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ENTERPRISE: Project Incubator Award Launched with US$15,000 Prize


Recent Gauteng Business News

EMRC and the Rabobank Foundation officially launch the Project Incubator Award for the AgriBusiness Forum 2011, to be held from 16-19 October 2011 in Johannesburg South Africa, with a cash prize of US$15,000 for the winner.

Four finalists will be selected and invited to present their projects during a special session to an audience of 500 people, composed of interested partners and investors from Africa, Europe, USA, India and beyond. The US$15,000 award will be presented at the Gala Evening of the AgriBusiness Forum 2011 to the entry that promises the highest level of economic and social impact for their immediate communities.

The OECD marked Africa as the new pole for global growth and rebalancing, calling the continent ‘ready for business[i]’. There is a growing private sector with a diverse range of industrial firms—small and large—engaged in various economic activities in many countries[ii]. In this favourable climate, a cash injection can ensure business expansion. Receiving recognition by a select committee of international experts gives credibility, which in turn can initiate outside interest and investment. The key to any successful business lies in knowing your partner[iii]. This is where the Project Incubator Award is critical as it sheds light on potentially lucrative business ideas and projects.

Suzanne Belemtougri was awarded the 2011 AfDB-EMRC Project Incubator Award during the AfDB-EMRC SME Forum for her guinea fowl raising company, Sophavet. With her cash prize her ambitions have grown. “I want to install infrastructure and equipment and increase production from 102 400 to 150 000 guinea fowl. In addition, I aim to create 57 to 67 jobs during the 5-year project.”

Maria Odido, head of Bee Natural and 2010 Agribusiness Project Incubator Award winner, is extremely vocal when it comes to the importance of presenting your business to a global audience and highlights a crucial factor: time and effort. “The exposure brings with it partnerships that under normal business circles would take a year to find and discuss anything with.” She also adds, “Most SMEs are afraid to experiment, due to cost and lack of confidence. The Project Incubator Award, grants you both these things. ”

Not only was Maria Odido able to meet interested investors under one roof and over 4 days, but since her presentation at the AgriBusiness Forum in 2010 her business has taken off. “We raised our raw material purchase from 11 tons in 2010 to 80 tons this year. We have sent two of our staff to Kenya for training in queen rearing and colony multiplication. We are now introducing new products like chunk honey for an upper class market, propolis for the alternative health industry and we are rebranding our company”.

The 2009 AgriBusiness Forum winner, COOGES, the Coopérative Générale de Sepingo, a small cashew nut cooperative from Côte D’Ivoire, decided to enter the Project Incubator Award for a simple reason: “It was in line with one of our business needs – to gain industry exposure - and we knew that even if we didn’t win, the increased awareness of our business would make it worthwhile and reduce our need to advertise ourselves through other channels. Anyone from Africa that wishes to launch or improve on a project, anyone who wants to have confirmation that their business idea is viable and who wants feedback from the business community should be involved in Agri Business Forum”.

Sponsors of the award gave some clues as to what the judges will be looking for this year: “We're particularly hoping to discover cooperative projects that truly make an impact on economic development and food security at the local, national or regional levels, whereby value chain partners can be integrated.”

Project Incubator Award winners and runner-ups have all seen positive changes in their projects and businesses. In addition, as Suzanne Belemtougri clearly says, “This prize will incite the future competitiveness of women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs because my presentation set a tone and even generated enthusiasm from a large number of participants to invest better in their businesses and projects.”

Interested candidates are invited and encouraged to register for the AgriBusiness Forum and to submit their sustainable business ideas that embody the inherent entrepreneurship and innovation of the African continent.

To register for the AgriBusiness Forum 2011 please visit

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