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OCP Africa, Moroccan varsity partner to boost Agritech capacity across Africa

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Capacity building for Agritech start-ups in Nigeria received a boost recently as the Impulse Start-up Accelerator programme was hosted in Lagos, Nigeria, to help start-ups in agritecth.

The programme, an initiative of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), is supported by OCP Group and its subsidiary OCP Africa and the Impulse Acceleration programme.

The partners said on Thursday in Lagos at the Impulse Accelerator Forum that the programme was to help start-ups in the fields of agritech, agricultural biotech, mining tech and materials science and nanotech.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that OCP Group, UM6P and OCP Africa have created Impulse to contribute to the development of solutions to the challenges faced by the smallholder farmer in Africa.

It is also to reinforce the innovation system of OCP Group through the creation of long term and mutually beneficial relationships with the start-up world.

On the initiative, the Programme Director, Impulse, Mr Adnane Soulimani, explained that Impulse was the first step toward the creation of a much bigger sector-agnostic accelerator called, “MassChallenge Africa’’, that would accelerate each year between 50 to 100 start-ups working on African challenges.

“Start-ups that will be selected for our programme will benefit from the mentorship of senior managers and business experts from OCP Group, one of the world’s leaders in the fields of phosphate and phosphate-based fertilizers.

“Start-ups will also have access to potential business opportunities through OCP Group, UM6P and their ecosystems,’’ Soulimani said.

One of the Speakers, Mr Ayodele Balogun, an agronomist, noted that until recently, much attention had not been paid to sustainable agriculture in Nigeria.

“Effectively, we lose FOREX because we are not able to produce enough and process enough to satisfy ourselves,’’ he said.

The OCP Country Manager, Mr Caleb Usoh highlighted the efforts of the Federal Government to harness the potential of the sector to address the trade deficit that existed in the country.

Usoh said: “OCP Africa is committed to supporting the Nigerian government’s effort towards the development of the agriculture sector.

“In 2016, OCP Africa entered into a partnership with the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FESPAN) under the `Presidential Fertilizer Initiative’, with the support of Nigeria Investment Sovereign Authority (NSIA).

“The partnership activities encompass the entire agricultural chain: creating fertilizer solutions, making fertilizers available on the local market at competitive prices, and fostering mentorship for Nigerian farmers.

“Thanks to the partnership with FESPAN, local investments in new fertilizer blending plants have grown from nine factories in 2016 to 25 factories within a span of three years creating a number of direct and indirect employment opportunities for Nigeria’s youths and reducing the prices of fertilizers for farmers.’’

A start-up specialist, Mr Dennis Goje, advised start-ups to familiarise themselves with government socio-economic policies in order to be firmly grounded in their chosen trade.

Goje said that the consistency of government policies on agriculture since 2011 had made some of the success stories we now have possible. Therefore, start-ups and commercial farmers were able to understand the direction of government in this regard.

Contributing, Mr Adunoye Olubiyi, another Agronomist acknowledged the impact of the agritech initiatives and advised farmers to be more deliberate in engaging the processes.

“One of the things we have benefited from Hello Tractor is that we have been able to scale up production without having to worry about money to make things available.

“Last year, we did some things in the range of 30 hectares in terms of production.

“However, this year, we have been able to do about 120 hectares because of the support from Hello Tractor. For next year, we are projecting 200 hectares,’’ Olubiyi said.

Participants at the forum expressed delight at the opportunity to expand their knowledge on agritecth as they called for more initiatives that would drive sustainable agriculture in Nigeria.
ITM/PDE

(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)

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