LUANAR Establishes an Agribusiness Innovations and Incubation Centre
The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) has established an agribusiness innovations and incubation centre. The centre is designed to train, develop and support potential entrepreneurs to set up and grow businesses in the field of Agriculture. The centre contain services for potential agribusiness entrepreneurs and existing agribusinesses to enable them to innovate, add value, increase production and access new markets.
According to the Team leader of the LUANAR Agribusiness, Innovation and Incubation Centre, in short LAIIC, Dr Sera Gondwe, the aim for establishing the incubator is to provide innovative platform where research, and innovativeness interfaces with business.
She said considering the critical role that agriculture plays in Malawi’s economy, encouraging innovative entrepreneurship in agriculture would help to commercialize the agriculture sector, which is in line with the National Agriculture Policy (NAP).
“We plan to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs and hence make starting and growing a business more attractive for young entrepreneurs. We envisage that the targeted youth, students and existing small and medium scale entrepreneurs will be the centre of a shift of Malawian agricultural competitive era,” said Dr Gondwe who is also the Head of Agribusiness Department at LUANAR.
She said LAIIC has come to build the capacity of and empower incubates to sustainably grow their agribusinesses. It will also create market linkages for incubates through strategic partnerships. “Any business that goes through proper incubation has a better chance of growing than those that do not” she added.
Complementing the Team leader, LAIIC’s team member Dr Felix Maulidi stated that although there have been steps towards developing the agribusiness sector in Malawi, access to relevant training has been limited hence the need to widen access through offering more practical oriented and open programmes to all players along a value chain.
He explained that the incubation process is organized around three stages. The first stage will be to provide theoretical training for the selected incubates. The second stage will focus on practical component of training and commencement of agribusinesses by the incubates. The final stage will be the commercialization which will involve bringing together the incubates, potential investors, potential donors, private and public organizations, agencies and institutions with the aim of linking the incubates to the wider business network.
“Innovations can be at any one of several phases: the idea phase, the research and development phase, the prototype phase, the start-up phase, the market phase, or the scale-up phase” he added.
“The incubator will involve the use of practical, proven training methodologies in supporting startups to be delivered in collaboration with other renowned stakeholders in the field. For example, LUANAR has already partnered with African Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN), and UBI Global to ensure the trainings are benchmarked worldwide. We envisage to bring more partners on board to create a multi-stakeholder driven initiative. Emphasis will also be placed on awareness of business regulatory compliance, businesses registration and intellectual property management of business, said Dr. Maulidi.
He added that as an innovation and incubation centre “we are devoted to making sure that the youths of Malawi especially those interested in agriculture are empowered to arm themselves with skills and knowledge to make significant contributions and champion Agricultural transformation in Malawi through capacity building.”
Very soon LAIIC will be placing adverts in the media for admission into the incubations programme, and also short-term retooling workshops for potential agribusiness entrepreneurs and other interested stakeholders.
Although agribusiness incubators are a relatively new approach, they have registered considerable success which can be a compelling reason to be viewed as an alternative and effective extension model for the growth and prosperity of the agricultural and rural sectors.
The incubation centre has been established with initial support from the Government of Malawi, through the Jobs for Youth project. The project is funded by the African Development Bank and the Malawi Government.