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February 21, 2023

B2B: Creating business links between agro-preneurs in South Sudan

As entrepreneur, Victoria Yatoma, mingled with fellow business owners from across South Sudan’s Yambio province during SPARK’s Business-to-Business (B2B) networking event, she began to realise the value of connecting with like-minded people.

“The importance of this event to me, as an entrepreneur, is to get access to partners who support this kind of initiative. It has also linked me with the market and created space for partnership in the business. One of the key points was unity and cooperation. As business partners, we should not operate in isolation or as enemies. We have to collaborate together so that we boost up the market for everyone.”

The B2B networking event was part of SPARK’s Food Security through Agribusiness in South Sudan (SSADP II) programme, financed by the Government of the Kingdom of Netherlands, which supports youth and women in establishing new agribusinesses or expanding existing ones so that they may become more resilient, and improve sustainable productivity.

The event brought together entrepreneurs and SMEs supported by the programme in South Sudan to showcase their agricultural products and services, boost networking and open them up to potential new markets. Vegetable farming cooperatives and farmers, seed companies, maize processing businesses, and fertiliser producers put on a colorful exhibition of their goods and equipment.

South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment, Hon. Alison Barnaba, joined the event © 2022, SPARK
South Sudanese entrepreneurs and SMEs showcase their agricultural products and services © 2022, SPARK
South Sudanese entrepreneurs and SMEs showcase their agricultural products and services © 2022, SPARK

Benjamin Ndikri Umbagbia, SPARK’s Business Support Officer based in Yambio, said: “B2B is an intervention that links businesses to businesses, training opportunities, and access to finance. A vegetable farmer can for example create linkages with an agro-inputs dealer to secure the relevant quality seeds while the agro-inputs dealer links the farmer to buyers. All this is accomplished at a very low cost but effective.”

South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment, Hon. Alison Barnaba, joined the event and during his speech expressed the importance of for entrepreneurs to make business-to-business links. He outlined that by increasing local integration and by providing access to local knowledge, SMEs can develop their economic and social impact. “These programmes will only be possible if the capacity of the small enterprises is built to meet the requirements of the larger firms,” he said.

With attendees from UN agencies and other NGOs, government stakeholders, as well as larger companies within the agriculture sector, the entrepreneurs were able to grow their networks, learn from each other’s experiences and find potential future collaboration partners to enhance their business survival and growth.

To date, SPARK and its partners, Cordaid and Rural Finance Initiative (RUFI), a local microfinance institution, have trained and coached 138 women and youth-led startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly in the agribusiness and agro-processing sectors.

Victoria Yatoma, whose business is Maize processing, was supported by the programme to launch her business: “Technically, SPARK has built me on the business skills: training on how to write a nice business plan, how to acquire the loan, install the machine, begin the production and how to repay the loan. It has also taught me marketing skills, as after the launching of my business last month, I wish to go to media, post it on Facebook and other social media for people to know.”

Victoria Yatoma: “The importance of this event to me, as an entrepreneur, is to get access to partners who support this kind of initiative" © 2022, SPARK

Of the women and youth coached, 82 have accessed loans from RUFI during the project period with some already in their loan cycle. Apart from the direct benefits of being financially included, the loans have enabled the women and youth to grow their enterprises and create jobs within the local economy while increasing food security.

Entrepreneurs describe the main shift as being informed financial decision-making. With training and orientation, they now receive loans to specifically address financial gaps within their enterprises. A saving culture has also been developed where, according to RUFI, clients now put additional cash in their savings accounts when making loan repayments. Gradually, entrepreneurs are shifting away from dependency on humanitarian aid and towards longer-term development.

Victoria advocates for the continuation of the programme as she says: “Most people did not fully understand this project at the beginning, they are now picking up as the project is coming to an end. I am arguing the partners supporting the project to extend it for some years to come.”