On Wednesday, 6th of May 2020, Sahel Capital and Sahel Consulting hosted their annual Sahel Scholars Conference and the maiden edition of the Sahel Educators Conference themed “Leveraging Innovation & Technology to Enhance Food Security in Nigeria” and “Enhancing Agribusiness Research & Education in Nigeria” respectively. The Sahel Scholars Conference is a component of the Sahel Scholars Programme (SASP), an annual programme introduced by Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited and Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers Limited (both referred to as “Sahel”) in 2017 with the aim to empower outstanding Nigerian students through conferences, internship, mentorship and scholarships. This year, Sahel launched the Sahel Educators’ Conference with the aim of engaging educators across different universities in Nigeria to discuss and provide practical solutions for challenges facing agriculture research and education in Nigeria. Both events held virtually due to movement restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and brought together students and educators in the agriculture sector.
Ndidi Nwuneli, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Sahel Consulting gave the opening remarks at the Sahel Scholars’ Conference, introducing participants to the work and values of Sahel. The Keynote address was delivered by Mejury Shiri, Project Assistant at Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (ACP-EU), CTA. Mejury gave an insightful presentation on the conference theme, highlighting the state of digitalization of African Agriculture and called for youth engagement in leading the emerging technological revolution in the agriculture sector in Nigeria. The Sahel team showcased several projects and initiatives being implemented by Sahel that leverages technology and innovation, critical to exposing the student participants to ongoing efforts in the sector.
The Sahel Scholars Conference closed with an engaging panel discussion by leading professionals in the sector including Temitope Omotolani, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Crowdyvest, Ayo Arikawe, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of ThriveAgric, and Uduak Igbeka, Country Support Manager for the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN), Nigeria. The panel, moderated by Deji Adebusoye, Vice President at Sahel Capital, focused on ‘The Role of SMEs as Drivers of Innovation & Technology Adoption’ and provided insights into the opportunities available for Nigerian youth to build successful agribusinesses that leverages technology, especially in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Key highlights from the speakers included Ayo’s recommendation on tailoring ag-technologies to solve specific problems in order to remain relevant and sustainable; Temitope’s call for Nigerian youths to continuously innovate to address challenges of market access, financing and logistics in the sector; and Uduak’s advice to agripreneurs to critically assess and explore diverse funding options in their quest to innovate and scale. The Conference recorded over 500 participants from various universities across Nigeria.
Later that afternoon, Sahel hosted the maiden edition of the Sahel Educators’ Conference. Catherine Duggan, Vice Dean and Professor of Management and Political Economy at the African Leadership University School of Business (ALUSB), Rwanda, kickstarted the conference with a powerful keynote address on ‘Rethinking Agri-business Education in Nigeria’. Professor Duggan’s presentation took a bird’s eye view on the agribusiness education across Africa, bringing to the forefront, thought-provoking questions that engage educators and sector enthusiasts to change the perspective of agribusiness and tell our stories differently in Africa. The Sahel team also showcased the organizations’ efforts developing talent for the agriculture sector across different projects and initiatives that they implement.
The Sahel Educators’ Conference closed with a panel session moderated by Sahel Consulting’s Ndidi Nwuneli, engaging distinguished stakeholders in the sector including Mrs. Zubaida Abubakar, Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships, L&Z Integrated Farms, Kano; Professor Sanni Lateef, President, International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) and former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Dr. Adam Saffer, Chief of Party / Managing Director of the Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Facility, Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA); and Chike Nwagwu, Founder and CEO of Novus Agro. The panelists shared deep insights on the topic, ‘Enhancing Agribusiness Research & Education in Nigeria’, drawing from their work and experiences to provide practical recommendations on how educators can develop talent for the sector.
Key highlights from the speakers included Mrs. Zubaida Abubakar’s recommendation for Nigerian universities to incorporate up to a two-year agribusiness practical work experience as part of the curriculum; Dr. Adam Saffer’s 7-point suggestions which included changing mindsets, revising the academic curricula in universities, revamping the NYSC programme, incorporating vocational training, ensuring continuous learning for ag-SMEs, and leveraging technology; Mr. Chike Nwagwu’s remarks to educators on ensuring a balanced practical and theoretical mode of delivery of an agribusiness curriculum; and Professor Sanni’s call for stakeholders to foster private-public partnerships, encourage international collaboration and incorporate mentoring of students. The conference recorded over 100 participants from different parts of Nigeria including consultants, program officers, researchers, lecturers, post-graduate students, and deans of universities.
Sahel remains committed to supporting, empowering and inspiring both students and educators in Nigeria to champion transformation in the agriculture sector, which is critical to impacting communities and fostering growth and development in the economy.
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