Stepping out of your comfort zone

I am sitting at one of the round table discussions at the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research and Development (GCARD3). Across from me is a middle-aged gentlemen, vibrant and bold. He’s wearing a golf tee-shirt branded ‘African Biosciences‘.

He says that, as a young Masters student in the 1990s, he tried to secure a goat genomics service for his research but couldn’t find any in the whole of Nigeria or West Africa. Twenty-four years later, Dr Ikhide Imumorin is back in Nigeria, and while he still can’t find a goat genomics service, he has a new mission: to lead a new biosciences company in Nigeria.

I think to myself, ‘I have to talk to this man, this story must be heard’, and this video interview is the result.

Dr Imumorin firmly believes that the private sector must be more involved in supporting agricultural research and development in Africa through sustainable business-based solutions. It’s an issue he has taken to heart. When he realized there was a gap for highly technical diagnostics and forensic testing in Nigeria, he was persuaded to act, setting up ‘African Biosciences’ two years ago to provide research support services to the academic, healthcare diagnostics, and forensic testing sectors. What’s more, while he could have comfortably continued to pursue his research interests and the advancement of his career at one of the top five universities in the world, he is resigning in June to take up a new role as President and CEO (as well as Chief Scientific Officer) of the company he co-founded. In doing so, he has chosen to embark on a journey that will make real difference to his home country, Nigeria.

Historically, the private sector is generally more efficient in making investment decisions, implementing viable projects and successfully establishing sustainable agribusinesses. Despite this, policy and non-policy barriers continue to undermine efforts to invest and trade in African agribusiness. “The private sector’s role could be leveraged even further through the development of enabling policies and targeted regulatory reforms to create a conducive environment for investment in African agriculture”, Dr Imumorin says. Most importantly, African governments must take responsibility in supporting, facilitating and ensuring the development and supply of public goods and services as enablers to allow business to engage in viable economic activities while contributing to sustainable agricultural development and food security.

Admittedly, African governments or the private sector will not be able to address agricultural development and food insecurity challenges on their own. They each lack the resources or incentives to fully develop the agricultural sector. What is needed are collaboration, coordination, cooperation and transparency among private, public, civil society and development partners.

One word sums up this experience for me: “INSPIRATIONAL!”. Africa is ripe with opportunity BUT it also requires business people who are not only committed to the African cause but also prepared to take the initiative – to step out of their comfort zones and face the challenge head-on.

Blogpost and video by Sandile Ngcamphalala, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – NgcamphalalaS(at)arc.agric.za

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.


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