New startups should focus on AfCFTA from inception

Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira

The Rwanda Ambassador to Ghana, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, has issued a word of advice to new startup businesses: that they be focused on penetrating the Africa Continental Area (AfCFTA) right from inception.

According to her, with this in mind startups will be able to develop products and services which meet the expectations and standards of markets beyond their jurisdiction, as well as drive their vision to expand their production capacity. “Establishment of the AfCFTA presents a big opportunity that startups need to take advantage of to grow their businesses,” she said.

Speaking at the Kosmos Innovation Centre (KIC) AgriTech Challenge, she reiterated that she is overwhelmed to know some talents and ideas born out of the challenge have gone beyond the borders of Ghana to support the continent, and the new cohort should also aim for that.

Furthermore, she emphasised that a missing component in the socio-economic transformation of Africa as a continent is ability to connect the youth, innovation, IT and agriculture – a factor she indicated has left farming on the continent largely at the subsistence level in most countries, and remains a challenge to food security.

She therefore urged governments, donor institutions and corporate organisations to take up the challenge of bridging this gap between the youth and mechanical agriculture, so that the youth can identify themselves with agriculture and identify agriculture as area worth investing in and connecting resources to.

“It is not a secret that farming in Africa remains at the subsistence level in most of our countries, and if we want to achieve food security as we have endorsed in the SDGs goal two – Zero hunger – we have to invest in innovation and technology.

“The role played by technology and innovation programmes for startup innovators cannot be overemphasized, and we need to do more to ensure that more ideas are born to make agriculture attractive to our youth if we are going to reap the benefit of having 60 percent of the world’s arable land on our continent,” she added.

Using Rwanda as an example, she reiterated that like in most developing economies, Rwanda’s agriculture sector is the backbone of their economy – employing a majority of the populace and contributing about 28 percent of GDP, and employs about 69 percent of total population. However, only eight percent of the highly-skilled or educated population participate in agriculture – leaving a wide gap between planning and increasing the sector’s potential.

Nevertheless, out of good governance principles, the country demystified the issues and created a mechanism that holds all leaders to account by the general public. And through a competent performance mechanism – such as for improved seeds, easy access to fertiliser, irrigation and other essential services and assisting in a coordinated way – it has helped to improve production. “And out of that, Rwanda is now food-secure and exporting food to the rest of the world; an example other countries on the continent can learn from,” she concluded.

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