African smallholder farmers and agribusiness startups need support to build resiliency and sustainability. A small improvement to their productivity via training, mentorship, access to better inputs and markets will have a huge impact on the industry and continent development.

Africa represents some of the most dynamic markets in the world, and at a time of growth and positive changes on the continent, the potential for agrifood investment in the region is high.

However, early stage, startup businesses and the full potential of smallholders farmers on the continent are still largely untapped, while investment in global start-ups has increased drastically. African smallholder farmers and agribusiness startups need support to build resiliency and sustainability, says Ben Leyka, CEO of the Africa Agri Council (AAC).

“A small improvement to their productivity via training, mentorship, access to better inputs and markets will have a huge impact on the industry and continent development. We are seeing existing and new financial institutions and firms introducing new finance models to help smallholder farmers and agribusiness startups access loans as well as training to boost productivity. However, there is still so much that can be done,” he adds.

It is time to build resilience and sustainability for the long term, Leyka says, and the African Agri Council (AAC) has launched the Market Support Programme (MSP) to address this gap.

MSP is designed and developed to assist entrepreneurs on their journey from soil to store. The programme will target 10 million smallholder farmers and agribusiness startups in the next 10 years. Small scale farmers and early stage agribusinesses have limited access to the assets that would facilitate a shift from low-productivity subsistence farming to modern, commercial agribusiness.

“We are committed, through MSP, to provide an integrated programme that facilitates the long awaited shift,” says Leyka.

MSP analyses gaps in farming production, product development, technical and operational capabilities to establish what the market and buyers’ needs are so that interventions can be implemented to allow easier access to targeted markets.

“We address gaps such as branding, marketing and certifications which are buyers’ requirements” says Debbie Payne, director: market support at AAC.

MSP first identifies local markets closer to the farm or facility, then looks outward to national markets and exports into Africa and the rest of the world. Each market has needs which MSP experts have identified to facilitate easier access by its beneficiaries as we work on their sustainability, says Payne.

With mentoring, coaching and a three years AAC premium membership, MSP experts work with its beneficiaries and take them on a journey to sustainability along the value chain. The value chain universe covers hundreds of sub sectors serving myriad crops, livestock, processing activities, agriculture technologies (agtech) and customer needs.

MSP gives the company the tools while the entrepreneur or the farmer takes action.

MSP works along the whole value chain from the guidance of what needs to be grown according to market needs through the journey from the fields to the end user being buyers and consumers. The AAC, through MSP, is working with a network of local, regional and international buyers to understand their specific requirements regarding products, labelling, certifications etc, and use this information to guide our beneficiaries in their production processes and product development. MSP provides a new channel of demand for the programme beneficiaries and certified supply for buyers, says Leyka.

As a member of the AAC, MSP beneficiaries have access to the vast network of buyers, aggregators and investors. We encourage the combination of innovation with entrepreneurship to develop agribusinesses across the continent by increasing farmer productivity with market led value chain strategies.