November 4, 2020

Join the Rural Pathways online conference

Rural entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa are being pushed to their limits, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every corner of our world. Entrepreneurs are dealing with cross-border restrictions, fragmented markets, poor infrastructure, and they lack access to finance, internet and technology.

However, there are many promising new developments, ideas and approaches within rural entrepreneurship that are addressing these unique challenges. Innovations are happening within value chains, Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) and cooperatives; agribusinesses are moving to online marketplaces; and youth in rural areas are finding jobs in agricultural processing, healthcare and construction, instead of migrating to overpopulated urban centres.

Join the Rural Pathways online conference on Wednesday 28 October – part of the ongoing IGNITE sessions. Speakers include Gordon Kalema from the Rwandan Ministry of ICT, Michelle Rebosio from the World Bank and Mahmud Johnson, successful agri-preneur from Liberia. Rural Pathways, from 14.00 to 16.30 CET/CAT, brings together panelists from across the continent to discuss agricultural value chains, digital financial inclusion, community-driven entrepreneurship and the courage of rural entrepreneurs.

Four panel sessions

1. Agro-Value Chains Mean Business!

Rural entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa face many challenges such as infrastructure deficits and limited financing possibilities for investment. However, many rural entrepreneurs are not aware of the business opportunities within value chains. This session brings together a value chain specialist, a business leader and an EU representative to talk about new ideas and innovative approaches which explore the business opportunities in rural values chains. Liberia features as a case in this session, showcasing some of the particular challenges and solutions. How to raise more awareness about value chains? How to expand the value chain? And how to improve the access to finance?

2. New Wave: Digital Financial Inclusion

Rural entrepreneurs often remain underserved, some are even rejected to receive access to finance by banks and other traditional financial institutions. Due to high transaction costs, lack of collateral or high risk. In recent years successful business models for digital financial inclusion have emerged worldwide. The development of this innovation – mobile money – has accelerated in these times of COVID-19. Rural entrepreneurs have placed much hope in the transformative power of digital financial inclusion. Especially in those digital services provided by ICT companies, which, in contrast with traditional banks, give entrepreneurs 24/7 access to credit via smartphones and make loan repayment possible via a mobile wallet. But how to put this innovation into practice and indeed make these services available for rural entrepreneurs across (Sub-Saharan) Africa? What about collateral? Financial literacy? And risk mitigation?

3. Rural Entrepreneurship: The Way Forward

Gordon Kalema talks about rural entrepreneurship, talent, technology and digitisation. Now that COVID-19 is accelerating the digitisation of education and entrepreneurship, it is important to discuss who can benefit from these developments. In particular in the rural regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Rural entrepreneurs need to get the opportunity to be successful, they need develop new skills which fit these times, and they need receive better access to finance. In this light, Kalema will present his vision on rural entrepreneurship in SSA.

4. Community Driven Entrepreneurship

Rural entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa face challenges in obtaining finance to fund their small-scale businesses. For example, because banks aren’t willing to take the risk of granting loans to these entrepreneurs. Village Savings & Loans Associations (VSLA) provide a solution to this problem. In South Sudan, SPARK set up associations which members – small-scale farmers – each paid into a community fund. Through training and coaching, the members were taught how to manage this collective money. The loans granted to entrepreneurs to start their business generate interest, which leads the fund of the VSLA to grow. This results in a greater share of the profit for all members. In this workshop practitioners, business support specialists, rural finance and cooperative experts discuss their experiences and lessons learned using these community led financing structures as a driver for entrepreneurship. Especially in regions where financing options for rural entrepreneurs are very limited.

5. Entrepreneurial Courage

Entrepreneurs take the centre stage in this session. Many young men and women in Sub-Saharan Africa aspire to become successful entrepreneurs. But often they don’t have the basic skills to start, nor do they receive adequate support or access to finance. In many countries one could even speak of the lack of an entrepreneurial culture. Today rural entrepreneurs from Burundi and South Sudan tell stories about how they started their business, how they overcame challenges – and what in their view young entrepreneurs need to succeed. Entrepreneurship starts with the courage to make ambitions come true.