Agribusiness models for youth

Charles Dhewa
Agribusiness modelling is about innovation. While copying other business models is not entirely bad, originality in ideas will sustain innovations by youths. Assuming capital and other resources are available, success depends on building relationships, trust, knowledge and relevant networks. Unfortunately, because they are often new in the game, most youths have not established these critical assets. They can’t just get into a market and start successfully selling commodities without a track record. They need to build relationships with traders and other actors in the ecosystem.

eMKambo has seen many cases where following years of trust building, some farmers are now comfortable to leave their commodities with youths in the market so that youth become responsible for facilitating trade. Behind every consignment that shows up on agriculture markets such as Mbare is trust, relationships and knowledge.

SWOT Analysis for

youth interventions

eMKambo recently conducted an analysis to figure out their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) for youths. The major findings are presented in table below.

Business models informed by youths SWOT analysis

Viable business models have to be informed by this kind of SWOT analysis for youths. It is possible for youths to exploit their strengths and opportunities while turning weaknesses into strengths.

A SWOT analysis enables youths to answer questions such as: What businesses can youths build through circumventing the usual collateral requirements? How can a SWOT analysis be used to depoliticise youth programmes? Most youth business models tend to be supported by development organisations and Government departments. What is their sustainability strategy? There is need for weaning-off strategies to ensure sustainability of youth projects.

A SWOT analysis can generate action-oriented recommendations. Most SWOT analyses have to be contextualised in order to be part of baselines that inform youth interventions while addressing knowledge gaps.

Key questions include: What resources are in the community? How are they distributed and why? Finance should be the last consideration when local resources have been identified and properly mapped. Without such thorough information business models will not stand on their own legs.

Business model frameworks

The first unique business model can be built at the production level informed by economic drivers. One pre-requisite is that producers have to be organised in terms of planning, production and marketing. In supporting one such business model, eMKambo developed a knowledge sharing platform comprising a database of farmers and their profiles.

Production plans were then designed informed by the market – what to produce, when and for whom? In between production and harvesting, it is important to share knowledge and develop relationships with the market so that the market knows what volumes to expect and when in order to adjust the market’s absorptive capacity accordingly. ICTs can be used to gather insights in terms of volumes and prices. By the time you harvest, the market will have been stimulated.

The second business model can be around logistics – more like commodity broking. This model will thrive when youth have information on the production and marketing sides through cultivating relationships with both sides. Youths end up being the ones organising production from the market when they understand standards and requirements of different niche markets. This initiative can also link youth on the production side, exploiting their strengths identified through the SWOT analysis.

The third model is a market-based one where youths can locate themselves on the market and work hard to understand distribution channels.

For instance, if you locate yourself at Mbare, Masvingo, Bulawayo or Sakubva market, part of understanding customer requirements includes answering questions like: Am I going to supply restaurants, the wholesale market or vendors? Operating from the market requires some form of specialisation.

You can focus on two to three commodities such as potatoes, tomatoes and oranges. Key skills revolve around aggregation to meet the requirements of different customers in terms of grades, etc . . . You may decide to meet the requirements of low income earners, the middle class or hotels. You also have to establish strong networks with producers, transporters and end-users.

As a distribution hub, your business is about pulling and pushing commodities and this is how you can control the game to your advantage.

The fourth model can be the market holding centres youth business model. Local youths can easily build commodity holding centres from where they mobilise and push commodities into various markets.

At the holding centres, some youths can launch hay making and other livestock-related businesses. All this becomes local knowledge mobilised at the hub through which orders for commodities can be made rather than traders moving across scattered communities looking for commodities.

Why should youths traders from urban areas go into a community where there are other youth and buy commodities without local youths being involved in aggregating and moving the commodities? A community market holding centre should facilitate this process, leading to the setting up of semi-processing enterprises at local level.

Role of knowledge around

existing business models

If you are interested in production, you must have good connections at the logistics end of the business. When operating from the market, somebody has to organise commodities for you from the production side. This can happen through production, logistics and market hubs. Youth can arrange networks among themselves along the value chains.

eMKambo has observed that a market like Mbare comprises 50 percent youths and this can be a starting point for youths to build networks from the market. There are also other business models linked to male-dominated commodities while some are women-dominated for example groundnuts and marketing of peas. You can start with low hanging fruits type of businesses.

Following market trends will empower planning processes. The market is like a stock exchange which has to be closely monitored using ICTs as enablers.

Charles Dhewa is a proactive knowledge management specialist and chief executive officer of Knowledge Transfer Africa (Pvt) ( ) whose flagship eMKambo ( ) has a presence in more than 20 agricultural markets in Zimbabwe. He can be contacted on: [email protected] ; Mobile: +263 774 430 309 / 772 137 717/ 712 737 430.


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