Kosmos Innovation Center: A P3 Partnership

Sean Carr and Maggie Morse ,

Public-Private Partnerships That Are Changing the World

The Darden School of Business’ Institute for Business in Society partners with Concordia and the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships to present the annual P3 Impact Award, which recognizes leading public-private partnerships that improve communities around the world. This year’s award will be presented at the Concordia Annual Summit 24–25 September 2018. The five finalists will be highlighted on Darden Ideas to Action on Fridays leading up to the event.

The Partnership: Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC)

The Partners:

  • DAI Global LLC
  • Kosmos Energy Ltd.
  • Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST)

The Social Challenge: Economic Development

Agriculture is the largest sector in Ghana’s economy, employing the most people, yet most agricultural practices are still subsistence-based and in need of innovation and investment. The agricultural sector needs market-driven solutions to address issues such as inefficient farming practices, low yields and poor marketing networks.

Despite its importance to the national economy and potential for economic growth, young entrepreneurs do not consider agriculture or agribusiness as an area for potential investment.

The Idea and the Action:

Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) facilitates the development of entrepreneurs and businesses, with a focus on the agribusiness sector. A partnership between three organizations, it is led by Kosmos Energy, a global energy company seeking to invest and give back to a country in which it operates; DAI Global, an international development company with a technical background in agribusiness and technology; and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), a local technology and entrepreneurship incubator that gives young Ghanaians the tools and skills they need to achieve their entrepreneurship goals. KIC aims to harness the entrepreneurial capacity of tech-savvy youth to encourage innovation in priority development sectors.

In Ghana, the program’s first country of operation, KIC is focusing on bringing innovative solutions to the agriculture sector, through youth-led, technology-driven businesses. In doing so, KIC seeks to empower young people with business training and information and communications technology (ICT) skills that they can use to establish ventures of their own or seek employment. By working with organizations like MEST, KIC aims to build a nurturing ecosystem for young Ghanaian entrepreneurs. Ultimately, KIC seeks to show young Ghanaians that agriculture is not simply a subsistence pursuit, but a complex sector full of business opportunity.

Now in its third year, KIC’s incubation program provides an annual cohort of around 100 Ghanaian youth with business training, mentorship and market research tours. Over the course of the program, KIC entrepreneurs form teams and build technology-based business concepts that tackle challenges across various agricultural value chains in Ghana. After nine months of intense training and team building, teams compete in a series of pitch competitions. Winning teams can receive $50,000 in seed funding and spend the next year in the MEST incubator to build their concepts into fully fledged businesses. Applicants enter the program as individuals without business concepts, but they leave as members of a team who have together conceived of and prototyped a product concept that is rooted in the needs of Ghana’s agricultural sector.

The Impact:

Since its launch in March 2016, KIC has trained 270 youth and launched seven new startups. The partners have invested $250,000 in seed funding and leveraged an additional $450,000 in seed funding and growth capital investment from external funders. The number of applicants increased from 100 the first year to 576 the third year.

Some of the startups to receive funding include:

  • Trotro Tractor, a mobile platform that connects farmers in need of mechanized equipment to local tractor operators
  • AgroInnova, an enterprise management system for poultry farmers to record, monitor and track operations in real time
  • QualiTrace, an anti-counterfeiting solution that helps farmers authenticate agrochemicals at point-of-sale
  • AgroCenta, a web platform that connects small-holder farmers to markets and transport services

KIC promotes youth employment, entrepreneurship and livelihood opportunities for young Ghanaians by investing in and facilitating the development of innovative ideas that tackle entrenched challenges in one of the largest, most important sectors in Ghana: agriculture.

The Faculty Insight:

All too often, organizations looking to encourage high-impact entrepreneurship in developing economies take a “silver-bullet” approach to capacity-building. Whether it’s providing access to capital or offering training, mentoring or even technology, many development organizations invest resources in just one area, in the hopes that others will provide the balance necessary to help entrepreneurs thrive. This narrow-focus approach is often the result of limited expertise or possibly a bias toward one intervention or another. However, empowering people and creating innovation-driven companies that solve pressing problems is a complex and dynamic process, and it is one that requires a well-calibrated and highly integrated approach to be successful.

Kosmos Innovation Center, a multi-party effort to create a technology-based agribusiness ecosystem in Ghana, holds promise. Structured as a partnership, it leverages the resources and expertise of three very different organizations: a global oil and gas company, an international development consultancy, and a nonprofit entrepreneurship academy funded by a software and technology firm. Through the unique combination of the collective assets among the partners, KIC offers prospective Ghanaian entrepreneurs a comprehensive and holistic platform through which they might propel themselves and their ideas into the marketplace.

Altogether, the KIC model includes funding, training, competitions, mentoring and an intensive acceleration program, all of which are calibrated to the specific needs and cultural context of the region. Already they have achieved promising results, and they have begun to demonstrate the great potential of cross-sector partnerships to enable not only individual empowerment, but also fundamental societal transformation.

About the Faculty

Sean Carr

Carr’s applied research, which has examined entrepreneurial dynamics, social networks, venture capital and financial crises, has resulted in award-winning books, articles, case studies, digital media and numerous teaching materials. His work has been cited by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Newsweek, NPR and CNBC.

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