Showcasing a different image of African agriculture
To help young agripreneurs and start-ups attract funding and scale-up their innovations, Inoussa Maiga set up the online video platform Agribusiness TV to document and share these entrepreneurial successes with a global audience.
You set up Agribusiness TV, a web TV platform that produces videos to promote young entrepreneurs involved in agriculture in 2016. What inspired you to launch this initiative and how has it evolved since it was established?
Ever since I started my career as an agriculture journalist, I have had the opportunity to attend meetings and conferences where I could hear people talking about the necessity to bring more young people into agriculture. There was a gap between what people were saying at these conferences and what was occurring in the field. There were some young people doing great things, but no one was talking about them. With that in mind, the idea came to me that something could be done to give young people working in agriculture an opportunity to showcase their innovative work whilst, at the same time, show other young people something different about agriculture. This led to the creation of Agribusiness TV.
The business would not be where it is today without support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). In 2016, they launched a call seeking ideas that combined youth, ICT and agriculture, and Agribusiness TV was one of five projects to be funded out of 500 who initially applied. This helped us to think bigger – not just about our home country of Burkina Faso, but across the whole of Africa. The idea was to give young people in Burkina Faso the opportunity to see what young people were doing, for example, in Cameroon or Kenya, and to see if they could create something similar – or do it better. We started producing video stories in four countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya, and have since progressed to reporting from 12 countries across the continent.
Do you think perceptions of the agriculture sector are changing, or does more need to be done?
Both are true. We frequently receive messages from people living across Africa, but also from Africans living abroad. They say, “I’ve been living in the US for 20 years, now I am thinking of going back home and I want to invest – I saw your video!” We’ve encouraged more people to come into agriculture but we need to enable those already in the sector to progress, otherwise they might leave. We don’t need every young person to come into agriculture, but it is important to find ways to encourage those already in the sector to develop their businesses. Young people are mostly starting business by their own means, often with family support, but their growth inevitably stagnates. They need help to scale up their business – this is where most of these enterprises face challenges.
Who do you feel is particularly inspirational in highlighting the transformative nature of agriculture?
There are some successful business people who are inspiring the younger generation of agripreneurs. For example, Aliko Dangote who established the Dangote Group in Nigeria is investing in different sectors within agriculture such as tomato processing and is inspiring young people to think that it is also possible for them to succeed. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, is another inspirational figure who operates at a high, political level, and is adovcating for more support to young entrepreneurs in agriculture. Then there are the young entrepreneurs themselves who are really exciting young people. I am thinking mainly of my friend Axel Emmanuel in Côte d’Ivoire, who is processing cacao into chocolate. Two years ago, to respond to an increasing demand in his products, he started training rural women cooperatives based in cocoa production areas to transform their cocoa into chocolate and other derivatives. For the first time, some of these women were discovering how to process cocoa, a product they have been farming for years. He is just one of the successful young entrepreneurs that we have met since starting Agribusiness TV.
Is there a significant work opportunity that you think has helped you to develop your skills and your career?
I’ve worked as a correspondent for Spore since the beginning of my career and it has been a very good experience for me. The first piece I worked on for Spore was in 2009 on organic cotton farmers, but, before this, I was an avid reader of the magazine. Reading Spore helped me to better understand the agriculture sector at a global level, and it made me realise how journalism can help support the development of this sector. Working for Spore has been very much a part of me and of who I am.
I consider Spore to be the most relevant magazine on agricultural issues in developing countries and now that production of the publication is coming to an end, as a reader, I will miss the regular updates on agriculture-related news from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. And, as a journalist, this will mean one less opportunity to write and share agricultural news from my country and region. Spore has certainly been a very important part of my life.