Source: Shutterstock

Reduction of postharvest losses and start-ups in Africa

On June 7, 2017, foodFIRST organized a Vijverbergsession[1] on agro-incubators in The Hague. Peter Ravensbergen was invited to perform a pitch on behalf of the Postharvest Network, presenting the lessons learned of the research “Do’s and Don’ts of Incubators”. . The study, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and performed by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, mainly focused on agro-innovations.

In the research, 18 entrepreneurs active on the African continent, have been interviewed about their product and the lessons learned. They all have a different sector background: horticulture, arable production, fisheries, husbandry, focusing on improved production techniques or on technical innovations for better quality in the product chain.

The seven most important lessons learned, which also seem to be success factors for the incubators, are:

  1. Work with a proven concept. Focus on tested innovations. This means: the concept, its product or service, should already have a proven result in practice. Keep it simple and start small.
  2. Marketing is necessary for the adoption of the innovative concept. Adoption is regarded as one of the biggest challenges in the acceptance of innovations. The question is how fast and why local businesses will change to the new innovation.
  3. Integral and Chain approach. Working together with other entrepreneurs in the supply chain is preferred. If possible, do not interfere nor work together with local governments: only concerning the legal aspects.
  4. Demonstration of the concept locally. It is important to show the concept to local entrepreneurs: people want to see it work. The demo has to be simple and pragmatic, understandable for local entrepreneurs and preferably adapted to the local village circumstances by entrepreneurs with a pioneer mentality.
  5. Access to the concept for local entrepreneurs. If possible bring the concept (geographically) close to your target group, like entrepreneurs. For instance with mobile units. A local network is crucial.
  6. Access to finance. Money to invest is needed and access to finance is crucial. Check the local conditions for local entrepreneurs to get access to finance. Sometimes local banks demand huge interest rates; requests for collateral are not fair.
  7. Accompaniment/support. To use the concept and to maintain it a good, after sales service and mentorship for entrepreneurs is necessary. Training of the people you work with is crucial. Train them on business plans, budgeting and planning.

More information about the agro incubator session can be found through this link.

The full text of the pitch is available here (PDF).

[1]Vijverbegsessions are closed meetings where academics, politicians and experts from the government, civil society and business discuss global food issues; goal is to formulate conclusions relevant for policy makers.

Image source: Shutterstock “Packing of red grapes in Peru”

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