FAMILY STORE Produce Enterprises Participation at the AU Youth Start-Ups Exhibition in Durban, KwaZulu Natal South Africa

On the 14th of October 2021, FAMILY STORE Produce Enterprises, a youth-led social enterprise established in Northern Uganda received a letter informing the Management of the invitation to the AU Youth Start-Up Pavilion as a winner of the Global Youth Start-Up competition 2020-2021. Selected from over 5,000 applicants, FAMILY STORE Produce Enterprises was among the five youth enterprises selected to represent Uganda . This social enterprise was awarded a full sponsorship to participate physically at the Intra-Africa Trade Fair at Durban International Convention Center (ICC) from the 15-21 November 2021. In collaborations with the Africa Electronic Trade group (Africa-e-Trade Group), the 150 youth Start-Ups were convened to participate and co-exhibit their products and services at the pavilion  

The African Union Youth Start-Up Pavilion’s main objective is to accelerate the development of the start-ups and innovations for promoting value addition and industrialization and job creation on the continent. It’s main aim is to specifically connect the various innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem players, including an exhibition of innovative products and services, while collaborations with the Sokokuu online marketplace platform for products made in Africa, the African Electronic Commerce platform, while creating synergies that pave the way for African innovation ecosystem to thrive, discussions of the relevant policies and practical challenges and opportunities emerging from doing business in Africa. Consequently, charting practical solutions in collaboration with policymakers for youth access to customers (B2C) within and across borders and establishing partnerships and cooperation between Africa and other start-ups and other stakeholders, such as international organizations, incubation hubs, academia, financiers, and investors.

Indeed, among the expected outcomes of the youth program is to witness the graduation of startups into mature businesses that contribute to boosting intra-African Trade.  FAMILY STORE Produce Enterprises were able to benefit from the youth Starts-up one-week training programs that included the keynote panelists on Youth entrepreneurship and Africa’s industrial Revolution, promoting innovation in Africa through start-ups for successful implementation of the AfCFTA, digital transformation initiative for Africa, changing the narrative-youth harnessing opportunities in the agribusiness value chain, reimagining smart logistics, and fulfillment for SMEs in Africa, opportunities and challenges facing women entrepreneurs to access finance, the Mechanics of Venture investing (pre-seed, seed, Series A) and competing for scale Up Capital-How to stand out. The program also included the “meet the Leader Sessions” where influential leaders, innovators, founders’ dialogue, drawn mainly from the business arena to inspire young entrepreneurs.

Consequently, a competition was organized for youth starts-ups to showcase their innovations across the continent. The competition was of two categories; 1) an early growth stage pitching competition, and 2) start-up Hackathon program. Family store applied and was selected among the 30 enterprises to pitch. The pitching competitions had a package where the best 10 youth enterprises would be sponsored to showcase their enterprises in the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 in December 2021 in Dubai. The second competition had a prize package of best teams with hack solutions to solve real-world problems would win USD 10,000, USD 6,000, and USD 4,000 for best team, 1st runner up and the 2nd runner up respectively. These prices were awarded and the awarded starts-up shall be incubated in addition to different starts up labs across the continent. Unfortunately, FAMILY STORE Produce Enterprises did not make it in any of the group categories. This could be justified by the fact that the selection criteria were not much focused on the social impact innovation model for social entrepreneurship but rather on Fintech start-ups that are using modern technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence among others.

I feel proud with the international experience gained at the exhibition at such a high level event that convened most industrial leaders all over Africa including the diaspora lead businesses. This has provided abundant opportunities to network with the investors and venture capitalists while learning and shaping Family Store for the next steps to continue building a sustainable social enterprise impact model that creates more jobs and spurs economic growth. Consequently, FAMILY STORE was able to meet with the Jesuits Managers (JENA), a Roman Catholic religious Society established in Eastern Africa in 1986 and consists of 210 Jesuits from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. JENA also serve in Zimbabwe, West Africa, Italy, India, the United States, Great Britain, Philippians with 127 Nations covered on six continents. The Jesuits society are involved in a number of ministries including schools and universities, retreat centers, social justice, research agencies, refugee work and media institutions including committing to a global advocacy for climate justice to mission and action beyond COP26.

In collaborations with the Pan-African platform AACOSE social Entrepreneurship, Jesuits Society (JENA) is much interested in the social impact model of the FAMILY STORE Produces Enterprises Limited. To further this discussion, being the youth-led social enterprise, was able to discuss at length how to collaborate with Jesuits Society with her key partners Tangaza University College of social transformation in Kenya and Ashoka East Africa for possible project collaborations that includes Climate Smart Financing for Agribusiness projects and future funding opportunities. The enterprise business innovation model is proposed to be replicated in the six (6) countries in Africa where Jesuits (JENA) is implementing her projects. These countries include Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Sudan. The first activity taking place in November 2021 at the Annual Africa Conference on Social Entrepreneurship (AACOSE) with the theme “Scaling Social Entrepreneurship and Change-makers for Resilient, Equitable and Sustainable Systems in Africa” happening from 25-26 at Tangazi University in collaborations with Ashoka Foundation East Africa. FAMILY STORE Founder Mr. Robine Okello was invited to participate physically as one of the panelists with further discussions on how to replicate the enterprise’s social innovation model in the six mentioned countries.

In a nutshell, the enterprise has been recognized internationally as one of the social enterprises that is contributing to addressing the current global crisis that calls for innovative solutions to create a lasting impact in the communities with a focus on addressing community challenges to market access for the agricultural grains produce. This creates an opportunity for these underserved communities to make a sustainable model that makes them commercially viable in the long run. Family Store Enterprises is capitalizing on the immense innovative energy of young small-scale farmers to build a sustainable social enterprise with immediate key metrics of the social impact model and theory of change is bringing to the communities of Northern Uganda.

We would like to give special thanks to our partners, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), Gulu University, ImpactHER, and Africa Electronic Group (AeTrade) for supporting for enterprise to exhibit for the first time in such high level events and other future engagements.  

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