New incubation centres to support agric entrepreneurs design bankable projects

Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources (left) said that the project will help create more companies in agribusiness and increase private sector presence in Rwanda. Courtesy.

At least 20 youthful agribusiness entrepreneurs will be coached on designing bankable projects in incubation center to be set up at every district across the country.

With 30 districts, it means at least 600 young entrepreneurs in agribusiness will be mentored and coached to design the projects in a period of six months.

The incubation centres are to be created under the partnership of Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum, Business Development Fund and local universities such as Christian University, and Hanken School of Economics at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that the project will help to create more companies in agribusiness and increase private sector presence in Rwanda.

“We have been observing major challenges faced by youth who want to do agribusiness. These are lack of access to finance to implement business ideas simply because they are not bankable projects as well as small scale land. The incubation centers are one of the solutions,” she said.

Failure to come up with bankable business ideas, Mukeshimana said that few of many entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector manage to grow.

The joint initiative seeks to accelerate sustainable growth of Rwandan startups in the agricultural industry through helping in prototyping, mentoring, coaching and access to capital.

The incubators will reach out to local and international companies to receive free training and support in terms of legal matters, accounting and others.

The incubators are also expected to increase production along the agricultural value chain in Rwanda, fulfill the domestic demand for agricultural products and increase agricultural exports while also generating new tax returns in Rwanda, she said.

Rwanda’s agricultural exports generated more than $465m in 2018/2019 down from $515m in the 2017/2018 fiscal year, according to 2018/2019 report by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) published on its website last week.

“There are millions of opportunities which the youth should take advantage of, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area initiative in Africa. We expect family poverty levels to reduce if these youth work hard and own successful agricultural enterprises,” she said.

Agriculture sector   meets 90 per cent of the national foods needs and generates more than 70 per cent of the country’s export revenues.

According to Jean Baptiste Hategekimana, Chairman of Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF) there are about 12,000 professional youth in agribusiness who have so far registered to the forum.

They are in five clusters namely; crop production, livestock, agro-processing, inputs and other Agro-services (extension, marketing, food packaging, farm mechanization, seed multiplication etc.) as well as ICT for Agriculture in Rwanda.

More youth, he said, are needed in agribusiness considering that agriculture sector is dominated by farmers whose average age is about 55 years old.

Livingstone Nkusi, Head of Grants at the Business Development Fund said that the incubation centers will be set up at 30 BDF offices across the country in every district.

“We have business products for these agri-preneurs such as loan facility. For example, there are products in post-harvest handling and all which can provide good exports products,” he said.

The incubation centers, he said, will increase more youth in agribusiness working with financial institutions while the fund can provide guarantee funds.

 Norbert Rafiki, a graduate from College of Agriculture, Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) in Food Science and Technology, is currently benefitting from such an incubation centre in Kicukiro District in Gatenga sector.

He has a project that uses Hydroponic technology to grow fodder for livestock in water without using soil.

“This technology enables us to grow cereals as fodder and harvest within between seven and ten days. As it is still a prototype I hope to get more knowledge to make it successful,” he said

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