Call for Contributions to the 2015 Symposium


Minneapolis-Saint Paul, USA | June 14-18, 2015

Innovation, Talent, and Technology in the 21st Century of Agribusiness


The International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) invites submissions for participation in the 25th Annual World Symposium to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, June 15-16, 2015. The Symposium features:

  • research presented as papers,
  • research presented as posters, and
  • teaching cases

Research paper presentations can be based on research findings, research case studies, executive interviews, or in-depth perspectives on conceptual frameworks for analysis. Each presenter is given 20 minutes within a presentation session. Sessions are guided by a Moderator.

Complete manuscripts associated with paper presentations may be entered into the Best Paper competition. These manuscripts will undergo a comprehensive, double-blind, peer review overseen by the editors of the International Food & Agribusiness Management Review. For more information see 2015 Best Paper Competition.

Poster presentations will be displayed by theme facilitating interaction between authors and interested symposium participants. Poster display space will be provided in a prominent location during the Symposium and Forum and highlighted during a research poster luncheon. Posters are also eligible for competitive awards including best research presented as a poster, best student research poster, and best research poster focused on the conference theme or a Hot Topic listed below.

Teaching cases should be directed to a broad audience of professionals interested in developing effective agribusiness cases and using them as learning tools, as well as those interested in the specific case topics being discussed. The Symposium will showcase up to four cases that utilize the Harvard -Style teaching case method. Sessions including teaching cases are meant to increase symposium participants’ interest in writing cases and using case studies. For additional information see Call for Harvard Style Teaching Cases.

HOT TOPICS in 2015

The IFAMA Symposium seeks proposals addressing the following topics:

  1. The Role of Technology in Food Security. A lack of clear policies limits the adoption of new technology. For example a lack of scientific based regulatory policies inhibit growth in many developing countries; the US has not kept pace with world growth in marine aquaculture due to the lack of policy and regulatory framework; a lack of investment in agricultural development and rural infrastructure inhibits a farmer’s ability to get harvest and livestock to markets . (See also- The Role of Technology in Agriculture).
  2. Agribusiness Education in the 21st Century: The role of technology in agriculture is changing rapidly—from agronomy to Big Data. Many issues exist around the supply chain. A broader education and talent pool is needed. Should industry play a role in education? How are universities worldwide preparing students to fill the gap?
  3. Entrepreneurship in Agricultural Innovation: Financing and Mentoring. What makes a successful team and how is agricultural innovation different from other entrepreneurial innovation? What activities enhance the probability of success? Are hard or soft investment models more effective? How can incentives and innovation prizes be used?
  4. Food Loss and Waste: The FAO estimates about one third of all food produced for human consumption is thrown away or lost worldwide –approximately 1.3 billion tons per year. Yet, one out of eight people worldwide are starving. Less than one fourth of the food currently lost worldwide would suffice to feed these human beings. Initiatives cover a wide range of sectors – private businesses, universities, and nonprofit organizations – and illustrate the extent to which collaboration is the key to change.
  5. Climate Smart Agriculture. To ensure a food-secure future, farming must become climate resilient. Around the world, governments and communities are adopting innovations that are reducing agriculture’s climate footprint and can serve as an inspiration and model for local strategies, future policies and investments.
  6. Investing in Agribusiness. Building upon topics presented from the last several IFAMA conferences, what are the conditions for successful investments in Africa? Share other successful investment models from your home country including: China, India, South America.

Other invited research topics for the 2015 meeting include:

  • Agribusiness Firms and Value Chains
  • Development of the Food and Agribusiness Sectors
  • Talent Development and Sustainability
  • Environmental Concerns
  • Customer Orientation and Marketing
  • Commodity Price Volatility and Availability
  • Food, Health, Security and Safety Issues
  • Other Areas (Research does not fall into a category identified above)

Deadline to Submit abstracts of posters, papers and case studies: November 30, 2014.

Your acceptance letter will indicate whether the work will be included in a poster session, a paper session, or a Harvard-Style case session. If your proposal is not accepted in a paper session, you may be invited to showcase your research as a poster. Subsequent to acceptance of the abstract, completed journal quality papers will also be considered for the Best Paper Award.

Requirements for Abstracts

Selected Papers & Posters

A selected paper presentation provides the author(s) a formal opportunity to share their research results and ideas with IFAMA participants in a small group setting. The poster sessions are likewise based on substantive research. To determine the quality of the research contribution, the selection of presentations and posters will be based on peer review of an extended abstract describing the research.

Abstracts of research should be between 3 and 5 pages in length and contain:

  1. Title Page
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Objectives
  4. Procedures/methodologies/approaches
  5. Results
  6. Conclusions
  7. References, if applicable
  8. Authors’ preferences for presentation as a paper or poster.

Teaching Cases

Teaching cases are written to stimulate classroom discussion. They should be on a topic that is important to managers; be written from the perspective of a specified protagonist (manager/decision maker); have a distinct decision point; and include pertinent background information and a teaching note.

Cases discussed at the Symposium will be selected by the committee using a number of criteria, including:

  1. Case topic and relevance
  2. Quality of the case
  3. Background and objectives of the case presenter

Proposal Submission Instructions
Symposium Submission Portal

Review, Evaluation and Decisions

The Symposium Evaluation Committee consists of the Symposium Co-chair(s), the Case Conference Chair and Co-Chairs, and selected reviewers from IFAMA membership. They will review the abstracts and communicate a decision as to whether the paper, poster, or case study is accepted for presentation in Minneapolis. IFAMR editors will notify authors of being selected as a Best Paper finalist by April 15, 2015.

Questions regarding any aspect of this call can be directed to the IFAMA Business Office or to the Symposium Co-chairs:

2015 Symposium Co-Chairs:

Dr. Jay Lillywhite Dr. DeeVon Bailey
New Mexico State University, USA Utah State University, USA

Contact the co-chairs through the IFAMA Business Office
Academic Symposium E-Mail:

International Food and Agribusiness Management Association
Fax: 1(202)530-0659

David vs. Goliath – the Revolution in African farm structures

Growth Figures for Africa and the availability of arable land, water and sunlight have places the spotlight squarely on Africa for potential future agricultural production. The way to optimise agricultural production in Africa to meet growing word food demands was the topic for one of the panel discussions at the Food and Agricultural Management and CCA Agribusiness & Food World Forum Conference currently underway (15 to 19 June) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The debate was whether development should follow the current small farmer route (David), the large-scale agribusiness development route (Goliath) or perhaps a combination of the two.

Article by Louise Brodie

The panel discussion was led by Professor Ferdi Meyer, executive for the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP). The event received special presentations by:

  • Lulama Traub, Value-chain and Policy Analyst, University of Stellenbosch, Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy
  • Milu Muyange, Assistant Professor, Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University
  • Antoin Ducastel, CIRAD Research Fellow, University of Pretoria.

Africa has been estimated to have a potential 200 million hectares of arable land but more realistically this is somewhere between 80 and 160 million. The arable land is mostly in a handful of countries in Sub Saharan Africa, mainly in the DRC, Congo, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola. About two thirds of this is currently virgin forest land and this cannot be cleared without massive negative environmental impacts. Some of the land listed as arable land does not have enough water for effective farming. Land usage across the continent varies considerable according to the local resources and as a result 1% of the landmass carries 16% of the people and 20% of the land carries 67% of the population.

A study in Kenya showed that there is a trend for some smaller farmers to acquire surrounding land and consolidate their farms to be larger units, thus scaling up from small scale farmers (1-2ha) to medium (10ha) and large (30 or more ha) scale farming. Some of these are people who have inherited land from their families and others are businessmen or civil servants that have bought land.

Although there are projections about these vast resources of arable land, there are frequent and often violent conflicts between people throughout about land ownership. This is because population growth has led to the shrinking size of farms and in many cases farms have become too small to sustain families.

East Africa and then Southern Africa are the two regions on the continent most affected by large scale planned land acquisitions. Other areas of specific focus are the Nile and Niger River basins. The primary investors are mainly form western countries followed by emerging and Middle Eastern markets. The land deals propose to use the land mostly for agriculture and forestry. Although there are a significant number of land deals that are reported to be in process, a number have failed and the vast majority have been pending for many months (some for years) and have not been concluded. Of the total of 100% propose land deals during the past few years, only 1.7% of this land has been successfully bought and been developed.

As land ownership throughout much of rural Africa is fragmented into small parcels of land owned by many small farmers, acquiring portions of land large enough for development by agribusinesses is very difficult. Security of tenure is also a concern as foreign nationals and companies investing in land run the risk of losing the land due to political instability, government intervention or nationalization. Despite the issue of land ownership the trend towards the establishment of large agribusinesses is gaining momentum in some African countries such as Zambia where the government is making large uninterrupted tracts of land available for development.

One of the agricultural models that have the potential for growth and future success is the outgrower scheme. This is where small farmers are provided with the resources (seed and fertilizer) that they need and grow the product for delivery to a big agribusiness that buys their product from them. This can assist small farmers to increase both their yield and income and possibly assist them to expand their farming operations as well.

Rise of the African consumer Class – IFAMA 2014 session


From left to right: Moderator Isaac Minde and presenter David Tschirley, both professors of International Development, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, USA, Paula Disberry, Group Director, Retail Operations, Woolworths Stores, MD Ramesh, Richard Mkandawire Vice President of African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership

The rapid urbanization and change in the income and shopping patterns of consumers throughout Africa is having a profound effect on consumer choices. The rise of the African Consumer Class was therefore the topic for one of the panel discussions at the Food and Agricultural Management and CCA Agribusiness & Food World Forum Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Article by Louise Brodie

The moderator and presenter of this session were Isaac Minde and David Tschirley respectively, and both are professors of International Development, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, USA.

The panelists were:

  • Paula Disberry, Group Director, Retail Operations, Woolworths Stores
  • MD Ramesh, President and Regional Head, South East Asia, Olam International
  • Richard Mkandawire Vice President of African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership

Africa is experiencing rapid urbanization, and already more than 50% of the continent’s population live in cities. This process is driving a dietary transformation. In the city the upwardly mobile have more choices. They may choose to buy prepared or processed foods rather than prepare food from scratch, a choice also influenced by time constraints. Once people have moved off the land they are also no longer producing food for their own consumption. There is also a strong trend toward higher consumption of protein products as one of the most rapid food production and consumption increases that are currently underway throughout Africa is the expansion in milk and egg production and this will shortly be followed by the expansion in meat production.

Consumers with greater choices are also likely to change their shopping venue from traditional markets to retailers. The current rapid development of retail markets in Africa is in response to a bigger market with increased buying power. Although the transformation in the retail sector is happening rapidly, currently 90% of all food sold in Africa is still bought in traditional markets. The question arises whether the robust development of the retail sector will make the traditional African market obsolete. Projections have shown that this is not likely to be the case but that the prevalence of traditional markets will decrease from the currently handling 90% of food sold to around 65%.

The regulation of traditional markets and retailers and supply chains serving these outlets will all be influenced by government policies and the success of these developments depends heavily on how government will assist or restrict these sectors.

What has also become clear from studies in this field is that the demand for and subsequent production of processed goods is set to increase rapidly over during the forthcoming decades. Projections have shown that during the next two decades this is likely to double in rural areas and triple in urban areas. This trend is also true for the top and the bottom of the income spectrum.

The Talent Factor in Emerging Markets – IFAMA 2014 Session

Karen Kachadoorian

Moderator for the session Karen Kachadoorian, Leader, African HR Strategy Network, Mercer

Article by Louise Brodie

The Talent Factor in Emerging Markets was the topic for one of the panel discussions at the IFAMA and CCA Agribusiness & Food World Forum Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The panel consisted of top executives from large multinationals answering questions on how to find talent in emerging markets, how to retain and grow the talent within their companies and what students should do to ensure that they could qualify as the talent required for jobs in these industries.

The moderator was for the session was Karen Kachadoorian, Leader, African HR Strategy Network, Mercer.

The panel was composed of the following people:

  • Anne-Magriet Schoeman, Talent/Country Leader, Mercer South Africa
  • Raj Vardham Senior Executive from Olam International
  • Paul Lotter, Head of HR at Standard Bank
  • Thomas Herlehy, Land O’Lakes Practice Manager, Agriculture Productivity and Competitiveness
  • Bayella Thiam, Novus International Executive Manager for Africa

Challenges to finding Talent in Emerging Markets

Thomas Herlehy

Thomas Herlehy, Land O’Lakes Practice Manager, Agriculture Productivity and Competitiveness

This can be achieved through partnering with local HR companies and academic institutions as well as using the company’s own HR personnel. Finding people with the correct level of English and technical skills makes it difficult to find the right people for the job. There are very few countries in Africa where there have been surveys conducted about salary levels. One needs to be flexible with the approach as rigidly sticking to the western approach does not work. Advertising for jobs in Africa in the first world does not draw much of a response, and expats are generally very expensive to employ. Often when the level of person required is available locally they are too expensive to employ. Finding the right people for the job with a limited talent pool remains a challenge as there is often a disconnect between the profile of students available and the type of person required for the job.

The legal restrictions to hiring employees internationally can be a problem and the laws governing work permits can vary from country to county in Africa. Labor law differs in each country. It is important to have the assistance of a good labor lawyer in each country to assist with labor lay as multinational companies could easily inadvertently transgress the labor laws of a particular country.

Bayella Thiam

Bayella Thiam, Novus International Executive Manager for Africa

Often the students that apply have very good qualifications but have not had any opportunity for practical experience. The need to have this experience when appointing them is imperative and they need this experience in order to function properly in the workplace. This is why the recent establishment of graduate school programs are so important in the African context. Growth and career development are very important to industry and companies need to identify top talent and invest in them. It is clear for employer and employee to know what to expect. Line managers don’t always drive this and if this was managed better, performance would be better.

It is very difficult to determine what the opposition is paying and how to pitch salaries. There is often an expectation to be paid in US Dollars. Exchange rates can be difficult if the person employed is from another country and their income is depreciating. This hidden benefit that is sometimes expected of companies can be an unpleasant surprise.

Challenges to retaining talent in Emerging Markets

Employers need to allow people to work in a safe and trusting environment so that they can learn by their mistakes and also help others to learn by their mistakes. Accountability is important as well as performance evaluation and rewarding people accordingly. In Africa it does not work to treat employees with the big brother attitude. Listen to people and talk to them. Introduce technology and allow people to work in teams. Fit into the social fabric. For instance when it comes to family funerals and weddings recognize that there is a cultural difference in Africa. Regional differences and inter-country friction can be problems and tribalism and ethnicity are difficult to manage. It is also important to localize employment. Expats can help set up a company initially but over time it is important to hire local talent. Cross pollination is good for moral in a multinational company, and this can be achieved by sending employees from one country to spend time in the company office in another country. Resolving local issues must happen at local level and not at head office.

Advice to students as prospective job applicants

Find something that you are passionate about and follow that as a career path. Working is tough and often there are frustrations, so make sure you enjoy the environment in which you work. Agricultural students should be happy to work in the field as that is what agriculture is about. Too many of them want to sit in an office job. The bottom line about agriculture is it is about growing food to feed people. Also students should be careful not to become overqualified as they might not find a job. Qualifications are important but in the agricultural industry people need to be practical and street wise in order to get the job done.

Be passionate, persistent and flexible. The more languages you know the more employable you are. Critical thinking is not emphasized and taught enough in educational institutions – where is the “so what” factor?

You need strong writing skills. If you cannot express yourself in writing, you will get nowhere. Learn to be a good public speaker. Toastmasters is a good organization to teach you these skills.

Don’t get into agriculture or anything by default. Follow your passion. If you have studied agriculture, practice agriculture, don’t just get stuck in a desk job.

Enabling Small Scale Farmers to Meet Modern Retail Demand

Enabling Small Farmers Panelists

Article by Louise Brodie

The increasing demands placed on farmers to provide food safe products to retailers create a considerable challenge for small-scale farmers to enter the retail market. This was the topic for one of the panel discussions at the Food and Agricultural Management and CCA Agribusiness & Food World Forum Conference currently underway (15 to 19 June) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The session was hosted by GlobalGAP, which has introduced their first country-wide program integrating small-scale farmers into national retailer supply chains. The moderator for the session was Kristian Moeller, the Managing Director of GlobalGAP.

The panelists were the following people:

  • Sue Chuzu Musunga, Marketing and Communications Manager/Director, AGCO Zambia Ltd.
  • Catherine Constantinides, Tutu Fellow, Director and Founder, Miss Earth South Africa.
  • Koos Botha, Owner, SA LivestockGAP
  • Craig Pillay, Quality Assurance Manager, Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market
  • Thozama Vokwana, Technical Manager, Pick ‘n Pay

Consumers are becoming more demanding and there is an increasing awareness about food safety. When consumers shop in a supermarket they should not have to be worried about food safety as it is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure that food safety is in place. Thus in turn it is the job of the retailer to ensure that the produce they sell is indeed safe, therefor retailers now require suppliers to comply with food safety compliance systems and good agricultural practices (GAP) such as GlobalGAP and LocalGAP to ensure food safety.

This creates a hurdle for emerging small farmers who might not be up to the standard to comply with GlobalGAP standards. To assist with this, GlobalGAP has developed a system called LocalGAP, which is a more affordable solution for these producers and provides and entry level GAP certification. This also works for the retailers as it allows them to gain access to good quality food and support emerging farmers.

The South African municipal wholesale markets see LocalGAP as a tool to promote GAP practices, support local farmers and promote access to markets. The Johannesburg market is the largest market in Africa and moves the largest volume of food daily. The market is changing and has introduced the “Project Rebirth” to assist small farmers to be able to supply markets successfully and to comply to the required regulations.

Small scale farmers have a difficult time. Large commercial farmers have continuous support and extension and it follows that small-scale also need ongoing support as well as training in technical production and IT skills as well as financial management skills.

Training for small farmers is far more effective if it is done where they are as this provides the opportunity of seeing exactly what their needs are. A good way to support the emerging farmers is to work through the country’s department of agriculture and assist with the training of the extension officers, thus training the trainers.

Systems like LocalGAP and the Johannesburg Municipal Market’s Project Rebirth hold promise in helping small-scale farmers with their market access challenges.

“AFRICA HAS REAL POTENTIAL TO FEED THE WORLD” – Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool speaking at IFAMA 2014

Article by Louise Brodie

The message sent from Ebrahim Rasool, South African Ambassador to the United States, to the Food and Agricultural Management and CCA Agribusiness & Food World Forum Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre was a message of hope. “Africa’s time has certainly come. Our Continent has long been the recipient of Food Aid from the rest of the world, and it now has the real potential to reverse this trend and feed the world.”

Steven Hayes, President and CEO of CCA Speaking at the conference Steven Hayes, President of (USA) Corporate Council on Africa, explained, “The time to transform Africa’s agriculture is now as we cannot wait. Without Africa the people of the world will not be able to survive in the future and I have no doubt that Africa has the ability and will provide global food supplies.”

Hayes added that relationships between the USA and African countries were very important and admitted that the time had come that Africa was becoming more important to the USA than the USA was to Africa. The economy of Africa is projected to grow from $313 million to $1 Trillion in the foreseeable future, and the USA has taken note of this.

Hayes also pointed out that the African Union had declared 2014 the year of agribusiness and food security. The Corporate Council on Africa is a US non-profit, membership-based organisation that promotes business and investment between the USA and the nations of Africa and is the premier American organization devoted to U.S.-Africa business relations. The CCA is the only US organization that has MOU with the African Union.

Thad Simons, IFAMA Board PresidentHe emphasised that for large-scale agricultural development to be successful the lack of capacity within African countries will need to be addressed urgently. “Private sector engagement and funding will be crucial for this to succeed and into the future academic leadership and favourable government policies will have to lead the way. Academics and government will have to engage for this vital need. The CCA believes that the rewards from development need to be inclusive. It is time to stop talking about this and act as the time for this to commence is now!”

“People feed the world and you are part of the solution,” was the main message of the address by Thad Simons, President of board of IFAMA. He explained that IFAMA was about people and about providing a forum for people across the board to enable agriculture and agribusinesses to feed the world’s population. Simons also thanked the South African organising committee and the sponsors of the conference for making the conference possible.

Carole Brookens, Managing Director of Public Capital Advisors“After 25 years of existence this conference marks the first time that the annual international IFAMA conference is being held in Africa,” explained Carole Brookins, Managing Director of Public Capital Advisors and moderator for the session. “This is a milestone and an indication of where the future of food production lies. We will need talent to make the African agricultural sector succeed. Across the globe there are 74,000 births daily and 34 million births annually so agriculture is a very sexy high-end business to be in with 7 billion people to feed!”

Western Cape Department of Agriculture Joins Hands With IFAMA to Celebrate Youth Day and Search for Talent

Western Cape Department of Agriculture and Head of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture Joyene Isaacs joins hands with IFAMA (International Food and Agricultural Management) to celebrate Youth Day and joins the cause with IFAMA in the Search for Talent in the Agricultural and Agribusiness sector

Article by Louise Brodie

On the morning of Youth Day (16 June), Joyene Isaacs, Head of Department in the Western Cape Department ofJoyene Isaacs, Western Cape Head of Dept of Agriculture Agriculture spoke to high school learners and other young prospective entrants to the agricultural sector about the prospects and career opportunities offered by the sector. This was during a session of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association Conference currently underway (15 to 19 June) at the CTICC in Cape Town.

One of the strong themes of the current IFAMA conference is The Talent Factor, and this event saw IFAMA joining with this regional partner to celebrate the next generation of agribusiness leaders. The event also received sponsorship from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. The session was attended by high school learners and featured a number of interactive activities, workshops, and dynamic young speakers working in the agricultural sector addressed the youngsters and young future farmers regarding pursuing a career in agribusiness.

Western Head of the Department of Agriculture Joyene Isaacs was one of the key-note speakers at the Conference and was introduced to the delegates by Session Moderator Carol Brookens, MD, of Public Capital Advisors (US) as “The First Lady of Agriculture in the Western Cape.” Ms. Isaacs took the opportunity to share some of her observations from the Youth Day event and to emphasise the vital role of agriculture in the future.

“The Youth Day event provided us with the opportunity to demystify agriculture and agribusinesses for the teenage learners that attended the session. It is indeed a challenge to change perceptions of 15 and 16-year-olds but we must proactively do so as we need to consider the global trend that career choices do not favour agriculture. Agriculture generally receives very little coverage in the media and it is mostly negative. Yet this is the sector that feeds and clothes us and even contributes to our feeling of wellbeing when we enjoy a glass of wine. To put it quite plainly, when we retire we will still need to be fed and clothed. Thus we need to make agriculture sexy to attract younger entrants into this sector to ensure that it has the capacity and talent to continue to provide us with those vital resources!”

“When we consider sustainable development this is often a request directed at others but we need to carefully consider how sustainable our organisations are that enable this process. We need to make sure that our own home is in order and thus we need to start investing in our youth and nurturing talent to achieve sustainable development.We need to celebrate our youth and engaging the youth of our country in this crusade to feed the world is essential for its success.”

This was indeed a very sobering call to the cause of agriculture as we would all like to continue being clothed and fed long after we have retired!”



African Agribusiness on the Move – International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) Review Special Report

IFAMA has a review publication called the International Food Moderator Aidan Connollyand Agribusiness Management Review (IFAMR), which publishes high quality contributions on topics related to the practice of management in the food and agribusiness industry. A Special Issue of the publication featuring 24 case studies on Food and Agribusiness success in Africa, African Agribusiness on the Move was compiled and published in time for the current IFAMA conference currently underway (15 to 19 June) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The Review provides managers, researchers and teachers with a forum where they can publish and acquire research results, executive interviews, case studies and industry notes that are important to the global food chain. The conference included a session during which a number of the authors of these published cases delivered presentations to showcase these successful businesses to the delegates.

The cases are widely diverse from all across the African continent and include studies of innovative businesses producing, amongst others, dried Marula fruit snacks in Botswana, shea production in Ghana, herb production in Kenya, honey production in Uganda, livestock production in Benin, Coffee production in Ethiopia and many more.

What emerged clearly from the discussions is that throughout Africa there is a new class of entrepreneurs emerging with remarkably ingenious success stories in various agricultural and agribusiness sectors. Most of these businesses have developed from entrepreneurs seeing an opportunity and pursuing it, learning by the seat of their pants in the process. An example of this is that cellular technology is being used widely throughout Africa as a medium to transfer knowledge as the cellular coverage and access to cell phones is far more comprehensive in Africa than internet access.

“Africa is experiencing a new gold rush except it is not in the mining sector it is in the Agriculture and Agribusiness sector,” remarked Aidan Connolly, Vice President of Alltech Inc. (Washington DC) and one of the editors of this publication during his introduction to the session. He added that 50% of the African Population is below 25 years old and 50% to 70% of the population rely on agriculture. Currently 6 of the 10 fastest growing countries in the World are in Africa. Viewed as a continent, Africa has the most remaining arable land of all continents.

A significant challenge that was highlighted was that Africa has a lack of human capital which is now slowly starting to be addressed. University Business Schools in Africa are a relatively new phenomenon in most of Africa so this level of business training is now becoming available. It was also emphasized that African business schools should develop their own models not follow the standard Harvard type of business school models. Academic institutions should do more to foster entrepreneurship.

For western businesses to start operations in Africa, instead of the usual “think big” mentality, they were advised and urged to start by “thinking small”. In an African context thinking small is pragmatic and will provide a platform for future growth.

Politics often have a different agenda to agriculture and agribusiness and as a result Politics often poses a threat to entrepreneurial development as over regulation stifles entrepreneurship. A realistic problem in Africa is corruption.

“For observers looking at Africa it is also important to remember that Africa is a continent with 64 countries and circumstances on the ground in various countries differ vastly,” said Mary Shelman, Director of the Harvard Agribusiness program.

“There are certainly opportunities in Africa for development, but remember, Africa is not for Sissies,” said Edward Mabaya from Cornell University and a co-author of three of the studies.

“The most important thing of our generation is to have grown up in this great African Story,” concluded Mandla Nkomo, Operations Director of Technoserv (South Africa) and co-editor of the African Agribusiness on the Move.

Global Student Case Winners Announced at IFAMA 2014

Student Case Study Winners from Purdue University

Case study winning team from Purdue University, Indiana USA: From left to right: David Boussios, Brian Bourquard, Rachel Carnegie, John Tobin and John Lai.

The winning teams in the annual IFAMA Global Student Case Competition were announced Tuesday night at an evening event which formed part of the IFAMA People Feed the World Conference currently happening (June 15 to 19) at the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC). The winning team was from Purdue University, Indiana, USA. The second, third and fourth prices went to Santa Clara University, California, USA, Wageningen University, Netherlands and Inholland University, Netherlands.

These four teams had been selected during the preliminary round earlier during the conference from 20 teams (4 to 5 students per team) from around the globe in the IFAMA Global Student Case Competition.

The competition is in its ninth year this year and teams are presented with a case for which they have to develop and present a business plan on how they intend to implement the plan. This year the theme was how to expand the market of a multinational alcoholic beverage into African markets and also to integrate local products and services into this plan and the teams were judged accordingly.

The competition offers a venue to discuss and evaluate global industry issues and demonstrate analytical and problem solving skills before a panel of industry executives.The top 150 agribusiness students are selected to take part in the competition and attend the conference. This is an elite group of international students that have chosen agriculture and agribusiness as their field of study and excelled academically. The personal exposure and networking opportunities presented by the conference will also provide invaluable experience for all students selected to attend.

IFAMA sponsors the entry fee to the conference for the students. Students were also invited to submit short (30-second) personal videos to capture the many faces, voices and languages of the World for the collection which was edited and screened at the conference. Students were asked to say “People Feed the World” in their native tongue and illustrate where they live and study and how they contribute to the global food system.

It is fitting that this is timed during the same week as South Africa’s Youth Day (16 June) as one of the main focuses of the conference is The Talent Factor. This event celebrates and showcases the talents of a select group of international students and its venue in Cape Town is significant as it sets an example to the youth of South Africa where Agriculture and Agribusiness are not the first careers of choice.

Presenter Snapshot: Roger Thurow, Senior Fellow, Global Agriculture and Food Policy of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

New Project Explores the Significance of the First 1000 Days of Life

Roger Thurow’s distinguished record of reporting for The Wall Street Journal includes insightful writings on the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela and wars in the former Yugoslavia, and global issues, large and small. Through an exhaustive and exhausting three decades as a journalist – two of them as a global correspondent – Thurow carved a distinctive global path, giving new understanding to millions of readers.

His own “awakening” however, came in a small hut in Ethiopia in 2003. There he witnessed a father and son’s very personal and poignant struggle with starvation, prompting him and a Journal colleague Scott Kilman to write a series of stories on famine in Africa. Honored by the United Nations and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, their reporting on humanitarian and development issues was widely followed and referenced. Together Thurow and Kilman authored the 2010 book ENOUGH: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.

The problem of hunger –the problem of the ages – quickly took Thurow’s heart and mind captive, ultimately prompting him to move beyond his reporter’s role. Departing WSJ in 2010, he became a Senior Fellow, Global Agriculture and Food Policy of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and in 2012, he authored The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change.

Though his reporter days are behind him, Thurow is still telling this important story to millions, finding the task of illuminating the global hunger challenge both daunting and transformative. His new “1000 Days Project” is certain to propel understanding of the hunger challenge to an even greater level. The effort includes multimedia reporting and storytelling via blog posts and video as Thurow follows small groups of women and their children in India, Uganda, Guatemala and the United States.

The goal is to illuminate the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window, from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. Ultimately, a new book will result.

IFAMA/CCA World Forum participants are anxiously anticipating Thurow’s preview of his 1000 day project. On the morning of Wednesday, June 18, Thurow will delve deeply into the human and economic dimensions of the first 1000 days and how this critical timeframe impacts lives in rich and poor countries alike. Novus’ Tricia Beal, anticipating Thurow’s presentation comments: “It will be interesting for this community, so many of whom have devoted their lives and careers to agribusiness, to hear from one who is spending so much time with his boots on the ground.”

Thurow’s presentation will also explore his understandings the economics and the politics of malnutrition and hunger. “If we want to increase a child’s chances of living a healthy and productive life, industry and academia must invest our talents and treasure in helping to ensure better nutrition in the 1,000 day window between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday,” comments IFAMA President, Thad Simons. “Some believe that this is the most impactful investment we can make to help families, communities and countries break the cycle of poverty.”

The more than 500 participants in the Forum, jointly presented by the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), represent academia, industry and government, as well as NGOs. The Forum’s theme – People Feed the World – is intended to broaden the dialogue on the critical points these colleagues share across sectors, making Thurow a timely and relevant choice for the morning keynote.

Roger Thurow graduated from the University of Iowa. He lives in Washington D.C. with his wife Anne, and their two children, Brian and Aishling.

About the 2014 Agribusiness & Food World Forum

Jointly presented by the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the 2014 Agribusiness & Food World Forum will focus on Africa as a region of limitless opportunity, where agribusiness has the potential to be the engine that drives dynamic, unprecedented economic growth and development. Hosted June 15-19, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, the overarching framework for the forum is People Feed the World. Interactive discussions and presentations will engage students, academic, government and business leaders and focus on the common and binding factor of the human talent and potential to achieve global nutritional security.


IFAMA is an international management organization based in Washington, DC, that brings together current and future business, academic, and government leaders along with other industry stakeholders to improve the strategic focus, transparency, sustainability, and responsiveness of the global food and agribusiness system. IFAMA has over 700 members in more than 50 countries, and serves as an effective worldwide networking organization, bridging the agribusiness industry, researchers, educators, government, consumer groups and non-governmental organizations.


CCA is a nonprofit, membership-based organization promoting business and investment between the United States and the nations of Africa. CCA is the premier American organization devoted to U.S.-Africa business relations and includes as members more than 160 companies, which represent nearly 85 percent of total U.S. private sector investments in Africa. CCA’s members represent a diverse pool of industries from Africa’s most promising sectors, including agribusiness, capacity building, energy, finance, health, ICT, infrastructure and security.