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“Our home base will always be Africa, but we want to start competing at an international level because we can definitely beat them on the cost side and, hopefully, someday in terms of quality as well.”
These words from Hein Duvenhage, the CEO and co-founder of Arable Grow, embody the essence of innovation and determination shared by the 32 start-ups currently engaged in the AfricArena Safarilex Bootcamp.
Taking place against the backdrop of Lake Naivasha, nestled in the north-west of Nairobi, Kenya, this two-day bootcamp serves as a precursor to AfricArena’s Nairobi Summit and the Africa Climate Tech Festival scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
Duvenhage says the bootcamp has been greatly meaningful, opening his eyes to a world of possibilities beyond the borders of Somerset-West, South Africa where Arable Grow is based. The two-year-old start-up uses “new-age solutions” like IOT automation to build and develop market specific, horticulture-backed and low-capex vertical farming technology.
The diverse and vibrant ecosystem of African start-ups, investors, and innovators at the Safarilex bootcamp ignited a spark in him, says Duvenhage.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far is that nothing valuable and significant comes quickly. My generation is very accustomed to quick satisfaction. We thought we’d make a profit after year 1, but it didn’t happen. It was a great learning experience. We hear all the stories of overnight successes, but those are not sustainable.”
Arable Grow sprouted from the collective passion of a team of young professionals, including Duvenhage, fresh out of university. Their journey began with a clear vision – to tackle some of South Africa’s food security challenges.
A life-changing experience
Amira Cheniour, the CEO and co-founder of Seabex in Tunisia, shares Duvenhage’s enthusiasm for the bootcamp. It has proven to be an invaluable experience for participants, providing training on essential skills like pitching, media relations, and investor readiness. It also includes a learning expedition to prominent Nairobi-based offices, such as GIZ, Norrsken, and E3 Capital.
“Preparing founders for the AfricArena Nairobi summit is a great idea. We will be ready to pitch to investors. Meeting in an informal way with investors is also meaningful. There is a very diverse cohort from multiple countries, and you learn from each one. Each experience is very unique and different,” says Cheniour.
This diversity, she adds, also underscores the interconnectedness between, especially, Africa and Europe, showcasing the potential for a united approach to addressing challenges and driving innovation.
Cheniour’s passion lies in connecting the dots within the food and agriculture sectors, emphasising the importance empowering smallholder farmers in Africa. She stresses the need to equip them with the tools necessary to adapt to climate change and improve their agricultural practices. For her and Seabex, this means providing digital solutions to farmers, enabling them to enhance productivity and sustainability.
This week, Cheniour is actively seeking connections with potential investors and future partners. She recognises the significance of building a strong network in the industry, stating, “For me, your network is your net worth.”
Seabex has opened a funding round to onboard investors. Additionally, Cheniour is eager to collaborate with other agritech start-ups to create synergies and scale solutions collectively. With operations in France, Tunisia, and plans to expand to Saudi Arabia, it aims to make a meaningful impact in both Africa and Europe.