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Microsoft Nigeria launches agro-tech hackathon for young entrepreneurs

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In a bid to contribute to the development of its host community and empower budding businesses, Microsoft Nigeria has launched its first Agro-Tech Hackathon for young Nigerian agricultural entrepreneurs.

The initiative, according to the company in a release on Monday, is “targeted at providing homegrown scalable platforms by Nigerian farmers and consumers, to access farm produce, as well as helping to improve digital value chain processes and reducing agricultural wastes and losses.”

“The goal of the hackathon is to develop a repository of innovative and inclusive solutions to the myriad of challenges in the agricultural sector.

“These solutions in the long run, will empower farmers economically and improve the profitability of their agri-business by facilitating easier and faster consumer access to farm produce and reduce wastage of perishable farm items,” the foremost digital company said.

The competition is open to Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 45 and the applicants must have demonstrated interest/experience in technology, agriculture and/or entrepreneurship.

The successful applicants will be divided into teams during the Hackathon stage, with each team undergoing a 4-week mentorship programme where they will be mentored by world-class agro-specialists, entrepreneurs, and training teams from Microsoft.

At the end of the competition, three teams with the most outstanding solutions will be selected for funding and technical support by Microsoft and its partners, sharing a sum of N5m with other consolation prizes and recognitions by Microsoft and their partners.

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UN signs MoU with Kenya’s Konza Technopolis

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The United Nations has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kenya’s Konza Technopolis that will provide a wide range of interrelationships with the various UN agencies domiciled in Nairobi.

Konza CEO, John Paul Okwiri, who disclosed this in a statement on Monday, said the MoU would see Konza Technopolis working together with UN-Habitat, the World Food Programme, United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), among other UN agencies.

“This MOU provides us with a collaborative platform whereby we bring our strengths and unite for a common good,” Okwiri said.

“The MoU will see Konza Technopolis partner with UN-Habitat and allow city-to-city benchmarking and learning exchanges, strengthening smart city growth including research and data sharing, implement local climate action initiatives including greening initiatives, promotion of non-motorised transport and formulation of smart city frameworks,” he added.

Also speaking on the partnership, Dr. Stephen Jackson, the Resident Coordinator for UN Kenya, said:

“Our MoU will support to explore points of synergies, and strategic partnerships in supporting Kenya and Konza Technopolis as part of Vision
2030 and UN Agenda 2030.”

Konza Technopolis, also known as the Silicon Savannah, is envisaged to be a smart city that will provide work and living space.

“The smart city spatial planning has taken into account provision of clustered industries, educational facilities, recreational parks, green spaces. It has one of the most modern waste recycling and water treatment plants,” Okwiri stated.

“The other areas of cooperation is with the UNDP whereby more than 20 innovators have received technical and financial support to achieve
commercialization and market entry, strategic partnership in the implementation of joint programs based on the Kenya Innovation Ecosystem Mapping.

“We have established the Konza Innovation Ecosystem Initiative (KIEI), which supports the creation of new enterprises, training of young innovators, and commercialization of research findings.

“To date the KIEI has supported over 100 startups and innovators, providing them with mentorship, funding, and access to market.

“We have established partnerships with over 50 institutions, such a UNDP, universities, research centers, and industry associations, to foster knowledge transfer and innovation.

“It has also facilitated the development and commercialization of over 30 innovative products and solutions, such as smart irrigation systems, e-health platforms, and
blockchain applications.

“The cooperation with UNESCO involves a tripartite Agreement together with the Chinese Association of Natural Science Museum (CANSM) which will see the development and management of Konza Natural Science Museum, resource mobilization for the development of the museum and technical advice support and capacity building and professional development programs,” he added.

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Kenya’s agri-tech startup Pula raises $20m funding for farmers’ insurance

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Kenyan agri-tech and insurance startup, Pula, has announced raising $20 million Series B funding round which will be used to help thousands of smallholder farmers in emerging markets gain access to insurance against floods, droughts, and other climate-related events.

The funding round, according to the company’s co-founder and CEO, Rose Goslinga, was led by BlueOrchard, a global impact investment manager and member of the Schroders Group, via its InsuResilience strategy, while fundraising also came from IFC and the Private Sector Window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).

“Partnering with this group of like-minded investors to boost the growth of Pula globally is a very exciting milestone in driving our triple 100 vision, through which we intend to bring insurance to 100 million smallholder farmers,” Goslinga said.

“What started nine years ago as an unconventional idea that many deemed un-scalable is now a proven solution that has solved real needs for millions of smallholder farmers across 22 countries.

“What sets Pula apart is the innovative business model, leveraging artificial intelligence, on the ground data collection mechanisms, mobile-based registration systems, remote sensing, and end-to-end automation tools.”

Co-founder of the startup which was launched in 2015, Thomas Njeru, said “Pula designs and delivers innovative agricultural insurance and digital products to help smallholder farmers endure climate risks, improve their farming practices and bolster their incomes over time.”

“Since its inception, Pula has partnered with over 70 insurance, 20 reinsurance companies, and 100 distribution partners across the globe to deliver their innovative insurance solutions,” Njeru stated.

“This has also helped develop the capacity of local insurance and reinsurance players to understand and underwrite agricultural insurance for smallholder farmers.

“Currently, Pula’s main markets span across Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and expanding our presence in Asia and Latin America. These markets are managed from Switzerland and coordinated from the Kenya service centre,” he added.

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