In observation of UN Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day, today 27 June, we highlight small businesses that are receiving African Development Bank support as they navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity and the climate crisis. MSMEs are among the hardest hit by these multiple shocks yet play a key role in building Africa’s resilience.
During the height of Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that saw Kenya’s formal employment sector workers staying at home, 31-year-old Carolyne Mukuhi Mwangi, founder of a plant seedling and nursery start-up, saw a business opportunity.
“People in formal employment were seeking ways to generate some money because they weren’t sure if they’d still have a job. People were not allowed to go anywhere or go shopping for food. They opted to grow food in their gardens. People started farming,” said Mwangi, describing the dramatic uptick in customers stocking up vegetable, herb, fruit and tree seedlings from her three business branches in Kenya.
“Despite the pandemic, we were able to increase our revenue,” the CEO of Kimplanter Seedlings and Nurseries Ltd. added.
Mwangi wants to expand her drought-resistant seedling agribusiness, which also offers climate adaptation training, agronomic support, extension services in climate-effected communities and market linkages to more than 1,200 farmers. Her business recently won a $100,000 grant in the YouthADAPT Solutions Challenge(link is external), organized by the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation(link is external). Mwangi hope this will soon bring improved irrigation systems and other innovations to its 35-member work team.
The YouthADAPT Solutions Challenge aims to strengthen inclusive growth, as well as broaden investment and economic opportunities for African youth and women. Seven of the ten YouthADAPT winners are women-led enterprises, six of those women leaders are “agripreneurs”—entrepreneurs working in the agriculture sector. All winners will receive up to $100,000 in grant financing provided by the Bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-donor Trust Fund and the Global Center on Adaptation.
“Agricultural development is a linchpin to better feed Africa and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. The YouthADAPT competition spotlights how young African women get it—they’re leading the way toward sustainable, climate-adaptable approaches to Africa’s agribusiness,” said Dr. Beth Dunford, Vice President of the Bank’s Agriculture, Human and Social Development Complex, where the Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-donor Trust Fund is housed.
In addition to the $100,000 grant, each winner qualifies for a twelve-month accelerator program that helps them grow their businesses, deepen impact and create decent jobs.
“YouthADAPT is focused more on expansion, it goes beyond training,” said winner Ifeoluwa Olatayo, about her accelerator program experience to date. Olatayo, 33, heads Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited in Nigeria, which specializes in hydroponic agriculture, which can use up to 95% less water than traditional farming.
“They want to see that we have reached a certain impact and how can we impact ten times more than what we were having before…that can only happen if there’s expansion. Expansion in terms of machineries, and in terms of infrastructure and systems,” Olatayo said, comparing YouthADAPT to other start-up competitions where her agribusiness won prizes ranging from $2,500 to $5,000.
Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited is based in Ibadan, Nigeria, and says it envisions expansion to 80 greenhouses on rooftops in 15 major cities in Nigeria in by 2025. Its use of soiless cultivation systems results in faster growth, healthier plants and bigger yields – while using less resources. Olatayo says its farms are broadening access to nutritious foods, combatting undernutrition and increase food security. »
Olatayo says Soupah Farm-en-Market hopes the accelerator program will provide the tools for a hydroponics franchising model for other countries, now that they’ll have funding.
The YouthADAPT competition is part of the YouthADAPT flagship program—a partnership between Climate Investment Funds, the African Development Bank and Global Center on Adaptation aims to accelerate climate action by empowering transformations in agribusiness, clean technology, energy access, climate resilience, and sustainable forests in developing and middle-income countries.
“Our goal is to identify, to incentivize and support the youth to tackle Africa’s huge adaptation challenges,” said African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, at the YouthADAPT competition winner announcement.
“Because of you, Africa will have a more resilient future,” Adesina added.