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With a farmer group in Central Kenya, getting insights on potato production.

Internship Spotlight: Tafadzwa Mahlanganise ’18

What are you doing this summer? We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

Tafadzwa Mahlanganise ’18

Internship: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Nairobi, Kenya
Hometown/Country: Harare, Zimbabwe
Favorite Yale SOM class: Power and Politics, Employee, and Sourcing and Managing Funds

AGRA does not have a formal internship program. However, I knew that I wanted to work across agricultural value chains in Africa, and AGRA seemed like the best fit. After a few conversations with a senior employee at the company, AGRA was able to create an internship for me within the Strategic Partnerships and Business Development Department. I spend the first three weeks of my internship talking to various teams, trying to figure out the intersection between my interests and organizational priorities. At the end, I wrote my own terms of reference.

I had three main projects. My first project focused on the potato value chain in Kenya, which supports 800,000 farmers, but also produces about 30% post-harvest losses. My task was to help AGRA better understand the dynamics within the potato value chain and to identify areas where AGRA investment can unlock the greatest value for smallholder farmers. I utilized tools from Sourcing and Managing Funds, Competitor, and Customer, to devise strategies and business models to enable AGRA to take successful initiatives to scale while also fostering inclusiveness and sustainability. State and Society was also useful in understanding the interplay among farmers, businesses, and the government as I conducted a thorough analysis of the Kenya potato value chain, focusing on cold storage and mechanization.

 For my second project, I worked with an external consultant to research and prepare a comprehensive write-up on some of the successful models currently used by supermarkets to structure demand and facilitate direct sourcing from farmers in South, East, and West Africa.  Understanding successful models in this area would allow various stakeholders, including governments, private sector players, and development partners to brainstorm how best they can be replicated and scaled up across African countries.

 For the third project, I conducted research on current rice initiatives in West Africa. This preliminary research is to be used as background work to frame the discussion to bring West Africa from importing about 55% of its rice needs to reaching rice self-sufficiency by having key players develop actionable investment plans and mobilize financial and political commitments.

My internship projects required me to talk to various stakeholders, either over the phone or in person. The best part about this is that AGRA facilitated some of the meetings through introductions from senior colleagues. I was able to meet with CEOs of various private companies including Ivan Mbowa (Umati Capital), Pascal Kambutho (Agrimech), Fergus Robley (FMD East Africa), and Jonathan Moss (Kisima). Within AGRA, I was presented with opportunities to meet with various senior colleagues and heads of various departments, which was really amazing as I was able to learn about their career and life stories and get great advice as well. I was also part of teams that spanned a few organizations, which allowed me to speak and work with people from other companies and institutions. 

I am so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to intern at AGRA for the summer, and am thankful to the colleagues I worked with at AGRA who gave great guidance but also an opportunity to run with things. I really enjoyed my experience and felt that it gave me a chance to positively impact businesses and farmers in Africa. I borrowed a lot from my Yale SOM classes and was able to make great use of the Yale SOM network in achieving my internship goals—calling classmates for insights on financial models and the agribusiness sector.

I am also glad and thankful to God that I followed my passion and took an unconventional path. Although the lack of structure was initially frustrating, it gave me an opportunity to do so much more and see and learn a lot about the agribusiness landscape across African countries. The confidence and skills I gained through my time at Yale cannot be emphasized enough in helping me achieve my goals.