Innovator unearths Africa’s potential

For many young African innovators, agriculture is a complete no-go area with tech seemingly stealing the limelight of innovation, but Alex Muriu is bucking the trend by digging his fingers deep into the financial potential of African soil.

In May 2015, Muriu won Second Prize in the Innovation Prize for Africa (@IPAPrize) scooping US$25,000 for his ground-breaking innovation, Farm Capital Africa (FCA) that seeks to address the perennial challenge faced by African farmers in accessing capital to finance planting and harvesting.

His innovation identifies, screens and shortlists small scale farmers, helping them devise farming plans to attract potential investors who earn profits over time. This innovation provides small scale farmers an alternative from the burden of financial loans. With Africa’s economic growth inextricably linked to agriculture, providing new and flexible ways of financing agribusiness helps plug an important gap.

The IPA is a landmark initiative of the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) that mobilizes African innovators to invest in African-led solutions to ensure a sustainable, prosperous Africa. Given that the majority of African families depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, investing in this sector can be a game changer. “By providing a game-changing financing solution that doesn’t require collateral and is interest-free, we seek to trigger an industry that will fix this problem once and for all,” said Muriu.
Alex, meeting the President of Kenya

Alex, meeting the President of Kenya

Muriu said that Farm Capital Africa (FCA) is a social impact agri-investment company and was developed to channel capital to profitable and sustainable agri-ventures in Africa. “We do this by partnering with small scale farmers with great growth potential. Through our investor networks, we enable them to access funds required to scale up their agri-ventures. This is done through a profit and loss sharing arrangement between the agri-preneur, FCA and the investor,” explained Muriu.

FCA is inspired by the huge financing gaps currently being experienced by the small scale agriculture industry in Africa: “Only one per cent of the continent’s loan portfolios currently go to agriculture, according to the Mastercard Foundation. This leaves billions of dollars in unserved and untapped markets in this sector. The social impact of this gap is evident in rampant food shortages across the continent and the fact that the majority of Africans living below poverty lines are in small scale agriculture,” he said.

Muriu added that Africa needs more home-grown solutions that include pragmatic, low cost solutions to local issues: “We will not achieve prosperity by mimicking everything the developed world does; our problems are unique to Africa’s social landscape and thus African innovators need to take up the challenge and find solutions that can fix these problems on a grand scale,” he said.

Since its inaugural launch in 2011, IPA has attracted some 3000 applications from 49 African countries. Through the IPA program, the AIF is fostering the development of robust innovation ecosystems, which are essentially nests for African entrepreneurs and innovators to develop solutions for Africa’s challenges.

Chief K. Masimba Biriwasha is a tech evangelist, AfroFuturist and digital story-teller currently based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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