The Managing Director, Entrepreneur Academy & P-Curiosity LAB, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), Morocco, Housni Lamia, is grooming innovators to help farmers in Morocco, Nigeria and other African countries run successful agribusinesses and grow more crops. She is providing aspiring innovators with the requisite skills and tools to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and execute them successfully. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
FOR existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, new and exciting opportunities abound in Nigeria and other African countries. But, despite its huge market and entrepreneurial opportunities, many startups and micro and small enterprises across the continent still face a number of challenges including a lack of access to credit, lack of access to network, low risk tolerance by both youth and financial stakeholders, and a lack of personalised coaching and support, among others.
However, the Entrepreneur Academy & P-Curiosity LAB, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P)’s entrepreneurship education and training programme, based in Morocco, has moved to fill the gap.
The Academy is doing this by providing training in entrepreneurship, business incubator support, and start-up grants to give young entrepreneurs the tools they need to turn their ideas into profitable and sustainable businesses that are market oriented and scalable.
The University gives start-ups the opportunity to meet and interact with leading players in Morocco, while the Academy acts as a springboard to launch start-ups into different parts of the continent and beyond.
The Academy’s Managing Director, Housni Lamia, has since stepped up the campaign to help new entrepreneurs learn from experienced ventures that do business in Africa. She has been working assiduously to raise innovators to help farmers in Morocco, Nigeria and other African countries run successful agribusinesses.
Currently, Housni leads the P-Curiosity LAB (PCL) and the Entrepreneur’s Academy within the Polytechnic University Mohammed IV (OCP Group). The two structures are aimed at ensuring community-led transformation for the benefit of rural areas in Africa through inclusive, sustainable and innovative services.
The LAB and the Academy adopted a proactive approach of supporting aspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups. They also promote research results, as well as address challenges through innovation.
Housni, who is a powerful advocate of filling the continent’s entrepreneurship gap by creating mentorship programs for future leaders, has never hidden her belief that small business ownership is a powerful mechanism for wealth creation and poverty reduction.
She told The Nation that this is why she is doing everything possible to cultivate entrepreneurship in communities that have historically been denied opportunities and or left behind.
She has also participated in different summits across Africa to discuss what efforts prove effective for growing the economies of African countries and advancing entrepreneurship. She said she believes that a sustainable solution to unemployment in Nigeria and other African countries is a well-directed entrepreneurship ecosystem and a more effective educational system.
Housni started her career in the OCP Group, which she joined for her graduation project in 2002. She has not left since then. And over the past 18 years, she has strengthened her business knowledge through an Executive Masters in Business Administration (MBA), and has since then held several positions of responsibility within the group.
In Morocco, the Academy, which she heads, partners OCP Foundation to create positive changes. For instance, since she took over the leadership at the Academy, there have been several fora to bring together thought leaders, practitioners, policy makers, academics in discussion and collaboration to ensure entrepreneurs and innovators go beyond their frontiers.
The vision, according to her was inspired by a strategic approach towards the economic development of Africa and nurturing start-ups and high-growth Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). She said PCL provides a platform for agritech solutions to reach farmers in Nigeria, Morocco and the rest of Africa.
The Hub, she stated, is interested in innovations that contribute to a healthy, well-trained rural people. The Hub’s main mission is to create innovative services for rural people related to socio-economic development, sustainability and environmental health.
According to Housni, smallholder farmers are the drivers of agriculture. Through innovative services, she smallholder farmers could be empowered to improve productivity and boost growth and rural prosperity.
Created to play an active part in shaping the future of smallholder farmer through innovation, PCL works with individuals with world-shaping ideas, actors seeking to develop solutions and scientists looking for applications ideas. “We tackle challenges with ideas holders (start-up),” Housni said, pointing out that selected ideas holders are incubated at the laboratory located at UM6P, Morocco. There, they explore, prototype and test innovative services to serve farmers sustainably and also find new opportunities.