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AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya: Next Steps For The Entrepreneurs

The agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contributing approximately 33 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The agriculture sector employs more than 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the rural population. However, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years. Smallholder farmers and agricultural enterprises continue to face challenges in growing their businesses and improving the quality of agricultural goods. At E4Impact we work to enhance agriculture-led economic growth, improve nutrition outcomes, strengthen county government capacity, increase resilience, and build sustainable market systems through private sector engagement.

The AYuTe Africa Challenge awards cash grants to support promising young Agri-tech innovators across Africa who are using technology to reimagine farming and food production across the continent. Each year, Heifer International invests more than US$1.5 million to accelerate digital agriculture entrepreneurship in Africa — a transformative force we call AYuTe.

The first phase of the challenge started with a call for applications which ran between June to July 2022 where there were more than 240 applications received. Thereafter, assessors were able to filter out using selected eligibility criteria 80 applications. This was the second phase of the challenge.

The 80 applicants, through the E4Impact accelerator under the guidance of Heifer International, had an online webinar where they got to learn more about the challenge and sharpen their pitching skills as well as their pitch decks in preparation for the third phase of the project.

The third phase of the challenge aimed to filter out the 80 selected enterprises to 30 selected enterprises.  This virtual pitching competition was held on 18th August 2022. It was noted that all the pitches from the entrepreneurs showed great improvement as before the online webinar.

The judges were very pleased and encouraged the entrepreneurs as they were still very young stage start-ups to leverage the opportunities available. The judges emphasized that Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy and regional hub, has a thriving start-up scene and has long been touted as Africa’s Silicon Savannah.

The selected 30 entrepreneurs, on 24th and 25th August, held a two-day Bootcamp at Strathmore School of Business where they were trained in the art of storytelling. Afterward, there was a pitching competition whose aim was to select the top 15 enterprises that would go through a three-month incubation program.

A significant improvement was noted in the storytelling and pitching skills of the entrepreneurs. The judges were generally happy to see young entrepreneurs leveraging technology to impact the lives of smallholder farmers in job employment, and income generation, not forgetting mitigating the effects of climate change. One of the judges, Moses Kimani, Founder and CEO at Lentera Limited, encouraged the entrepreneurs to take feedback positively and get used to the art of storytelling and pitching.

Pitching is part and parcel of start-ups and when it comes to digital and technology agriculture, the real test is the farmer- Market. Get feedback from the market’’ he said.

Dr Chris Silali, CEO and Founder of Geneplus Global Limited reminded the young innovators to focus on one solution and come up with ways of leveraging the solution to get value out of their innovation, as well as get good market adoption.

Simon Waweru, Founder and CEO of Opti Merce Consulting whose enterprise digitizes the process of produce collection at farm-gate through mobile apps was very thankful for being part of the AYuTe Africa Challenge.

“The boot camp was a fantastic learning experience for me, and it taught me how to better tell and sell the story of my company. I was humbled to meet fellow Agri-preneurs in tech from different counties who have great innovations. “

The competition culminated to a 2-day Bootcamp for the top 15 selected enterprises and finally, a pitching competition to identify the top 3 enterprises who would receive cash grants to aid translate the energy and ideas of young innovators into meaningful impact for smallholder farmers across the country and strengthen and scale up their Agri-tech innovations.

The incubation program for the top 15 finalists is going to enable them to strengthen their business model, access mentorship and coaching, financial linkages as well as networking opportunities. The program will be run by E4Impact Accelerator.

By Cicilia Toroitich

Program Officer