Youth Voices: Running a Sustainable Youth Business in Africa
Adugna Haile Wako is the CEO and Founder of Adugna Haile Business Consulting Firm and the Deputy CEO and Co-founder of Haile Wako Integrated Farm. He is also a certified business consultant, economist, entrepreneur and innovator.
Adugna is the winner of 5,000 USD in equity investment, which he was awarded during the pitching competition of the 2020 YALDA Pre i-Boot Camp Virtual Summit in November 2020. The virtual summit brought together youth, industry leaders, policy makers enabling and facilitating participants to share strategies around how young people can overcome the repercussions of COVID-19 and do their part to revitalise Africa’s growth. The International Trade Centre’s Ye! Community Team and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) sat down with Adugna to speak about all things surrounding the management of a sustainable youth business.
What sparked your idea to create Haile Wako Integrated Farm?
I was inspired to create an innovative agribusiness due to prevailing food and self-sufficiency challenges in Ethiopia. There is a huge gap between seeds demand and supply. The seeds supply accounts for < 3% annually, compared to a much higher demand coming from farmers across Ethiopia. This seeds supply shortage highly contributes to persistent food insecurity and undernourishment in the country. On average about 9 million people are suffering from food security challenges annually.
These facts initiated us to establish Haile Wako Integrated Farm in September 2016. The farm is certified in seeds production and supply for the local market in Ethiopia. The agribusiness is registered on the UN Global Market Place (UNGM) website, which has been linking seeds supply businesses with UN agencies like FAO since 2017.
Our sister company Adugna Haile Business Consulting is currently operational and has signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) working agreement with a Tunisia-based company called the United Commodities. It imports and ships agro-processing plants for Ethiopian and Djibouti-based companies.
Could you tell us more about the key role that sustainability holds within your business model? How do you work to achieve this?
More than anything, it’s crucial for us to create enabling conditions for our fellow citizens. We want to ensure sustainability by helping small-holder farmers via the outgrower scheme, and by creating opportunities for youth and women by expanding and diversifying the business to the next level.
Our sustainability philosophy is to benefit the current generation of farmers without compromising the future of other farmer generations. We have also developed an environmental policy, which is currently serving as a working document.
How does your business support the local community?
The farm is working with local farmers via the out-grower farmer scheme and via delivering technical assistance. We signed the out-grower contract agreement with 200 farmers to produce seeds. In addition, the farm now employs 20 youth on a permanent and 30 women on a casual basis. Farmers are selected for contract agreements based on their performance, good work ethics and the size of the farm area that they own.
What is your long-term vision for your business?
To diversify and to incorporate innovative business models into agro-processing activities like maize milling, tomato paste processing, feed processing and dairy processing plants. We also aim to employ even more women and youth in the future, as well as to expand our products beyond the local market and to eventually export processed foods.
How can international agencies such as the UN, help young entrepreneurs in most effective way?
The UN and other international development agencies need to play a critical role by taking into account youth entrepreneurs needs in policy and implementation initiatives with national governments. I also think that UN agencies can do their part in designing specific programmes for youth and women to bring about positive economic changes for the lives of young entrepreneurs.
What advice do you have for the aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Young entrepreneurs have a lot of untapped potential to convert problems into solutions through their drive and capabilities. I would advise all young entrepreneurs around the globe to have a vision, a great level of focus, high aspirations, and to create new innovative business ideas. Test and scale-up prototypes, develop a clear action plan and put those ideas into reality!
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 Outgrower schemes, also known as contract farming, are broadly defined as binding arrangements through which a firm ensures its supply of agricultural products by individual or groups of farmers. Read more here: https://www.oecd.org/dev/41302136.pdf