First Winner of the Africa Food Prize Using Award Money to Support Rural Youth

First Winner of the Africa Food Prize Using Award Money to Support Rural Youth

In his speech accepting the Africa Food Prize in 2016, Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze dedicated the Prize to Africa’s youth. “……with this prize, I pledge to continue to coach, mentor and inspire our younger generation in building a better and brighter future for this continent; our Africa,” said the then President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

True to his word, he has just set up the Facility for Youth Development (FAYODE), whose tagline is “bringing joy to rural lives”. Incidentally, FAYODE means bring joy in Yoruba, one of the many languages spoken in his home country, Nigeria.

“As the inaugural winner of the Africa Food Prize, I received US$ 100,000. I have committed this money to providing African rural youth with seed capital to enable them expand their businesses. My target is to make a transformative impact in the lives of the rural youth, even if it is only a handful of them,” said Dr. Nwanze.

While US$ 100,000 may not seem like much to finance an ambition like his, Dr. Nwanze strongly believes that the value of the money is not in the amount but in the difference it can make in people’s lives. He believes that even a dollar in the hands of a rural youth is transformative if appropriately used.

In its first few months of existence, FAYODE is already working with two youth in Nigeria. Emmanuel, a local fashion designer is one of them. He is an incredibly talented designer turning local fabric into masterpieces. FAYODE will invest a grant of up to US$ 2,500 in his business to finance the purchase of new capital equipment.

“Funds for capital equipment will not be given directly to Emmanuel. We will follow good business and administrative procurement procedures such as requiring him to obtain three quotations from which we will select the supplier with the best value for money and FAYODE will pay directly to the suppliers. . Additionally,   Emmanuel will receive 50 per cent of the money he needs to move into a new premise as a zero interest loan with a defined pay-back period” said Dr. Nwanze.

The other youth that the Facility is supporting is 31 year-old Rukayat who lives in Joga-Orile village near Abeokuta, a city in southwest Nigeria. She runs a small factory for processing yam flour, the local staple. “We are working with Rukayat to identify the level of investment needed to enable her increase the factory’s production capacity. This is work in progress but I believe that the upgrade will not require more than US$ 1,000.”

“It is important to note that FAYODE is not working in a vacuum. We are building on the work others have done. For example, Rukayat was selected in consultation with our partner, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) which had projects in her village. Our aim is to upgrade her production, expand her customer base and contribute to the sustainability of her agri-business,” added Dr. Nwanze.

Dr. Nwanze is emphatic about not seeking for external funding for his initiative at this stage. Instead, he will use the Prize money for the next 3 years as a proof of concept without worrying about constraints that come with external funding. “By the time my resources are exhausted, I hope we would have made an impact visible enough to attract other partners ,” he said.

FAYODE’s goal is to provide financial support and mentorship to rural youth; help them develop well-managed micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs); enable them become self-confident; and contribute to improved livelihoods in their families and rural communities.

About the Africa Food Prize.

The Africa Food Prize—funded by AGRA, the EcoNet Foundation, and Yara International ASA (Yara)—is the preeminent award for recognizing outstanding individuals or institutions that are leading efforts to change the reality of farming in Africa from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives. The US$100,000 prize celebrates Africans who are taking control of Africa’s agricultural agenda. It puts a bright spotlight on bold initiatives and technical innovations that can be replicated across the continent to create a new era of food security and economic opportunity for all Africans. The winners are selected by an independent panel of distinguished experts in African agriculture, chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Africa Food Prize began as the Yara Prize, established by Yara in 2005. It was moved to Africa and rechristened the Africa Food Prize in 2016.

The 2018 winner will be announced at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, 5-8 September 2018.