Masiyiwa leaves AGRA in good stead

When the African Green Revolution Alliance (AGRA) was established several years ago, the aim was to provide a platform for global and African leaders to develop actionable plans that would move African agriculture forward.

And years on, the platform is testimony to what such partnerships can do in terms of food security in the African continent. Given its successes since its formation, it’s a model that can be used universally across globe. A brain child of former secretary general of the United Nations, the late Kofi Annan, AGRA focuses on pro-agriculture technology policies, that are meant to lift African agricultural production.

Relying heavily from what Mr Annan said at inception that Africa “must join together,” AGRA has been all about establishing partnerships that are essential to achieving transformative change and for the continent to be food secure. Now in its 9th edition, the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) is considered the world’s premier forum for African agriculture. It pulls together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward.

Zimbabwean entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa, the immediate past chairman of AGRA, understands how key the forum has been to the transformation of the agriculture sector. Mr Masiyiwa understands the dynamics of business in Africa enough to know that the future lies in agriculture and has spent the better part of his tenure to focus on how to bring technology, finance, and partnerships into the sector.

During his tenure, AGRF financed 110 seed manufacturing companies in 16 countries according to a post on his Facebook page.

“These businesses received an average of $2 million in investment each,” Mr Masiyiwa said adding that as a result of such investment seed production increased from 2000 MT/year to 110,000 MT/year. Through a venture fund for Agripreneurs’ known as AECF at least $350 million in investable funds are available.

“This is in addition to another platform for donors and investors to make annual pledges for agriculture, a fund which has now reached $60 billion,” he said.

Capacitating entrepreneurs has also been a key focus area as AGRF created a platform for investors to meet entrepreneurs every year in what it called a “Deal Room”. Through such platforms, AGRF created a distribution network of entrepreneurs to sell seeds and fertilizers while a network of 38 000 agro-dealers was trained. This also helped reduce access to seeds and fertiliser distributors from 60km, to 4km.

Such initiatives, according to Mr Masiyiwa, have been a major draw card to AGRF every year. This year alone, more than 2300 delegates gathered in Accra, Ghana for the 10th edition of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which ran from September 3-6.

Youth participation has been a focus area with AGRF pushing for policies for young people, women and smallholder farmers, whom Mr Masiyiwa described as the backbone of African agriculture.

In his speech at this year’s AGRF, Mr Masiyiwa said the youth, by their apparent desire to see a convergence between technology and agriculture “will pioneer an economic revolution unlike any that has been seen elsewhere in the world”.

“Agriculture matters. And young people now see the opportunity in agriculture – it is an extraordinary opportunity and they are not looking at it from a purely agricultural basis, they are looking at the entire value chain,” said Mr Masiyiwa.

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