The Africa Agribusiness Academy: support for African SMEs

In cooperation with partners the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) is initiating the Africa Agribusiness Academy to support the entrepreneurial ambitions of farmers. The academy acts as a training provider, networking association and database of best practices.

Over recent years, many African countries have benefited from sustained periods of economic growth resulting in an increased demand for processed food, with a dynamic agrifood sector now gradually emerging in many African countries. This provides business growth opportunities for local enterprises, specifically small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). In turn, these enterprises are critical in linking smallholder farmers to food markets, thus providing them with opportunities to benefit from the growing demand for food as well.

In 2010, a group of agrifood entrepreneurs in East Africa took the initiative to launch the Africa Agribusiness Academy (AA Academy) aimed at strengthening individual entrepreneurial capacities with the underlying goal to contribute to economic growth and improvement of rural incomes and food security. The Academy targets agrifood SMEs covering a wide group of businesses ranging from input suppliers, traders, processors to service providers. The members are composed of a selected group of entrepreneurs willing to share experiences and coach others. The Academy shares knowledge and experiences with non-members through its resource portal and services.

Towards a Pan-African Business Academy

Following a successful pilot phase, the ambition is now to grow within a period of 5 years into a Pan-African Business Academy with over 3000 active members in 15 countries interacting with each other and rendering services to non-members as well as benefiting the livelihoods of 1 million smallholder farmers and their families. The Academy is planning to launch two investment funds: an Upstart Fund focusing on supporting the entry of new promising SMEs with equity funding, and an Innovation Fund supporting innovation trajectories of clusters of SMEs.

The AA Academy is supported by Sokoine University of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, Tanzania, and Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR. It has close links with (inter) national development players and funding organisations. The Academy receives funding from members, national and international (agri) businesses and government agencies, both African and Dutch.