Understanding Accelerate: The emerging multi-stakeholder platform for innovation and co-creation in agrifood!
ACCELERATE is an emerging multi-stakeholder partnership (MSP) for innovation, co-creation and enabling youth sustainable agribusinesses with a global perspective, that has rapidly gained momentum in Uganda and beyond. Originally aimed at exploring student exchange between the global North and South, we quickly realized that a much broader stakeholder engagement was needed to forge truly innovative and sustainable youth-led agribusinesses as a catalyst for the next development agenda. ACCELERATE therefore, aims at leveraging academic and research knowledge to tackle real life societal challenges through student and youth innovations in agrifood. Our founding partners span from academia, research, think tanks, umbrella organizations, business development and community initiatives and include; Makerere University, RUFORUM, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Open Impact Institute, Uganda Agribusiness Alliance (UAA), the Agripreneurship Alliance – Switzerland, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Business Development Center (BDC-Uganda) and Rural Community in Development (RUCID).
In August 2017, ACCELERATE held its inaugural workshop and innovation lab in Kampala at Makerere University and attended by nearly 150 participants, primarily young undergraduate and graduate students and emerging youth agripreneurs, looking for inspiration and tools to develop agribusinesses for gainful employment. It is needless to state that this requires a mindset change in youth, and ideally requires well-educated young people that see the enormous untapped potential in agriculture, and embrace the complexity and the need for knowledge-intensive sustainable agriculture. Sadly though, while education does provide knowledge, it does not necessarily instill entrepreneurial skills, leaving a huge potential underutilized. Thus it is not a lack of potential, it is a lack of skills and perspectives. Indeed, it is here that ACCELERATE aims to bridge the gap: providing a pipeline that develops agri-preneurial skills, provide strong inspirational role-models, access to co-creation and innovation platforms that foster participatory learning, provide line-ups with coaching trajectories, and provide seed money for startups.
While the urgency of accelerating youth in agriculture and agribusiness is evident: rampant youth unemployment, exponential population growth, increased food insecurity, an increased socio-economic divide, and the largest yield gap in Africa – these factors equally imply opportunities: yield gaps imply yield opportunities, poorly developed markets allow for new businesses to enter, youth unemployed implies a human capital to tap into, and a growing population implying a ‘demographic dividend’. ACCELERATE aims to mobilize the potential that is inherently there, and we hope to get the engagement of the key stakeholder in creating agribusinesses from the grass roots. We aim to do so by opening the horizon of youth, not only locally, but also globally. Agriculture is arguably the most global business, and accordingly, youth engaged in this sector should have a similar connectivity.
In August 2018 we will roll out the second, more extensive edition of ACCELERATE Lab, which will provide a pipeline for agri-innovations and agribusiness development, starting with young undergraduates (primarily) who have the knowledge and insights in the complexity of agroecosystems, networks, business, markets or part of this, but lack the competence or role models to engage into development of agribusiness as a sustainable gainful employment. The event will include developing agribusiness plans; participation in workshops (on business plans, skills, export and regulation, quality control, value addition, etc), and active participation in the plenary lectures and hackathon for sculpting their business ideas further, will lead to lining up of good proposals with business development platforms and with potential seed money toward the end. As we are also keen to develop the global perspectives, European agripreneurs in education and big agrifood corporations with an interest in global agribusiness will also actively participate in the event.