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The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association (AACCSA) launched a new facility set to contribute to the development of entrepreneurship in the agriculture sector on Tuesday November 12 at the Hilton Hotel.
The newly launched Agri-Business Support Facility (ABSF), with financial support from  the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia, has three components: a Public Sector Associations (PSA) Support Fund, a Business Plan Competition and an Internship Program.
The facility is a three year long program with a budget of 70 million birr.
According to Martin Koper, Deputy Head of Mission and Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the embassy provided support to the facility, which will improve the entrepreneurial spirits of citizens. Gertijan Becx, Project Advisor for ABSF, said that the country’s agriculture sector has a lot of potential. “[But] we see some hurdles for companies in the agriculture sector,” he said. “We help them to overcome these hurdles,” he said.  “If we really want to develop the agriculture business sector, we need entrepreneurs-people that take up the challenge, stand up and go and do something.” 
The PSA Support Fund will allow beneficiaries to submit sector wide proposals twice a year for a maximum of 20,000 euros.
After being selected by an independent selection committee, consisting of established entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector, they will be able to get grant money that will help them to improve their productivity as well as production, market access and value addition.
The selection of proposals, which will be conducted by a jury of five judges, will be based on three areas: economic, environmental and social aspects. The economic aspects comprise turnover, share of the gross national product, number of firms, size of membership, number of employees, export value, added value as a result of funding, economic trend and size of firms. The environmental aspects include water consumption, waste production, risk of contamination of soil and groundwater, impact on natural vegetation, energy consumption, and environmental complexity like polyethylene bag waste and hazardous gas emissions. The social aspects consist of health issues, women and youth employment, community support, the degree to which the association promotes social responsibility and corporate governance.
The Chamber expects applicants to briefly cover [in the proposals] food and nutrition security, employment, women and youth involvement, production and productivity, economic significance of the sector, export trends and potential, impact on other sectors and environment.
The business plan competition, initiated to motivate B.Sc and M.Sc graduates of eight universities-Ambo, Hawassa, Haramaya, Jimma, Adama, Bahir Dar, Semera, and Wolaita-Sodo- to develop their own business ideas. It will also help them to secure the necessary financing. The grant for the winners will be very much dependent on the size of the business. “It might reach up to 100,000 birr,” Getachew Regassa, Secretary General of the AACCSA, said. “If the business plan requires more money than this we will work on finding the remaining money from other sources.”
ABSF’s internship program, which specially concerns B.Sc and M.Sc graduates in agribusiness, horticulture and other relevant disciplines from four universities- Ambo, Hawassa, Haramaya and Jimma- will help them to develop skills and techniques directly applicable to the beneficiaries’ careers. It will also help them test their interests and aptitudes for a particular career in the future, thereby increasing the productivity of host companies and reducing their cost of recruitment.
Getachew also said that components of the ABSF are designed to serve as catalysts to introduce improved technology and knowledge, better management practices, value addition and to facilitate market linkages.
The deadline for applications for the business plan competition is December 31, 2013, while applicants for the PSA support fund should file their’s by November 30