Africa’s largest international conference on agribusiness has officially opened at the International Conference Centre in the Ghanaian capital, the second host since Nairobi in 2015.
Organised under the theme, Turning Science into business, the conference was opened by the country’s minister for food and agriculture Alhaji Mohammed-Munira Limuna on behalf of President John Dramani Mahama.
Participants from across Africa and beyond were welcomed by Dr Alex Ariho, the CEO of the African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN), the organisers, joined by Her Excellency Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Economy.
Prof. Henry Bwisa, the AAIN board chairperson, Dr Yemi Akimbamijo the executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and Tove Degnbol the Ambassador of Denmark also made the panel for the official launch.
Growing need for job creation
At the centre of debate throughout the three-day conference is the focus on agribusiness incubation as a means of creating jobs and wealth for the majority young population.
The reason for this, according to Ariho, is the need for a union effort by African countries to make the most out of the available innovations and ideas by the youth to nurture future drivers of the continent’s economy.
“There is huge transformation that lies in integrating science into business and commercialising the technologies and innovations, especially those by the young brains through incubation,” he says.
Like Ariho, Her Excellency Tumusiime also hinted on the AU’s commitment to addressing the high rate of youth unemployment.
“We recognise that agriculture can absorb over 30% of the unemployed youth today and the AU will continue to work with establishments like AAIN which focus on job creation in the sector,” she said.
AAIN’s Bwisa said the number of unemployed youth that will be absorbed by such means will also continue to grow, given the population trends.
“Globally the population is expected to rise to 8.4 billion by 2030 and to 9.6 billion by 2050, with Africa hosting 54% of that number. By the same year 2050 the working-age population in Africa will be 1.4 billion people, a number that was at an estimated 442 million in the year 2000,” Bwisa said.
According to FARA’s Dr. Yemi Akimbamijo, Africa has the potential to invest more in both research and agricultural financing to raise the sector’s potential to create jobs.
Tove Degnbol, the Ambassador of Denmark, hinted on the need for the youth to be a part of the solution and embrace the services offered by incubators.
The environment needed to make an impact from such avenues as incubation, according to Alhaji Limuna the Ghanaian Agriculture Minister, this has to be be created by governments.
“Governments are focusing on creating a conducive environment. For instance, in Ghana we have subsidisation programmes, support for irrigation and mechanisation among others,” he said.
Three days of business
After a series of discussions on incubation, global partnerships as well as inclusion for women the opening day closed with a pitching competition for entrepreneurs from various African countries.
The presence of global organisations in the sector was also put in focus by representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Day two today is the first Pan African Youth in Agribusiness Day which coincides with other parallel sessions on global issues in agriculture and exhibitions of agricultural technologies and will be followed by the official closure tomorrow.