Andrew Youn, founder, One Acre Fund
Meet the Boss is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
1. What was your first job?
I was a delivery driver for a photography studio. At the time, I thought it paid good money.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
The biggest impact has been the real bosses of One Acre Fund, our farmers. Particularly those who are mothers. You will see them working the field with just a hand hoe and babies strapped to their backs – their strength constantly inspires me to keep improving the One Acre Fund model.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Hungry children. We should never, ever not be able to feed a child. There are 239m undernourished people on this continent, and conveniently, most of them live in farming families whose sole profession is to grow food. One Acre Fund has a solution that helps farmers to grow their own way out of hunger – and it’s time to scale that solution to reach as many people as possible.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful?
Listening and learning from the farmers we serve. Living among them in their rural communities has informed so much of One Acre Fund’s programme model and enables us to continually improve it. We get to see first-hand what’s working and what’s not, every day.
5. What are the best things about your country, Rwanda?
6. And the worst?
The mountains. It’s hard to get around. Living in rural Rwanda gives one a real sense of what access means – even if the smallholder farmers we work with could afford the inputs they need, physically reaching them on foot or bicycle is nearly impossible.
7. Your future career plans?
To serve 1m smallholder farmers by 2020.
8. How do you relax?
I enjoy baking bread. There’s a great recipe for no-knead bread that I use and I like being in the kitchen after a long day.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring businesspeople and entrepreneurs?
Apply your skills and ideas towards the positive social good. Use the principles and rigor of business to advance a cause you care about and spend time learning directly from the people you want to serve.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
Invest and support in its smallholder farmers and meet their agriculture, economic and educational needs. Farmers are the answer.
In 2006, Andrew Youn co-founded One Acre Fund, a non-profit organisation that provides low-interest loans in the form of seeds and fertilisers to small-scale farmers in the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The organisation currently serves about 180,000 farmers, typically living on one acre of land. Youn graduated from Yale magna cum laude, is a former management consultant, and received his MBA from Kellogg School of Management.