African agri- and food-tech startups on the rise

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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected not only the ways in which we do business but has also impacted the investment climate in all sectors and regions. Nevertheless, the structural and behavioural change the pandemic has wrought creates an opportunity for new business models, particularly in the digital and tech space. 

Bringo Fresh, Cookshop, eMsika, eProd, Lentera Africa, Shopit, Upande and Zowasel: eight vibrant agri- and food-tech start-ups from Africa successfully pitched their businesses at the virtual South African Innovation Summit, the largest start-up event in Africa, on September 30, 2020. Cookshop, a food delivery service from Liberia, as well as eProd, an agricultural supply chain software company from Kenya, were also awarded support from Ayo Technology Solutions Limited and Zoho Corporation for their performance at the summit. Cookshop and eProd, as well as the other six start-ups comprise the first alumni of the Investment Readiness Programme implemented by the GIZ project “Scaling digital agriculture innovations through start-ups” (SAIS). They are now ready to enter the growth stage with momentum.

Picking up on the success of the first cohort, GIZ-SAIS recently selected an additional 16 start-ups in Africa to join the second Investment Readiness Programme. The second cohort stands out due to its great diversity of business models and five female (co-)founders. The entrepreneurs offer innovative digital solutions for improving access to agricultural inputs and markets, digital analytics and farm practices, the financial inclusion of unbanked smallholder farmers, crowdfunding for agricultural investments, as well as livestock productivity and animal health. They are fully dedicated to tackling the most pressing issues in African agriculture and the linked food sectors in the time of the crisis and beyond.

SAIS is a project implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). “At GIZ, we designed the SAIS Investment Readiness Programme to support African agri-tech und food-tech start-ups to improve their investment readiness and to facilitate their access to investors and business partners. Looking at the new cohort, we are confident in saying that Africa’s innovators are equally motivated and capable of turning the crisis into a real opportunity,” says Michel Bernhardt, Head of SAIS. What is now needed to unleash Africa’s own innovative power is to further increase investor interest and trust in breaking new ground and mobilising for increased private investments. Africa’s evolving start-up scene and growing digital markets offer ample opportunity to do so.

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