The Enterprise Hub at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, has intensified its efforts to drive innovations and new product development for agricultural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa through entrepreneurship.
As part of its maiden programme, it partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States, to jointly organise a five-week Global Startup Labs (GSL) 2019 Entrepreneurship Programme at WACCI from July 8- August 8, 2019.
The initiative dubbed: “Global Startup Labs (GSL) Entrepreneurship Programme” is an intensive course designed to enable students to go through the process of starting a company, be exposed to relevant entrepreneurship lessons, improve technical skills and encourage them as they develop their startups.
Out of over 100 applications received, the WACCI-MIT team selected 26 students for the programme.
The students formed six different teams, and the teams created startups that were presented and pitched to a panel of judges and potential investors from the Greater Accra Agricultural and Entrepreneurship communities.
Prizes were awarded to the best three teams and as part of the prizes, the three teams were given the opportunity to spend three months, two months and one month, respectively, at Impact Hub Accra so they could work on their ideas and be in an environment that fosters innovation.
All participants upon completion of the programme received certificates.
The first prize went to BofaPot, a Biodegradable Planting Pot team, who sought to replace the use of plastic planting pots currently used to nurse seedlings with biodegradable planting pots which are more durable, prevent losses as well as save cost and energy of re-potting.
The second prize went to AgriGrow, a quality soilless planting medium team who sought to process coconut husk waste into soilless planting medium.
The third prize went to the Asaase Solution team, who sought to solve the problem of finding land available for farming by making available well profiled and litigation free land for farmers.
The Coordinators for the programme were Dr John S. Y. Eleblu and Mrs Jennifer Saint-Acquaye, both of WACCI, Ghana, and Mr Ari Jacobovits, Mr Samir Al-Shabooti, Ms Katherine Chew, Mr Jeremy Cowham, Mr Dela Gbordzoe, Mr Kevin Shum, Ms Kiyah Willis all of MIT, US.
The judges for the competition were Mr Benjamin Asare, Vice President, Esoko Ghana, Mr Dave Emnet, Co-Founder, Oze, Mr OluDele Sonekan, Senior Associate Growth Mosaic, Founding Member Impact Investing Ghana and Mr Ato Ulzen-Appiah, Director GhanaThink Foundation.
Prof Hazel Sive, Professor of Biology, MIT, Founding Director, MIT-Africa Initiative, said MIT-Africa is an initiative that seeks mutually beneficial engagement in research, education and innovation, contributing to economic and intellectual trajectories of African countries, while advancing MIT scholarship and research.
She said the mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.
Dr Daniel K. Dzidzienyo, the Deputy Centre Leader, ACE, WACCI, who represented Prof Eric Y. Danquah, Founding Director of WACCI, said the Centre today had become a global brand attracting top tier institutions the world over for win-win collaborations aimed at enhancing food and nutrition security, job creation and poverty alleviation.
He thanked MIT for finding WACCI a worthy partner for this great initiative which is in line with WACCI’s new direction of becoming an African Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Dr Dzidzienyo urged all the participants to see themselves as winners and use the knowledge gained during the programme to become great entrepreneurs and game changers.
“You have all been equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to set-up businesses that will create jobs and stimulate growth in the economy, go and become game changers,” he said.
Mr Dela Gbordzoe, MIT Instructor, who gave an overview of the GSL programme, said participating students formed groups to develop startup ideas in an MIT- like ecosystem.
He noted that students learned about building websites using multiple coding languages; adding that students also learned how to build a start-up using the 24 steps of disciplined entrepreneurship.
Dr John S.Y. Eleblu, Coordinator of the WACCI-MIT Global Startup Lab Programme, said WACCI, a Centre of Excellence in Ag-Innovations and Entrepreneurship was working assiduously to curb youth unemployment and its myriad of challenges in the country and the sub-region.
He called on all stakeholders interested in the development of the youth to join in promoting the WACCI-MIT Global Startup Lab Entrepreneurship Programme in order to have the desired outcome of youth engagements in Ag-innovations and entrepreneurship for national development.