Kone Gninlnagnon is a young entrepreneur who dreams of exporting rice from Côte d’Ivoire to the world.
But he knows the quality of the rice must be improved and tested in the domestic market first. Thus, a new business idea was born: helping to make homegrown rice more competitive. “We cannot win the loyalty of consumers with bad quality rice,” he says. His project, “Riz Ivoire,” would promote the rice that comes from the heart of Côte d’Ivoire and help deliver high-quality rice to Ivorian dining tables. He also wants to encourage other Ivorian youth to invest in “rizculture.”
Now Gninlnagnon is one step closer to achieving his dream. His project won third place in the Start-up Competition at ICI 2014, the Fourth Côte d‘Ivoire National Investment Forum that took place in the city of Abidjan in January. While the three-day event focused on investment opportunities in the country’s key sectors like agriculture, industry, and infrastructure, the spotlight of the closing ceremony fell on entrepreneurship and the youth of Côte d’Ivoire, as they are the drivers of future growth and innovation in the post-conflict country. Côte d’Ivoire aims to be an emerging market economy by 2020. In 2013, the country’s growth rate was 8.7%.
The Start-Up Competition was launched with the support of IFC’s Conflict Affected States in Africa Initiative as part of a World Bank Group effort to help foster a culture of entrepreneurship and promote economic recovery and growth in Côte d’Ivoire. Business ideas were submitted by 332 young entrepreneurs and evaluated by a selection jury made up of key players from various areas of the Ivorian economy. In the end, 10 submissions were selected for cash prizes ranging from roughly $10,000 to $40,000. The topics of the winning projects spanned everything from agribusiness and renewable energy to mobile technology and e-banking.
The business environment has improved for Ivorian entrepreneurs with the end of the country’s political crisis and the series of regulatory reforms that followed. Côte d’Ivoire has been recognized as a top reformer in the Doing Business 2014 report. Nevertheless, it is difficult for start-ups to survive in Côte d’Ivoire’s budding yet fragile conditions. During ICI 2014’s special session for young Ivorian entrepreneurs, several participants voiced the need for better government systems, training, and guidance.
“We not only need financing, but above all, coaching,” Gninlnagnon says.
Watch the video below to hear Gninlnagnon and other young Ivorian entrepreneurs talk about their aspirations for their ventures and their country.