About thirty (30) agribusiness entrepreneurs have begun intensive training with the aim of receiving and scaling their growth in the sector through access to technical assistance, mentorship, and non-equity grants of between US$10,000 and US$50,000 under the USAID Agribusiness Incubator Activity, Lot C.
The ongoing training program is mainly intended to provide entrepreneurs, particularly those in the sector, with valuable connections that could help them access funding or form partnerships in the future. It was organized and facilitated by iCampus in partnership with the Business Start-Up Center in Monrovia and Agro Tech Liberia, among others.
During the intensive business development training, the entrepreneurs received comprehensive guidance on various aspects of running a successful agriculture business. They learned about product and services development, market identification, entrepreneurs-venture fit, agriculture value chain and team, amongst others.
Luther Jeke, Chief Executive Officer of iCampus Liberia, who spoke at the opening of the cohort one agribusiness incubator training program in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, revealed that USAID Liberia and other international partners have done several studies over the years and found out that entrepreneurship and agriculture are two areas that support the growth and development of Liberia.
“We are excited to share these snapshots that reflect these entrepreneurs’ appreciation and commitment to transforming the agricultural landscape in Liberia,” he added.
According to him, USAID is investing in the program to identify potential agricultural businesses or ideas that are around starting with small businesses within the sector.
He said the program is basically intended to engage with small and emerging agribusinesses that lack the potential to co-invest in larger grant opportunities through highly participatory workshops, technical assistance, coaching, and mentorship.
“So, this is workshop 1, and we have another one at the end of this month. We will also be looking at financial management, and there will be another one after which all the businesses will participate in a pitching competition. And so after these two workshops, we are going to do a pitch event. USAID under this project will identify ten (10) agribusinesses that they will support through the grant and of the ten businesses, five will get an amount of US$10k each; three of them will get US$25k each; and the other two businesses will get US$50k,” he said.
Jeke disclosed that the program is being co-created in collaboration with the USAID-Liberia Team and USAID Africa Trade and Investment under the Agricultural Business Incubator program managed by iCampus under Lot ‘C’ of the Incubator that focuses on five counties, namely, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Lofa, Bomi, and Grand Gedeh counties.
“We also have Lot A and Lot B. TRIBE Liberia is operating one of those lots in five counties, while Educare Liberia is also running another Lot A in five counties. That means the program covers all 15 counties in Liberia. Lot C is what we are launching here today for Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Lofa, and Grand Gedeh. So, this program, specifically the agribusiness incubator, is here for the next three years, beginning this year and ending in 2025,” Jeke maintained.
William Dennis, Chief Executive Officer of Business Start-Up Center-Monrovia, in his remarks, told the participants about the importance of the workshop.
He said, “We want to basically guide these businesses that have applied for these grants on how to utilize them. The key objective is to be able to increase production and add value, and in order to do that, they have to acquire skills and knowledge.”
Dennis reminded the participants that it was important they partake in the three workshops to be able to understand how they can look at existing ventures within the sector and beyond.
“The best 30 are now here today for the first workshop, and this training is basically trying to expose you to some key components on how to expand or scale your various enterprises, looking at one value chain, business planning, marketing, and development, which will be able to expand your ventures,” he noted.
At the same time, the participants acknowledged USAID, iCampus, and partners for their support while describing the training as critical, adding that building the capacity of agricultural businesses and young entrepreneurs would help make the country self-sufficient when it comes to food production and boost the economy.
“The workshop was important because it helped us understand, better coordinate, and build a good relationship with businesses. We want to thank the organizers for this training. We think that these opportunities are necessary for the growth of our economy,” the participants concluded.