The Mastercard Foundation and the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC), have launched a multi-year partnership to train the next generation of young leaders, and entrepreneurs in Ghana’s agriculture sector.
Dubbed Initiative for Youth in Agricultural Transformation (I.Y.A.T), the program will scale KIC’s proven transformational model and initiatives such as the AgriTech Challenge, Business Booster, and Business Incubation across the 16 regions of Ghana.
A statement issued by the Kosmos Innovation Center noted that the move will enable young entrepreneurs in the agriculture and agriculture-adjacent sectors to benefit from capacity building, access to finance, and business scaling opportunities – creating work opportunities for 163,000 young Ghanaian women and men in the process.
The four-year, $16 million program is aligned to the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works’ vision and work in Ghana, which seeks to deepen efforts in the agriculture and agriculture-adjacent sectors using a value chain market systems development approach, to create access to dignified and fulfilling work opportunities within the sector for young Ghanaians.
The program also aligns with KIC’s goal of nurturing the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small businesses, to build a healthier and more diverse economy that is fueled by local talent and innovation.
Speaking at the launch, Benjamin Gyan-Kesse, Executive Director of KIC, said: “This partnership with the Mastercard Foundation is a testament to KIC’s tangible achievements over the past six years, and a nod to the transformation we are bringing to Ghana’s agriculture sector. As an organization, we are driven by the determination to be the power behind the innovations that will shape Ghana’s agriculture sector. We want to back ideas that transform communities and we want to impact the lives of all the individuals associated with our programs. We are proud to have the Mastercard Foundation supporting our vision and helping us make a difference across the country.”
KIC has also led bold initiatives within Ghana’s agriculture sector and supported young entrepreneurs driving innovative business models within the sector. More than 100,000 farmers have been impacted by Agri-Tech and agribusinesses supported by the KIC.
The Center has now evolved into an Independent non-profit organization, able to partner with other organizations and foundations to support its work.
Board Chairman of KIC, Senior VP and Head of the Ghana Business Unit at Kosmos Energy, Joe Mensah commented: “When Kosmos Energy launched the KIC back in 2016, we knew it had the potential to make a real difference by bringing fresh talent, thinking, and energy to Ghana’s agriculture sector. Our achievements over the last several years speak for themselves: 600 young leaders trained in business and entrepreneurship; 42 promising small businesses discovered or supported; 360 jobs created; and nearly 100,000 farmers supported by our start-ups and small businesses. The KIC generates buzz in the agriculture sector, making it a more attractive career path for young people with ambition and drive.”
The nationwide expansion of the KIC’s proven and successful model will give young people closest to the problems the opportunity to drive solutions that unlock growth barriers in key agriculture value chains.
Ghana Country Head at the Mastercard Foundation, Rosy Fynn, noted that, “This multi-year partnership with the KIC reflects our optimism about Ghana’s future and is aligned to our country strategy of investing in the agriculture and agriculture-adjacent sectors to unlock work opportunities for young Ghanaian women and men, and to push for system level changes that positions Ghana as a continental demonstration of agriculture innovations that are suited to the African context. We are pleased to collaborate with the KIC, an experienced partner, to train and support the next generation of young entrepreneurs in the country’.
The KIC’s programs which will be scaled through the Initiative for Youth in Agricultural Transformation include:
• AgriTech Challenge Classic – a 7-month annual training program aimed at building the entrepreneurial mindset of students and young graduates. Over the next four years, the expanded version of the AgriTech Challenge is expected to train about 4,700 young people across Ghana through relationships with regional academic partners, such as universities and technical schools.
• AgriTech Challenge Pro – a 5-month acceleration program aimed at equipping existing early-stage teams or AgriTech start-ups with the right tools, funding, and support to bring their business ideas or products to market and prepare them to scale. The program was developed to train teams advancing from the AgriTech Challenge Classic, as well as others from the broader start-up ecosystem in Ghana.
• Incubation – the KIC Incubation is a multi-year business incubation program aimed at preparing businesses for growth, scale, and investor readiness. The incubation program involves more focused business training, specialized coaching and mentorship, networking, a physical workspace, and access to technical expertise. Six businesses will be selected annually to receive between US$10,000 and $50,000 in funding, physical office space, and continuous support from the KIC. Throughout the incubation, the KIC will invest in capacity building programs to equip entrepreneurs with specialized mentorship using local industry experts.
• Business Booster – a 5-month program that spurs the growth of existing Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in agriculture and agriculture adjacent sectors in Ghana that have demonstrated potential and are ready to scale. The Business Booster program supports improvements in structure and operations and investor readiness by facilitating business relationships, networking, mentorship, business development support, and coaching. The program’s goal is to accelerate the development of 900 MSMEs over four years.
• Blue Skies School Farm of The Year Competition – the School Farm of the Year Competition works by enabling secondary schools to compete against each other by managing and sustaining their own farms to win prizes and to be awarded the title of School Farm of the Year. This competition aims to develop the interest of young people in agriculture through practical training and exposure. The program will leverage school farms as models to teach and demonstrate innovations emerging from the KIC, while supporting the training of teachers on how to apply these solutions.