How will you lead? That’s one of the themes for this year’s African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) held in Kigali, Rwanda. For the 26 young finalists pitching at the 2018 AgriHack initiative at AGRF, they already know the answer. From remote farm monitoring in Kenya, to poultry farm management solutions in Ghana, to legal support for farmers in Uganda, to ICT solutions for smallholder farmers in Nigeria – the innovative start-ups presented at Pitch AgriHack were testament to the vast potential of young agripreneurs to drive a prosperous agriculture sector in Africa.

Pitch AgriHack is part of the AgriHack Talent initiative of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and aims at accelerating e-agriculture entrepreneurship for improved livelihoods in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It invites founders of e-agri start-ups and existing owners of early stage or advanced ICT platforms that are already operational to pitch their business ideas.

Today’s day-long pitching session at AGRF was opened by Mr. Michael Hailu, Director, CTA who emphasised the need to change perceptions about the agricultural industry in Africa to make it a more viable career option for young people.

He discussed how agriculture is the future in terms of producing not only food and nutrition security, but also creating opportunities for jobs for millions of young people coming into the labour market in Africa. As Mr. Hailu said, “The agricultural sector is not attractive enough for young people right now – we have to change the image of agriculture as an attractive, profitable and sustainable option. We have to make agriculture cool again for young people.”

In order to attract youth to the sector, unlocking technology and leveraging the power of innovation in the farming sector will be crucial in this effort. “At CTA, we believe we can help by realising the potential of digitalisation and energising young people to be engaged,” Mr. Hailu added.

The need for harnessing technology was apparent amongst the proposals from the 26 finalists today, with everything from blockchain to smart irrigation to automated data analytics featured as part of the business cases presented.

Equally as important, the role of women in the agriculture sector must not be overlooked. It is telling that over 50 percent of the 26 finalists at today’s pitch were women, in line with the theme of this year’s competition: “Women entrepreneurs innovate for agricultural transformation in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific”.

As Dr. Edward Mabaya, Manager for Agribusiness Development Division, African Development Bank (AfDB) said, “ The finalists today demonstrate that women are no longer playing second fiddle in the sector that has been traditionally male dominated.”

Throughout the day, competition finalists delivered 5-minute pitches to a panel of esteemed judges composed of industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors, hoping to make a business case for one of the eight prizes.

Start-ups will be assessed based on a series of rigorous criteria, including how the business will address an agricultural problem, its unique value proposition, cost structure and team composition. The lucky winners will be announced this coming Saturday on the final day of AGRF – stay tuned!