Story: Ethiopian agribusiness wins $5000 in youth competition

18 November 2020
ITC News
Haile Wako Integrated Farms impressed the judges with its business plan geared toward improving sustainable agriculture and boosting intra-African trade

An innovative business model that improves food security beat competitors from Ethiopia, the Gambia, Malawi and Rwanda to win a pitching competition for young entrepreneurs at the Pre i-Boot Camp Virtual Summit on 12 November 2020.

Ethiopian agribusiness Haile Wako Integrated Farms secured $5,000 in investment from the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa after convincing the competition’s jury with its business plan and contribution to intra-African trade.

The competition raised awareness of the funding gap in youth-led businesses in Africa. It was part of the summit organized by the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat.

Haile Wako Integrated Farms was founded by Adugna Haile, Addisu Haile and Haile Wako to improve sustainable agricultural processes through innovation and smart farming, such as Internet of Things, climate-smart agriculture and drip irrigation. The company also provides technical support to farmers producing and marketing their agricultural goods.

Adugna Haile is excited to have won the pitch competition. ‘Having been the finalists at numerous agripreneur competitions is definitely a good sign. The prize will enable us to achieve our goal of redefining agribusiness in Ethiopia – and by extension on the continent,’ the winner said.
Discussions at the summit focused on the economic situation of Africa beyond COVID-19 and how the continent could leverage the benefits of the AfCFTA to spur Africa’s growth – thanks to its young people. More than 500 participants across Africa and the diaspora attended the event on Zoom and Facebook.

‘Youth should take ownership,’ Routouang Mohamed Ndonga Christian, Chad’s Minister of Youth and Sport, said during the summit. ‘They should not only seize the opportunity to find jobs beyond their borders but also do business in other countries by making use of their talent.’

The summit featured keynote presentations from Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of UNECA, Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of ITC, and Raymond Gilpin, Head of Strategy and Regional Analysis, United Nations Development Programme, Africa.

More topics aired of the summit included:

  • Strengthening the continent’s digital infrastructure by investing in technology: this will boost digital trade while generating policies to address inclusion in the digital space.
  • Providing access to finance to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as the bedrock of the continent’s economy: this is essential to unlocking the continent’s growth trajectory.
  • Diversifying the value chains in Africa: this is needed to attract more investors under the AfCFTA.
Once rolled out, the AfCFTA is projected to pull more than 30 million people out of extreme poverty, that is, those living on less than $5 per day.

A group of Harvard University students founded the international non-profit organization Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) in 2004. They realized that Africa’s development needed its immediate participation by young people. The founders decided to create a forum that would connect them to peers on the continent to facilitate intellectual and cultural exchange.

The organization’s mission centres on collaboration between university students and others while creating long-lasting networks between young leaders and leading professionals worldwide.