Publish Date: May 05, 2015
By U.S. Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi
It’s no secret that agriculture is the backbone of the Ugandan economy. Agriculture employs the vast majority of Uganda’s workforce and accounts for about half of all its exports. The incredible natural resources in this country—fertile soil, ample water, and a conducive climate—ensure that agriculture will continue to play a central role in the Ugandan economy.
In spite of these incredible natural resources, the Ugandan agricultural sector is not meeting its full potential. Yields are not what they should be, too much produce is lost to post-harvest handling, and too many Ugandans think that farming is not a real business—a sentiment that unfortunately seems to be even more prevalent among Ugandan youth. What is needed to help this sector reach its full potential? Enter the agripreneur.
What’s an agripreneur? This question was the focus of the recent “Generation Agripreneur Summit and Expo” organized by U.S. Mission Uganda and the American Chamber of Commerce. An agripreneur is someone who is committed to agriculture and recognizes it as a business with tremendous potential for innovation.
An agripreneur makes profits while contributing to social well-being and economic growth. An agripreneur sees opportunities in the agricultural sector where others see none. An agripreneur realizes that agriculture is more than just farming—it’s about finding opportunities all along the agricultural value chain—selling quality fertilizers and seeds, creating packaging for agricultural exports, devising effective marketing strategies, or building processing plants. I also hope that the term agripreneur will now be identified with young Ugandans filled with new ideas, passion, and energy for agriculture.
These aspiring agripreneurs should be encouraged by the American companies that traveled to Uganda for this event. I was pleased to welcome companies like Cornhusker Hybrids, a business working to improve corn breeding to produce higher quality and quantities of maize, or Global Industries, a firm that manufactures grain storage and handling equipment. But I was also thrilled to see companies you might not normally associate with agriculture participating in this expo—like The Bassiouni Group, a global development firm that provides trade and investment solutions, or Eject App, an IT firm that develops apps for the entertainment industry, but now hopes to create apps for Ugandan farmers.
These companies came to Uganda because they see tremendous potential—not just the potential to grow crops, but to create businesses, provide jobs for youth, and generate profit. Their role is important because the reality is that the private sector, rather than the government, will determine whether agriculture is transformed in Uganda.
Agriculture matters. It is the centerpiece of the Ugandan economy of today but also the economic backbone of the future. I hope a generation of youthful agripreneurs will help to convey this understanding. We need those young people to engage in an agricultural sector desperate for an infusion of new energy and new ideas.
I know that there is tremendous energy, enthusiasm and vision in the agriculture sector and that there are young people who are eager and determined to become agripreneurs, using new farming methods, technologies, tools, seeds, and ideas that can help us to increase yields, raise better herds, expand markets, cut losses, and transform agriculture in Uganda. If we remain bound to the same old practices, we will get the same old results.
That isn’t good enough for the needs of the Uganda of tomorrow. In fact, it isn’t good enough for the Uganda of today. It will take a generation of agripreneurs to transform the agricultural sector in Uganda, and I hope that Uganda’s youth are ready to join that generation.