In celebrating the success of Afribanana Products Limited (ABP), a launch of facilities constructed for the incubation programme was carried out at Mbarara in Uganda. ABP is an incubator supported under the FARA-UniBRAIN agribusiness incubation programme aimed at job and wealth creation through technology commercialization, promotion of agribusiness education and up-scaling of best practices and lessons for incubation in Africa. Afribanana Products Limited was initiated in 2012 with the consortia’s keen aim of adding value to banana and ensuring optimal returns from this wonderful crop.
UniBRAIN brings together Universities, business and research organizations to form a strategic fit that addresses challenges in the agriculture sector. ABP was formed as a result of six researchers coming together with their different technologies keen to fit into the UniBRAIN model to commercialise their inventions.
“The ABP incubator is currently commercializing over 13 technologies along the banana value chain, implementing production and marketing of over 18 products out of banana; has created over 1500 direct and indirect jobs along the banana value chain development, and is seen as a centre of excellence for incubation along the banana value chain in Uganda”.
Only few years ago, banana famously known as matoke in Uganda was just another crop known for its nutritional value when eaten boiled, mashed, fried or ripened but now, through the ABP initiative, the incubator prides itself in having nine products made from banana as a whole i.e the stem, banana fruit and by-products generated during the processing of matoke. Among the ABP products are banana juices, banana wine, vacuum sealed matoke for export, textile items and charcoal briquette among others. The event was graced by H.E Mrs Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the African Union Commissioner (AUC) for rural economy and agriculture and the Executive Director of FARA Dr Yemi Akinbamijo among other dignitaries.
In her remarks, the Chief Guest H.E Mrs Rhoda Peace Tumusiime reiterated the commitment of African Union to support agribusiness, noting that it was the only option to transform agriculture in Africa and enhance returns to farmers and value chain actors. She made reference to Agenda 2063 and noted that Africa was in the period of renaissance where it was in a growth trajectory. Job creation for young people was conspicuously singled out as a world concern and the Commissioner was full of kind words for the ABP incubator upon noting the number of jobs created and the role played in churning out young people who were job creators and not job seekers. The Commissioner further commended FARA for taking research to reality by putting in place UniBRAIN that incubates agricultural value chains that not only create jobs and wealth but also stimulate agricultural production.
Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director (FARA) on his part was elated to note the growth that had taken place within the incubator having witnessed her humble beginning in 2013 on a visit. He expressed joy being present to launch an all grown incubation hub that was now moving from rental premises to their own building. The Executive Director paid tribute to the government of Uganda for their support to agriculture and specifically noted the support of land extended to ABP and other initiatives to the incubation programme.
He assured the incubator of FARA’s commitment to continue supporting them and challenged the incubator management to ensure they were running profitably. He noted that to support more incubatees they needed to ensure some constant streams of income to manage the incubation business and its eminent precedent growth.
“The incubator has seen incubatees get nurtured to the level where they can initiate businesses and grow them. The incubator was poised to act as a common house and centre for banana value chain with training, research and production units”. – Prof Bazirake one of the directors at ABP incubator.
One of the beneficiaries of the project is Sam, a young student of Kyambogo University studying food technology. He narrated his journey of entrepreneurship as a banana juice producer and how he got interested in extraction of banana juice.
“While in my second year of study, I started using the campus laboratory to manufacture banana juice that was sold to fellow students and the university community. However with time, the laboratory became small to accommodate the level of activity I had attained. Thereafter, I moved the production to my bedroom and through mentorship from afri-banana, I developed a business plan, got certification for the product and was supported with a juice extracting machine. Besides, I was also given high level training in India on how to operate, maintain and service a banana processing machine courtesy of ABP. I started as a sole proprietor but now I am the owner and manager of the enterprise”.
Sam now employs 10 young people of which six are university graduates and rakes in an income of Ushs 500m per month. He produces 500 litres of banana juice per day and he confidently notes, that he has no desire to search for jobs but targets to have 25 employees by end of 2016.
Prof Bazirake one of the brains behind ABP technology commercialization in particular the vacuum sealed matoke dazzled the gathering when he quipped that a bunch of banana had under the value addition concept increased in value from Ushs 20,000 ($6) to Ushs 600,000 ($175). This is realized when the same bunch is used to procees banana wine as opposed to eating it as food.
The UniBRAIN facility coordinator Mr Ariho thanked all UniBRAIN partners, FARA staff and incubator managers across the continent for a job well done as evidenced by the results presented by the incubates, graduates and SMEs running businesses resulting from the incubation process. He further emphasised the need to maintain the momentum and called upon all stakeholders including the AU and AfDB to join hands with FARA UniBRAIN to scale up the model to all 54 countries in Africa if only to realize meaningful agriculture transformation. He noted that the pilot phase was coming to an end and a new vehicle had been established known as African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN) mandated to take the programme forward. Among the successes registered under the UniBRAIN model, were job creation for young people and commercialization of technologies that increased value of products. Mr Ariho promised that the AAIN would ensure that the incubators were provided with requisite technical backstopping to ensure perpetuity.
The event was well attended and attracted over 500 people in Uganda who cut across borders and a diversity of sectors. Among those present were a representation of the private sector companies, universities, farmers, government representatives, research institutions and development partners, among others, from 12 countries in Africa and beyond.