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Transforming agriculture into business through an incubation hub in Mali

Participants at the launch ceremony of the Mali Agri-business Incubation Hub exhibit some of their processed products. Photos:M Diallo, Macina Film

Attracting youth to the agriculture sector by transforming it into a business and offering them new avenues and opportunities to engage along the agriculture value chain will be the focus of the Mali Agribusiness Incubation Hub (MAIH) launched recently.

The incubation hub will primarily focus on Youth Business Incubation (YBI), Agro Processing Business Incubation (APBIU) and Seed Business Incubation Units (SBIU). The hub will promote young entrepreneurs in agro processing products; cereals and fruits; and seed business through skills and services based opportunities.

The hub will operate in a public private partnership mode and will serve the Francophone African countries. It has a ‘hub and spoke’ model located in three institutes: ICRISAT-Mali, Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Sotuba and Institut Polytechnique Rural (IPR), Katibougou.

At the launch of the hub more than 50% of the 600 participants registered for the incubation program.

Mr Kassoum Dénon, Malian Minister of Agriculture, appreciated the efforts of MAIH promoters and said, “it is a strategic initiative of the Mali government to transform agriculture into business opportunities and create an enabling environment that can not only create wealth but also maximize employment,” as he called for full ngagement of all other ministries and concerned actors “in a spirit of frank cooperation by pledging support and resources for the success of the activities of the incubator”.

Demonstration of machines as part of the launch ceremony of the Youth Business incubation (YBI). Photos:A Diama, ICRISAT

“Promotion of agro-ventures in these areas offers lot of scope for entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, meaning that new income sources will open up especially for rural youth and women,” said Dr Bourema Dembele, Chairman, MAIH and Director General, IER.

“One of the unique interventions is the seed business incubation program in which farmer cooperatives are promoted as seed business. Such programs will also be planned and implemented in Africa. ICRISAT will extend all help in implementing such programs to especially benefit the small and marginal farmers of Africa,” said Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Director – West and Central Africa, ICRISAT Mali.

The launching of MAIH was held in two phases. The official ceremony on 22 February was attended 10 minute mail by the Malian Minister of Agriculture and other ministers of the Government of Mali. A second launch, dedicated to the Youth Business Incubation (YBI) was held on 23 February at IPR targeting mainly students and other youth interested in entrepreneurship in agribusiness sector.

“The incubation is a motivation as it breaks the barriers in the agricultural sector, providing opportunities for businesses and wealth creation. If the incubator is well operated, and it focuses on supporting the youth and incubating them to grow into business, it will contribute both in creating jobs and employers,” said Mr Dramane Tounkara, National Coordinator of Global Youth Innovation Network for Mali.

“A proper implementation of the pilot phase of the Mali Agribusiness Incubation Hub program will initiate other incubation activities for young leaders. We want the incubator to bring them necessary encouragement, motivation and guidance,” said Mr Amadou Cisse, Director General, Agency for Youth Employment.”

According to Dr Mahamoudou Famanta, Director, IPR, “Youth Incubator is significant in creating opportunities for youth and changing the livelihood of farmers.”

The event was presided over by Mr Dénon and attended by many dignitaries: Dr Nango Dembele, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Konimba Sidibe, Minister of Investment Promotion and Private Sector, Professor Assetou Foune Migan, Minister of Scientific Research, and Mr Mahamane Baby, Minister of Employment and Vocational Training and Mr Jean Larsen, Private Sector Counselor, Embassy of Denmark.

“I started a seeds business at a time when it was difficult to get support from the banking system for agribusiness. I faced a lot of rejections, but I was able to stand with perseverance. Nowadays, thanks to the incubator, young people who want to create enterprises may not have to go through some of that; many opportunities are there but they still need to stand strong and be brave” said Madam Coulibaly Maimouna Sidibe, CEO of a pioneering private seed company, Faso Kaba.

“Youth can now count on good support from the incubator to strengthen their capabilities and help them start their businesses and accomplish their dreams,” said Dr Jean Moreira, Value Chain and Post-harvest Technology Consultant, Africa Rice.

The MAIH is promoted by IER, IPR, Conseil Ouest Africain pour la Recherche et le Développement Agricole/West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), African Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN) and the Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) project of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and ICRISAT. It will benefit from the support of ICRISAT’s Agri Business Incubation program (ABI) of the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP). The MAIH is part of a mandate given to ICRISAT-ABI by UniBRAIN-FARA and funded by Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). UniBRAIN has set up six value chain Agribusiness Incubation and Innovation Consortia (AIICs) in five African countries and MAIH will be also strategically supported by AAIN.

Project: Mali Agribusiness Incubation Hub (MAIH)

Partners: Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), ICRISAT, Institut Polytechnique Rural (IPR), FASAKOBA (Seed Company), Africa Rice, West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), African Agri Business Incubation Network (AAIN), Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN), and Agence pour la Promotion de l’Emploi des Jeunes (APEJ)


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