Without a doubt, pitch competitions set an exciting scene. Entrepreneurs nervously pace as expert judges whisper over a quietly babbling audience that is arguing about their favorite presenter. At the end, winners are announced, money is awarded, and the crowd is abuzz. However, pitch competitions can be more than just an interesting change of pace.
With over half of its population under 18, Malawi’s youth need sustainable employment, and they need it fast. While agriculture remains the largest employer in the country, with over 80% of the population reliant on it for their livelihood, agriculture can be an unattractive prospect for youth who associate it with back-breaking farm labor, long hours, and low profits. Agriculturally focused pitch competitions allow entrepreneurial youth to display their passion and potential for a large sector that is rife with opportunity for disruption. Big checks and immediate pay-outs cut out months of waiting over loan applications and painful bank meetings and make agriculture-related endeavors interesting and attractive to youth. Pitch competitions and other new innovative formats that interest youth could be the key to turn Malawi’s youth bulge (phenomenon where a country has an inordinate amount of youth) into a youth dividend.
At the end of 2018, members of the Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) in Malawi sought youth entrepreneurs working in existing agricultural small businesses (“agri-preneurs”) who had the passion, knowledge, and ability to grow their businesses but lacked catalytic funds. Through a careful selection process, the team chose four inspiring, young agri-preneurs to pitch at the 2018 Agricultural Transformation Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi.
As the participants began preparing their in-person pitches, the ATI media team visited each agri-preneur to interview them for a 90-second video, allowing judges and audience members alike to get a real feel for their pitches and what each individual was bringing to the table.
On December 5, 2018, the four agri-preneurs vying for prize money took the stage and pitched their business expansion ideas to a panel of three expert judges and a live audience. After all four pitches were presented, more than 100 audience members submitted their votes, the judges discussed their findings, and a first-place winner was chosen.
Without further ado, the winners of the pitch competition and their videos…
Sautso Mbdendera, Irrigation, Drainage, Water Supply Expert and Engineer, Nthanda Farms
Maness Nkhata, Managing Director, Lakeshore Agro-Processors Enterprise (LAPE)
Hastings Nhlane, Executive Director, Associated Center for Agro-based Development and Entrepreneurship Support (ACADES)
Ngabaghila Chatata, Operations Director, Thanthwe Enterprises
All four agri-preneurs received prize money for their efforts and have been encouraged to continue to develop their business plans and to apply for up to $1 million in funding through the currently active Agricultural Transformation RFP.
The ATI looks forward to continuing to support young Malawian agri-preneurs through an accelerator program that will be announced at the end of 2019. The accelerator program will organize competitions, more pitch days, and other exciting events and mentorship opportunities that will foster a cohort of passionate youth inspired to stay committed to agriculture. By supporting these youth, we will help them make agriculture profitable and more interesting, and they in turn, will create the jobs of tomorrow.
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