A group of twenty-one pioneering start-ups from the agri-food and renewable energy sectors in Senegal and Burkina Faso have been selected from hundreds of applicants to benefit from AGreenLab’s incubation and acceleration support.
Funded by the European Union, the AGreenLab project is a collaboration between Positive Planet International, Makesense, Impact Hub, Energy 4 Impact and Yeesal Agrihub in Senegal, and La Fabrique in Burkina Faso. The project seeks to foster young entrepreneurship in the agri-food and renewable energy sectors by creating local incubators, building partnerships between Europe and Africa and mobilising investment and financing.
In line with the social and economic strategies of the two governments, AGreenLab aims to stimulate the capacity of local young people to find innovative and sustainable solutions to the most pressing challenges faced by the region. Transforming the agro-industry and renewable energy sectors is critical to meeting the food demand of a growing population, improving social inclusion, and mitigating the effects of climate change.
Agriculture is the economic cornerstone of both countries: it accounts for 15% of the GDP and 70% of the workforce in Senegal and 35% of the GDP and 80% of the workforce in Burkina Faso. The sector offers countless opportunities for entrepreneurs, particularly in the transformation of crops such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and in post-harvest activities such as conservation, processing, packaging, and logistics. Whilst women are heavily involved in the sector, they are not sufficiently represented at a leadership level in agricultural enterprises.
At the same time, both countries face constraints to their economic growth due to lack of access to electricity: nearly 40% of the Senegalese and 75% of Burkinabe populations contend with no or inadequate energy access. However, the renewable energy sector also offers multiple opportunities for innovation and job creation. Not only can renewable energy power industries in rural off-grid areas, but the sector can also provide specialised employment opportunities for skilled young people.
From a total pool of 265 applicants, 12 companies from Senegal and 9 companies from Burkina Faso were selected. Their operations cover a wide array of entrepreneurial activities such as: fish farming; fruit and vegetable production and processing; the production of green energy from household waste; the transformation of agricultural and fishery waste into fertiliser; cold storage solutions for farmers in off-grid areas; sales and distribution centres for organic products; large-scale organic greenhouse and soil-less agriculture; and mobile solar pumping services for smallholder farmers.
AGreenLab has now begun the rollout of its incubation and acceleration programme through a series of training sessions. Non-sectoral topics covered include financial and business management, creating a value proposition and funding strategy, and market analysis and pitch writing. Sector-related modules address a number of key topics: standards and certification regulations in the agro-industrial sector; research, development and product creation; quality control in the food industry; optimising sales channels and supply in the renewable energy sector; energy management and planning tools; creating a business model canvas for energy projects; and transition of energy management and performance.
The project is strongly geared towards developing entrepreneurial skills and leadership amongst women. It includes awareness-raising activities that promote a gendered approach within the incubators and the supporting public sector authorities.
In order to promote partnerships and investment between the African and European ecosystems, AGreenLab is developing virtual platforms that facilitate networking as well as events and workshops.