US Ambassador pushes IITA youth agripreneurs to create jobs for African youths


The US Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Stuart Symington, accompanied by Benjamin Williams, Political and Economic Officer from the office of the US Consulate General, paid a courtesy visit to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to meet the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) and learn about the progress of the Youth-in-Agribusiness initiatives.

IITA Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, and Deputy Director General for Partnerships for Delivery Kenton Dashiell, key IITA staff, IYA members, and delegates of the Ivorian government who are visiting IITA to learn about the Youth-in-Agribusiness program in preparation for the implementation of the ENABLE Youth program, met with the Ambassador and Williams in IITA headquarters in Ibadan.

Evelyn Ohanwusi, Interim Head, IITA Youth-in-Agribusiness Office, gave an overview and update of IITA’s youth agribusiness initiatives, especially highlighting the ENABLE-Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program. She emphasized the program’s target of raising US$12.5 billion and investing in about 32 African countries.

She said this can easily be achieved by having the right partners and investors who believe in the youths taking control of the future through their involvement in agriculture.

Ibukun Agbotoba, co-founder of Afribroiler Nigerian Ltd., one of the attendees, talked about her experiences in setting up her business.

Afribroiler is a youth agribusiness run by enthusiastic university graduates who were incubated in the IYA program and supported by the company, Stratadvance LP.

Afribroiler aims to grow a franchise network of small-scale commercial feed-to-fork broiler enterprises. Together with partners, they plan to establish a reference-farm with feed mill, breeding, incubating/hatching, growing, processing and retail/food units for research, training, and demonstration in best-fit technologies and practices suitable for youth businesses.

Ambassador Symington asked the youth a lot of questions and expressed satisfaction and excitement about their agribusiness initiatives and IITA’s transformation agenda.

He also encouraged the youth to work as a team to achieve the common goal of building successful business empires in the future.

To ensure that their agribusinesses work, Ambassador Symington motivated the youths saying, “If you want to succeed in business, you do not only have to be good, but you have to be amazing. As future leaders, do not leave anyone behind. Support each other always because it is easier to pull hundreds and thousands of people as a team into the path of enhancing and securing the economy than doing that alone.”

He also advised the agripreneurs: “One of the greatest challenges people face is that they do not know whom to trust. However, if you want to attract investors, customers, and partners, speak passionately about your product or brand, and make the interaction with your customers the most important in your life, because words translate into actions.”

Symington further emphasized that the importance of setting goals is to be aware of targets and work towards achieving them even though there are risks and uncertainties involved. “Find out what the rules are and play by the rules from the very start. Do not cheat for any reason, because if you do, you will face the consequences forever.”

The Ambassador also said that “before you think of exporting your products to other parts of the world, think of marketing them to your colleagues, classmates, friends, and family, because if you cannot sell in your territory, it will be difficult for you to sell outside your territory.”

Williams, visiting IITA for the first time, was amazed to see young and energetic youths working to make Africa a food-secure continent while expressing admiration for the work that IITA is doing especially in creating jobs for youth across Africa.

On behalf of IYA, Dare Odusanya, another youth agripreneur under the Business Incubation Platform (BIP), expressed appreciation for the Ambassador’s inspiring and motivating words saying, “We are more than grateful for your presence and we are very positive that when next we meet, we would be able to tell you our success stories.”

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