By Dickson Okello and Dickson Otieno
Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa are under mounting pressure to offer relevant and transformative education that will support economic growth and impact the lives of local communities. As a change leader, Egerton University undertook a strategic intervention by developing an innovative postgraduate degree programme -Master of Science in Agrienterprise Development. The programme was based on a transformative model with the aim of providing a holistic education. Graduates would have an entrepreneurial mindset; be socially responsive by giving back to society through job creation and enterprise development; and implement ethically and value oriented business practices. Twenty one students have so far been trained through this program.
The Master of Agrienterprise Development has a unique curriculum that helps to nurture the entrepreneurial capacity of its students through hands-on experience. Its emphasis on becoming an entrepreneur and change agent in society propelled us to establish AgriFresh Supplies (www.agfreshsupplies.com), a partnership based business enterprise. The company provides fresh whole fruits, fruit salads and fruit juices. It company also runs AgriPowered entrepreneurship, an extension program that empowers university students with entrepreneurial skills and provides agricultural consultancy services including business plan development, market research and analysis, financial management, agribusiness clinics, business branding, and performance appraisal.
Just over a year old now, our business enterprise is already registering commendable progress. Our operations have yielded a profit to the tune of US$5,000 and we have been able to positively impact farmers’ lives. We have conducted agri-business clinics with six farmer groups (72 farmers) and three individual farmers. We have also conducted three trainings and five seminars for a total of 1200 participants. Although we charge participants a training fee, this has not deterred them. The high turnup demonstrates the high need among young people in Kenya to become entrepreneurs and take centre stage in job creation.
At the moment, AgriFresh Supplies operates within Egerton University Campus. We run a kiosk where products are sold to university staff, students and visitors. The kiosk also serves as a coordination point where customer needs are addressed on a timely basis. In the coming months, however, we plan to expand our operations to other locations and regions in Kenya.
This master’s program is a hotbed of skills and experience. It has changed our worldview and launched us into the entrepreneurial league. We have come to understand and appreciate that “the idea comes first, funding follows and rewards come last”. With better curricula that are innovatively delivered, a critical mass of young entrepreneurs can be nurtured in Kenya, and Africa at large, to harness the benefits from the youthful population.
We greatly appreciate the support extend to us by RUFORUM and the European Union through the EDULINK II Programme. We further wish to thank Prof. Patience Mshenga and the University of Egerton for their unwavering technical support.