5TH CURAD INNOVATION CHALLENGE, KAMPALA UGANDA

At around 1pm, few kilometers from Kampala in a small town center called Gayaza, vehicles are streaming into the Agricultural Research Center of Makerere University. An event they consider very instrumental in the empowerment of young men and women in Uganda, whose state of youth unemployment continues to increase, is taking place. The 5th CURAD Innovation challenge is about to be launched by the Minister of State for Economic Monitoring, Mr. Kasirivu Atwoki. Many organizations, state organs and private companies from all major sectors whose interests are to see a reduction in unemployment among youth will be gracing the occasion to inspire young people towards doing business under the theme “Accelerating Agribusiness Innovation Beyond Incubation“.

Since its inception CURAD has funded 130 entrepreneurs and programs and created 2300 jobs with a budget of about UGX 4.6 billion (about USD 1.3 million).

During it’s inception, the innovation challenge only dealt with young recent University graduates. However, with acquisition of new partners and funds being readily available, CURAD has expanded the program to include young people, with or without college degree. This gives the majority of Uganda youth a chance to innovate and promote their communities through sustainable entrepreneurial projects. With this expansion, the categories and prizes were raised to ensure that the benefits are well spread. The principle of operation being very simple- “Why spend more on promotion and give less to the winner?” The winner should have more. Now it is a national innovation challenge aimed at promoting agribusiness entrepreneurship across all Uganda.

One of the facilities at CURAD is the coffee roasting laboratory. With great ease, the coffee is roasted for packaging and consumption. Compared to other roasted coffee products in the market, the output here is not well refined. There is an opportunity here to be tapped into.

From left: interns, Mr Sati and Mr Tonny bocana at the Coffee roasting lab.

The facility also hosts internships as well as incubate the agripreneurs. During my visit, the interns made Coffee Rum Cake (using whisky and coffee combination), Espresso Coffee Cake (using espresso) and Cake from Ground Coffee beans (they grind coffee beans). They also make Coffee wine and its very strong. The facility is run by Mr. Bocana Tonny, one of the only 2 coffee tasting experts in Uganda.

During his speech, the CEO of CURAD acknowledged and recognized HackCamp Corp. for its role in providing opportunities for training for the winner of the 4th Innovation Challenge Ms Sharon Nazziwa. The company also provided an opportunity for him to pitch their concepts to potential investors and partners for further collaboration.

 

Summary

The Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Limited (CURAD) is a private-public partnership project funded by both the private sector and public sector to promote agribusiness entrepreneurship. Initially, they had limited their mandate to coffee, but because of tremendous success, it has been expanded to include all the agricultural sector products and services. 

CURAD Innovation Challenge is a national event that has been expanded to include even non-graduates in order to promote entrepreneurship through incubation. CURAD is mandated to provide this platform and run activities related to this. In the next few weeks, they will be doing road shows, advertisements in all media, seminars and workshops to encourage application. The selection process if very rigorous and competitive.

I believe this is a perfect avenue for Japanese companies interested in working with agripreneurs to expand their business to Uganda. I highly recommend continued relationship building and partnership with CURAD.

In the future, such a program could be expanded across East Africa, and even the continent, as one way of tapping into unknown sectors and getting innovative ideas that most often are overlooked.

Products from the Coffee roasting lab at CURAD- coffee beans and pumpkin porridge (made from coffee and pumpkins).