Fostering creativity to boost youth employment: The 2019 National Agribusiness Innovation Challenge

Sustainable agriculture, Labour market insertion
The agribusiness sector in Uganda remains hugely untapped and neglected despite the high unemployment rate among the youth. For this reason, Swisscontact co-hosted the 2019 National Agribusiness Innovation Challenge for a second consecutive year in partnership with the Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Ltd. (CURAD).
The challenge sought to encourage young people to take a keen interest in the agricultural sector as a source of employment and enterprise. Young people traditionally view agriculture as an unattractive, back-breaking sector that requires much manual labour with minimal returns. The challenge aimed to change this mindset and encourage competitiveness, dynamism, creativity and innovation in starting up innovative agribusiness ideas that could contribute to business growth and attract business partnerships. Most importantly, it hoped to inspire potential ideas that could be replicated by other young people or to spur them to join as investors or as a means of employment. Since its inception six years ago, the challenge has been transformative and aspirational for many youths. “Young people are at the centre of Swisscontact’s development interventions. We are focused on building and facilitating strong and sustainable partnerships between business companies and young entrepreneurs or smallholder farmers based on win-win economic benefits. Swisscontact played a major role in ensuring awareness of the challenge. We helped in publicity through sponsoring radio adverts on both rural- and urban-based stations, ensuring coverage in the local press, and supporting sensitisation meetings at the regional, district and sub-county levels,’’ remarked Mrs Tania Haidara, Country Director for Swisscontact in Uganda.
The challenge targeted women, youth, farmers, farmer organisations, student entrepreneurs and innovators with agribusiness ideas that had high potential for scaling up and the ability to impact society positively. Applications were limited to Ugandan citizens only aged between 18 and 35 years. Women and people living with disabilities were encouraged to participate. All businesses that participated had to have an annual turnover of less than CHF 5,274 (UGS 20 million) while showing great potential for growth. The judging panel received over 200 submissions for 12 categories. Edson Twinomugisha from Western Uganda emerged as the overall winner receiving CHF 1,318 (UGS 5 million) to boost his agribusiness enterprise. He pitched an ingenious idea of harvesting bee venom, a venture that has great potential commercially, but which is largely ignored by bee farmers who focus more on harvesting honey. Swisscontact hopes to continue co-hosting similar impactful challenges in future so as to create more significant opportunities and improve the lives of the youth in Uganda.