July 19, 2016

The Rwanda Agri-Business Network Association kicks-off  

Agri-business Network Rwanda 2016

April 2016 saw the launch of Rwanda’s first Agri-Business Network, a forty-six strong community of business service providers. The network wants to start promoting fees for business support services, as a strategy to create competitiveness and innovation. The initiative is backed jointly by SPARK and Agri-Pro-Focus, an online network of Dutch and Rwandan agricultural businesses. Business developer Anatole Majyambere from Agri-Pro-Focus who helped organize the launch of the network told SPARK, ‘We thought that if we establish this network, the service providers can come together.’ Anatole plans to revolutionize the sector as currently governments and NGOs are providing business support services for free which is distorting the market.

Agri-business development

Encouraging support services to work more like businesses fits with SPARK’s own mission to decrease aid dependency through job creation. Recent studies conducted on business services in Rwanda have identified their poor quality and the lack of an overseeing agency responsible for qualifying, monitoring, and certifying services. This ultimately limits the growth of the Agri-Business subsector. As a consequence the business environment is very fluid, lacking quality control and standard tools.

‘Farmers are too used to having free services and an assessment by SPARK has shown that current agri-business support services (market intelligence, business linking, SME support) are not sustainable.’ says Anatole. The core of the new network is Rwanda’s business support advisers, those who provide training and coaching in agricultural management, business skills and financial literacy and who are looking to professionalise their services. As business owners they need to change the mindset of consumers to purchase their services which in turn will increase their quality and bring more value to the sector by making them more demand driven.

Demand driven

By jointly calling for a demand based approach to service provision SPARK & Agri-Pro-Focus aim to get business development practitioners and relevant government departments to discuss a new operational road map for agri-business in Rwanda. ‘There are a lot of NGOs working on improving agri-business which offer free services to farmers but when you look at the entire agricultural development you realise there is really a lot to do, but there is no clear development.’ Anatole tells us.

Most farmers want technical support to increase production such as information services and knowledge on financial products to find investment capital. Anatole wants to make agri-business support services more sustainable and varied, and has been pushing for a ministerial order which will protect the accreditation of agri-business providers.