Africa should set its sights on feeding the world – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa)

Sola David-Borha is the Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank. In this article, she shares her insights on opportunities in the Agriculture industry.

Motherland Moguls, you don’t want to miss out on this one.

Africa needs to make more food

With the world population expected to swell by 2 billion people over the next three decades, Africa has an opportunity to step up and become a major global food production hub.

For the time being, Africa remains a net importer of food, despite its vast tracts of underutilized land and other enviable natural resources. Its reliance on food imports weighs on the continent’s current account and spells a missed economic opportunity.

Source: Unctad, Rabobank
With the right policies, technologies, and infrastructure in place, Africa has the potential to first meet its own food requirements, and then exceed them – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa) Click To Tweet

The agricultural sector is possibly the continent’s biggest growth lever, with a sizeable potential for much-needed job creation. This is especially poignant considering that Africa is estimated to hold about 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Of the land that is cultivated, yields remain extremely low and irrigation techniques dated.

Agribusiness is the next big hustle

The adoption of modern and innovative farming practices could spur a step-change in the output of existing and new farmlands. The Netherlands, a country that is roughly 3.4% the size of South Africa by land area, provides a good example – being the world’s second-largest exporter of food by value, despite its size, thanks to high yields.

Meanwhile, Brazil shows that it is possible for an emerging market to shift from a net importer of food to a net exporter. The South American country did so through trade liberalization and investments in agricultural research, among other initiatives.

Africa is still only scratching the surface of its potential in the agribusiness game – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa) Click To Tweet

To shift the industry onto a new trajectory, a combined effort between policymakers, financial services firms and the industry itself will be needed.

What you should be thinking about

Financial services should consider how they can facilitate the sector’s growth by providing sustainable finance solutions across the agriculture value chain.

Investments in areas such as logistics, renewable energy, warehousing, and other storage facilities, agro-processing plants, and irrigation technologies will be crucial, as will public investments in road and rail infrastructure as well as ports.

Access to markets is also an important focus area, and measures to tackle this issue will boost the entire agricultural value chain.

Policymakers can play their part by creating an enabling investment environment, as countries such as Kenya have done.

To align policies across the continent, governments should consider existing frameworks. Regulations should be aimed at striking a balance between economic growth and safeguarding Africa’s natural environment.

Encouragingly, the imminent implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will lower tariffs and promote intra-African trade in agriculture, making the continent less reliant on food imports from other regions. And through cross-border initiatives, Africa could strengthen its food export prospects.

Standard Bank is funding African Agribusinesses

African states and farming groups would also do well to adopt ‘smart farming’ concepts. Standard Bank, for instance, in partnership with technology companies, has piloted projects that use drones to monitor the health of crops, and digital technologies to monitor and regulate soil moisture in order to save water by avoiding unnecessary irrigation.

Standard Bank is also working with development finance institutions and export agencies to develop sustainable finance solutions specifically for the sector. We are funding projects that allow small-scale farmers to transform themselves into contractors that supply commercial farmers.

An opportunity for African Women

Climate change poses a serious risk to Africa’s food security – and the world’s. The effects are already being felt – Tropical Cyclone Idai caused unprecedented damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi less than a year ago, while catastrophic droughts and flooding have affected South Africa and East Africa, among other regions. Currently, the devastating locust invasion in East Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia specifically – is threatening food security in the region.

Considering that agriculture already accounts for a large portion of Africa’s GDP, the impact of climate change on the economy can be severe.

Another risk is that the expansion of Africa’s agricultural sector will place more strain on the continent’s water resources, which need to be carefully managed. The adoption of advanced irrigation techniques is a good start.

Standard Bank recently partnered with the United Nations (UN) Women on a project aimed at developing climate-smart farming techniques amongst rural women. The initiative is being rolled out in Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, and Nigeria.

While the sector’s future is not without its risks, it may well be Africa’s biggest opportunity in the coming decades. Being a major contributor to GDP and employment, the agribusiness sector is the continent’s most effective lever for achieving inclusive growth.

About Standard Bank Group

Standard Bank Group is the largest African bank by assets with a unique footprint across 20 African countries. Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, we are listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with share code SBK, and the Namibian Stock Exchange, share code SNB.  

Standard Bank has a 156-year history in South Africa and started building a franchise outside southern Africa in the early 1990s. 

Our strategic position, which enables us to connect Africa to other select emerging markets as well as pools of capital in developed markets, and our balanced portfolio of businesses, provide significant opportunities for growth.  

The group has over 53 000 employees, approximately 1 200 branches and over 9 000 ATMs on the African continent, which enable it to deliver a complete range of services across personal and business banking, corporate and investment banking and wealth management.  

Headline earnings for 2018 were R27.9 billion (about USD2.1 billion) and total assets were R2.1 trillion (about USD148 billion). Standard Bank’s market capitalisation at 31 December 2018 was R289 billion (USD20 billion). 

The group’s largest shareholder is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s largest bank, with a 20,1% shareholding. In addition, Standard Bank Group and ICBC share a strategic partnership that facilitates trade and deal flow between Africa, China and select emerging markets. 

For further information, go to  


Desire Isiguzo: School fanned my flame for farming

We do not find a lot of young people who are eager to take up farming as a career but this is what Desire Isiguzo loves to do and she’s making a business out of it.

She started growing oyster mushroom indoors which produced a good yield. After graduating from the University, she began to grow plants and study their growth behavior. Now, she has acquired plots of lands to move her business to another level.

Desire helps to strengthen the local market by purchasing crops from the women traders. She then processes it into high-quality bean flour.  

She’s now is growing her agricultural brand- D’Yucca to be one of the prominent agricultural brands in Africa meeting both local and international standards.

Farming is what I think about daily. I can't stay a day without learning something new about it - Desire Isiguzo Click To Tweet

How was growing up for you?


Growing up was everything for me, I was happy and I got all that I wanted from my family. My mom was a farmer and a civil servant.

Back then, I hated following her to the farm because I hated working in the blistering sun but I was made to follow them still. I was given seeds of corn to plant and I would dig up the soil. I was lazy about it, I felt it was stressful and it would make my hands dirty.

When I saw my seeds sprout for the first time, I was excited to see that I had created something.

When did you realize that Agriculture was something you wanted to do?


In 2010, I started out planting plantain which I did to earn some money for myself in school. Later on, it began to turn into more than just an avenue for money.

I realize that farming was something I thought about daily and I couldn’t stay a day without learning something about it.

Why did you study Plant Science and Biotechnology? Did it influence your farming business?


Initially, I wanted to study Agriculture, which did not work out. Non-traditional agriculture opened my eyes to different aspects of farming.

During our industrial training, we were taken to large farms, where we saw the practicability of what we were taught.  We were also able to practice what we saw even though we were not paid. Biotechnology teaches you how to stay in business in agriculture. I think school fanned my flame for farming.

What is the role technology plays in innovation and planting?


It solves a lot of problems. In storing cassava the conventional way, it can only last a day or two before it gets bad. But with Biotechnology, you can bury them in sawdust and sprinkle water on them and like they were never harvested, this keeps them preserved.

This is a post-harvest management technique. Other methods include seed bank preservation, which is preserving seeds by freezing. We also do seed multiplication with mushroom.

In hydroponics, you get to regulate the environment of your farm: temperature, pest, sunlight, and water thereby deciding what gets in and out of your plant. This gives you a better yield for business.


Where did your distinct brand name – D’Yucca come from?


In school, I was battling with a name for my brand. While I was thinking about it, I stumbled on a plant that is always green. I started reading about it and I found out that it is called Yucca.

This plant can survive fire, drought, and flood. Its tenacious characteristics made me name my brand after it. After my internship, I started making bean flour. I got an excellent grade for my project and begin to think that maybe this was credible and doable.

Did you experience challenges as a young Agropreneur?


Yes, I did. After my first mushroom project yielded a result, I put in all of my money into the second project and I did not harvest a thing. I made a mistake in culturing the sawdust used for growing the mushroom and all the plants died.

 It was a painful loss but I learned not to skip on my precaution process again. Capital too is a constant challenge for me.

Where did your business capital and funding come from?


My mom! She believed in me and encouraged me. A lot of people tried to discourage me when I asked for funding. They said I won’t go through with it, that I was too young and I was a girl.


Why do you choose to specialize in growing Mushroom indoors?


Growing up we would gather mushroom from fallen trees in the farm. We would cover them in cocoyam leaves. My mom had a special way of roasting it and I loved it.

Growing mushroom at home reminds me of old times and of course, gives me the chance to eat it whenever I want to. Mushroom is also very healthy and it can easily replace red meat in the diet of diabetic people.

How did you find people to support you and join your team?


Every member of our team has their strength and I leave them where they are the strongest. They are all part-time now. Everyone has been part of the process, sharing ideas and critiquing my ideas.

I also have friends who are good in business whom I seek help and advice from.

Where do you see D’Yucca in 5 years?


Our logo typifies what D’Yucca is all about. The thirteen leaves signify the various aspects we want to branch into in future. In five years we would have used up three of these leaves:  tomato production, processing, and edible oil production

For young entrepreneurs venturing into Agriculture, what do you say to them?


Start small. I already talked about my experience of losing my entire savings in a haste to do something big.

Don’t pause because consistency is key. Keep getting your hands dirty and your hard work will pay off.

When desire isn’t working, what does she do?

She’s stalking her mentor online, cooking, reading, learning a new skill or having her beauty sleep.

 Want to get featured on our Facebook page? Click here to share your story with us.

Emefa Quashie: From beauty queen to farmer and social entrepreneur

emefa quashie

Mamagah Farms is an agricultural social project run by beauty queen Emefa Quashie Click To Tweet

It’s not every day that you hear the story of a beauty queen owning a farm. But the story gets bewildering when you notice that instead of just employing people to work on the farm (like some “modern” farmers do) she goes hands in and knee deep -getting her well-manicured nails in groveling dirt as she furiously uproots and plants, as she waters and nurtures and as she satisfyingly harvests and reaps.

Meet Emefa Quashie. A present farmer, social entrepreneur and an erstwhile beauty pageant winner. When she’s not furiously uprooting and planting on her farm (Mamagah Farms), she is lost in her studies for her MBA in Marketing or running Universal ChildCare Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports needy children.

SLA contributor Emma Kwenu Smith caught up with Emefa to get some insights on how to dominate in an unpopular agriculture career for modern young women and simultaneously use it to make a social impact.

Tell us about Mamagah Farms.

Mamagah Farms is a social project that mobilizes and empowers rural women farmers to adopt modern technologies in farming. We want to commercialize agriculture in rural communities in southern Ghana. Mamagah farms was established in 2015 with the main aim of empowering women economically through commercial farming and creating support schemes. These schemes create opportunities for smallholder farmers to improve their livelihood.

Currently, we work with female smallholder farmers in rural communities within the Southern part of Ghana. Simply put: We farm, we train and we support.

There are so many avenues for social entrepreneurship -why agriculture and what was the innovative idea behind Mamagah Farms?

I was born into a farming community, and my mother was a small holder farmer so I spent a lot of my days on the farm assisting her. Unfortunately, along the line I grew up with a warped misconception about agriculture. Growing up in a rural community, I always thought farming was for the poor and uneducated -after all, many folks there turn to farming to be able to feed their families and also make an economic living.

However, over time I came to appreciate the relevance of agriculture and numerous opportunities it presents to the youth. Mamagah Farms was born out of this realization. This is why I decided to take up farming –to send a message to the young women.


Do you plan to diversify what you produce and expand to include other parts of the country? How are you preparing for this?

With over 200 acres of land in the Volta Region of Ghana, we specialize in growing and harvesting in maize and pepper. Unfortunately, and as is the same with any start-up, not having enough funds can slow down plans of scaling up. We are pitching for investors and hopefully, we would be able to work at optimum capacity, making full use of the land.

This way, we will be able to diversify our produce and grow a variety of crops to suit both local and international demands. Funding is everything especially for an entrepreneur who wants to leverage on technology to make farming simple and easier. There are plans to expand to other parts of the country and even West Africa.

Funding is everything especially for an entrepreneur who wants to leverage on technology Click To Tweet

How does your business as a social venture empower local women farmers?

Mamagah Farms is just like social entrepreneurship project. We apply business principles to solve societal problems. What we noticed is that there is potential for rural women farmers to cultivate on a bigger scale and learn the best farming methods which would ultimately impact their economic livelihood. Realizing this, we use the profit from Mamagah Farms for investments.

Apart from financially supporting these farmers to purchase inputs and commercialize their farms, we also partner with local organizations to provide training and extension sessions for these women. Most of the women who work with us are single mothers and while we want to fight poverty and promote empowerment, we want these women to have enough to afford to educate their children. An empowered woman means an empowered family and ultimately, an empowered nation.


What challenges have you faced with Mamagah Farms and its related social projects?

My biggest challenge has been reorienting the minds of the local folks. As hardworking as they are, the tradition has created a certain mindset towards change. A typical example is technology. When you suggest the use of tractors, some believe that using tractors may disturb the peace of their ancestors. With such a mindset, how can we grow?

But it is not enough to recognize a challenge and leave it there. We take the women farmers through training programs, where we address these challenges. We show them concrete examples of how farming is done in first world countries and how we can get there. Culture and tradition can have a hold on people’s mindset, and it is important to give them the needed exposure in order to disabuse this mindset.


Why should more women explore the prospects in agriculture in Ghana, and Africa?

In recent times, women are defying the odds and taking more risks in their careers. Why should agriculture and agribusinesses be any different? Can a woman not own a 10,000 acre farm and work on it herself, while managing others to work as well? Agriculture has never been and is not a reserve of men. Our natural disposition as women makes us more inclined to be the better farmers, we are nurturing and detail-oriented. This is an important quality.

There are several opportunities in agriculture we can take advantage of. From crop planting through to the distribution of produce, there are endless opportunities to explore. Food is a necessity. Africa has arable land and other resources, and there are always opportunities to meet the need for food produce.  If you get such an opportunity, why say no?

Agriculture has never been and is not a reserve of the man - Emefa Quashie founder of @MamagahFarms Click To Tweet

Aside farming, what are your other interests?

I study because I have to slay in my MBA.  Aside that, I love to visit the gym and play tennis. Having been a beauty queen myself, I enjoy beauty pageantry.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Ruramiso Mashumba: More young women should consider farming

ruramiso mashumba farm

How many young women farmers do you know? None? Say hi to Ruramiso Mashumba. Ruramiso runs a horticulture farm in Marondera, Zimbabwe where she grows crops for export to the European Union and other African countries. Her passion for farming started as a child and though Ruramiso has worked abroad she returned to Zimbabwe to work on her farm.

What’s it like to be a young woman and a farmer?

Traditionally farmers have been known to look a certain way, mainly male and above 60 years. So, being known as a young woman farmer is exciting because it changes the status quo and lets people know that, ” Yes you can do it in spite of your current situation”.

My father bought a farm when I was in form 2. He used to keep cattle. I went to Watershed college, a school which was next to our farm. Learning at Watershed school exposed me to the possibilities of agriculture. At my school agriculture was quite attractive because you would see the farmers children driving tractors and all so there was some prestige to it. Still, it wasn’t easy. I remember I used to cry a lot because of the struggle, especially the bullying from the boys but I was determined. After school, I got an amazing opportunity to work at a British company for two years then returned back to Zimbabwe to farm.

What is the most amazing thing you’ve done as a farmer?

To date my most amazing experience was being selected by AGCO Corporation to speak at their Africa summit in Berlin on the upscaling of small scale holders. After my presentation the CEO & President of AGCO gave me an award for influencing and leading women towards mechanised farming in Africa. I have since been able to mechanise my farm with their support.

IMG_0146You mentioned your big business idea is to train women in the value of agriculture. Tell us more about that.

Last year I held a farmer training at my farm where I invited the local community and stakeholders. I hope to be able to set up a centre where young people and women can learn the basics about agriculture. I believe the future of agriculture lays in the hands of those that are given custody of the land and are responsible to treat it in a way that future generations will benefit from.

For example, climate smart agriculture is something that more people should know about. Climate smart agriculture is farming in a sustainable way that makes use of efficient irrigation system and disturbs soil structure only minimally. I’d like to share my ideas with others and encourage knowledge transfer. I am also passionate about indigenous organic grains. One of the crops I grow is a rice variety called Oryza glaberrima. This rice is native to  Zimbabwe but is at risk of becoming extinct.

Why should more young women be interested in agriculture?

More women should start tapping into the vast opportunities in agriculture. Currently in Africa, 70 percent of women are players in agriculture but at primary level. Very few women actually own land and are running successful agribusiness projects. Agriculture is rewarding and it’s not just primary productions. It has many facets to it.

In Zimbabwe, there is a lot of opportunity to develop the agriculture sector. We have a lot of underutilised land. Currently we are importing a lot of agricultural produce which we could be growing ourselves. This to me shows enormous potential.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here