According to the World Bank, Africa is home to 25% of the world’s agricultural land, and yet it produces just 10% of the world’s food, whereas food insecurity is rising on the continent (FAO, 2017). At the same time, agriculture accounts for 32% of Africa’s GDP and employs more than 60% of the continent’s total labor force, while 10 million youth are entering the labor market each year in Africa (Africa Agriculture Status Report, 2015).
Agriculture being at the cross-path of two major social issues (employment and food security), it is only logical that institutions and organizations are having a stronger focus on the industry each year.
As the devastating impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across the globe, the pandemic has also added threats to food security around the world, and particularly in Africa. Concerns over an impending food crisis in the continent were already growing when billions of locusts began swarming and devastating crops throughout East Africa.
With food supply and livelihood already affected by the locust infestation, the effects of the pandemic hit Africa even harder. Lockdown measures have influenced workforces and transportation systems, disrupting internal supply chains and halting food production. Now more than ever, innovative solutions are needed to tackle these challenges.
In the current context, the combination of new, affordable technologies and highly-qualified African youth (educated in the best universities of the continent or abroad) seems to be the winning strategy to increase both productivity and revenues of smallholder farmers at the same time. Creating sustainable jobs while feeding millions of people seem to be at reach, but young, innovative ventures still face a lot of challenges, from access to funding, to complex and unharmonized legislations or education of the labor force.
‘Scaling Digital Agriculture Innovations through Startups’ (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). In an effort to support African AgriTech and FoodTech startups, BMZ, through the GIZ-SAIS program, is launching the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to help rapidly scale and improve promising initiatives, while impacting farmers positively on the ground.
“We designed the SAIS project, on behalf of BMZ to help African AgTech und FoodTech startups to improve their investment readiness and access to investors and business partners. We are excited to partner with Seedstars to scout for the most promising startups in the AgTech and FoodTech sector on the African continent. The selected startups will be able to scale their innovations in new markets and help their users to improve their incomes.” states Michel Bernhardt, Head of the SAIS project
Together with VC4A, Seedstars is helping source impactful startups that can take part in the nine-month program. The IRP includes weekly advisory and coaching sessions; access to additional service providers; integration in one of GIZ-SAIS’ partner hubs; and a demo-day with investors and business partners to conclude the program in July 2021.
To qualify, interested AgriTech and FoodTech startups must fit the following criteria:
- Legal representation
- The startup must be registered and operating in at least one African country.
- The startup must have a team of at least two people.
- The management team must be highly motivated and work at the business ideally full-time.
- Digital product
- The startup needs to have a viable digital product with a clear positive impact on its users’ income.
- The product must be aligned with one of the digital technologies listed on the website.
- Access to market and traction
- The startup must have launched its digital product at least six months ago and provide evidence of good traction as well as existing processes that need to be performed.
- Business model
- The startup should have an easily understandable and very convincing business model (clear problem statement, clear digital solution, clear customer segment and clear revenue streams).
- Customer data
- The startup should have access to customer data via its digital solution (number of customers and gender); if this is not the case, building customer databases will be one of the first development measures if the startup is selected for the IRP.
- Level of innovation
- Innovative and disruptive solutions will be regarded as an asset. Solutions that help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 will be taken into special consideration
Apply to the Online Seedstars World Competition 2020/21 and compete to be one of the 10 startups selected for a USD 50K growth program investment with a Global Winner getting up to USD 500K in investment.