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Giving Agribusiness a Gender Lens

On November 9th, AWARD Director Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg addressed East African innovators, investors, and key partners from the Centum Foundation, the African Development Bank, and Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund to launch Gender in Agribusiness Investments for Africa (GAIA). During the pilot of AWARD’s GAIA initiative, innovators had the opportunity to pitch their agricultural innovations or ‘AgTech’ solutions to a panel of judges and investors. Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg explains the importance of closing the gender gap across the agricultural value chain in order to achieve an inclusive prosperity for African agriculture.

What is AWARD? African Women in Agricultural Research and Development. Over the last nine years, AWARD has been focusing on building the capacities of African women scientists, and in particular trying to address the question of a leaky pipeline of African women’s leadership in research and development.

Often times we tend to think of agricultural value chains as starting at the farm or at the farm gate and market, but in reality, they start at the research stage. Even as we focus on gender in agriculture, it is very important we think of gender in agricultural research because scientists make decisions across entire value chains. I’m really thrilled that we have AWARD fellows who made it to this competition and into the group we will be listening to today.

What is GAIA, why is AWARD launching GAIA, and what do we hope to accomplish? GAIA grows out of a couple of concerns for us: one, a realisation that is backed by the data that shows simply having women scientists and empowering women scientists [in ARD institutions] doesn’t automatically translate into better results for small holder farmers, and in particular women small holder farmers. GAIA is our attempt to be more intentional in connecting the dots from what happens in research and innovation to what happens across ag value chains.

We have a couple of value propositions. What are we going to be doing with GAIA? A couple of things. The innovators in this room have been through this process. First, there is a call for applications. Second, we went through a screening process, selecting the best of those applications. All of you in this room went through a rigorous screening process—congratulations to our innovators for making it through that first cut. We set a high bar, and we’re thrilled you’re here; we’ve crossed over that high bar.

After that, there is a boot camp process that you’ve been through over the last couple of days, and then there is this: the innovator investor showcase. Beyond this, there will be continued attempts and commitment to connecting the innovators that we identify and invest in to incubators who are working on growing the kinds of businesses that you are running. With us are a number of representatives from these types of organisations.

The kinds of value propositions that GAIA brings to the table are that:

1) We recognize that the agricultural private sector needs scientists and innovators and a ready pipeline of bankable and scalable innovations to maintain a competitive edge. Often we forget that innovation is how business retain a competitive edge. We can’t just focus on a model of buying cheap and selling dear, but we actually have to bring innovation into our business models on the continent. Agribusiness is an important part of growing African wealth and driving this continent towards prosperity.

2) There is a need for gender diversity amongst those who receive agripreneurship funding. Our research shows that only one to ten percent of who receives funding are women. A big part of GAIA is focusing on women agripreneurs and making sure women have access to other up-takers and other incubators. There is a need for AgTech innovations that actually help bridge the gender gap in African agriculture. I was telling our partners this morning that the one thing that you in this room all have in common is that you have technologies that have the potential to bridge the gender gap on this continent.

Finally, we at AWARD through GAIA, hope to bring the conversation of gender and gender-responsiveness to the agribusiness sector. A lot of times investors care about gender, but don’t know quite how to integrate their concerns around gender into how they do their work. This is an opportunity to support investors and other agribusiness incubators in how they can use the gender lens to increase the efficacy of their investments.


NB: For more information about GAIA and the inaugural boot camp and investor showcase, please visit the GAIA page on our website.