New technologies enable farmers to stay in the comfort of their farms and arrange for their produce to be sold to buyers’ miles apart through an online market place. However, entrepreneurship in e-agriculture in Africa comes with many challenges.
Farmers face several challenges that can be solved by technologies. These include post-harvest losses due to poor markets and food supply chain, exploitation by middlemen that reduces profits that farmers make, difficulty in connecting producers and consumers of farm produce, storage and efficient warehousing of agricultural produce. FarmAfriQué, which is based in Nigeria, sees these challenges as a business opportunity. It developed an e-solution for African smallholder farmers to foster access to markets.
It all started with the realisation of how difficult it is to market poultry products. Being faced with the challenges, I started building my own online platform for buyers and sellers of farm produce to enable them to sell and buy at competitive prices both locally and internationally. Grains, agricultural equipment, livestock, forage crops, and many more products can be sold either in wholesale or retail quantities to buyers from all over the world. Although the main target is smallholder farmers, because most of the farmers in Africa are smallholders, FarmAfriQué does not exclude large-scale farmers. The company seeks to cut off the challenge of the use of middlemen that sap profit from farmers, reduce stress on farmers and buyers, and allow for competitive pricing due to variety.
The platform, which is barely a year old, is currently being enhanced with farmer information in preparation for commercial activities in 2017. About 23 volunteers have been invaluable in carrying out a “farmer verification exercise” to ensure that the sellers we have on the website are valid. The target is getting more than 100,000 verified farmers at this stage on the online platform. FarmAfriQué is still building the trust of local farmers and will include truck owners who will transport the produce for a little commission that the buyers will pay. FarmAfriQué, hopes to make commission on sales, commission on haulage transactions and an annual subscription fee to the platform.
Hurdles of middlemen
However, as a start-up FarmAfriQué have had to wade through hurdles of middlemen who hinder direct access to farmers and make it difficult for farmers to make a modest profit from their labour. FarmAfriQué encourages the clustering of farmers supported by a “Cluster Coordinator” with at least two assistants to help with cluster management. There are other challenges like the need for finances and human and material resources to make the business succeed. For instance, initially as the founder of the company, I had to sacrifice a huge portion of my income as a Web Developer to start FarmAfriQué, and give transportation allowance to volunteers, as investors would like to see a stable business before putting in some money.
Investors have more to offer than capital, some have technical skills and are willing to share while others have services to offer. For instance, FarmAfriQué has met with warehouse owners who are excited about the possibility of farmers utilising their warehouses to store non-perishable products for a fee lesser than what they would normally charge. FarmAfriQué, is also exploring collaboration with media houses who can advertise on the website in exchange for airtime on their stations.
One of the hurdles FarmAfriQué is overcoming is that of reaching out to many farmers. Recently, a partnership has afforded the enterprise contacts of about 300,000 new farmers. FarmAfriQué is working on verifying them before listing them on its site as the emphasis is on credible farmers and buyers on the platform. Networking and looking for partners is the main part of the job. FarmAfriQué is talking with the African Development Bank and is looking forward to working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Bank of Agriculture in Nigeria under its “Farmers Unite” Programme. Although it is a bumpy road, my experience shows that e-Agriculture explorers can succeed in starting a business.
by Ken Lohento and Heike Baumüller
Young innovators in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific region, have recognised the need for creative solutions to raise agricultural productivity and the huge prospective market for their ICT-enabled services in agriculture. Although they still face many challenges, their products have the potential to transform agricultural value chains in developing countries.Read More
by Sheena Raikundalia
Social entrepreneurs in Africa have developed innovative ICT-enabled models for agriculture with the aim of combining profit with inclusive rural development. Their main challenges are scaling-up and earning an income while serving the poorest rural communities.Read More
by Nicholai Rajkumar
Seventeen years old Nicholai Rajkumar is a student of St. George’s College in Trinidad and Tobago. He is pursuing studies toward a career in IT. Nicholai at age 15, completed a Microsoft course in App Development, which aided his participation in the Caribbean AgriHack Talent Competition in 2014.Read More
by David Jonathan
New technologies enable farmers to stay in the comfort of their farms and arrange for their produce to be sold to buyers’ miles apart through an online market place. However, entrepreneurship in e-agriculture in Africa comes with many challenges.Read More
Countries could see economic growth in e-agriculture when the private and public sectors are aligned to create a climate that fosters innovation. Some lessons can be learned from the Caribbean and Latin America on creating a healthy ecosystem for ICT start-ups in agriculture.Read More
by Louis Agbokou
Technology hubs give young innovators and entrepreneurs the unique opportunity to develop their products and services and to make them marketable. The lack of awareness about the opportunities that e-agriculture has to offer, is one of the main obstacles to succeed.Read More
by Catherine Flouvat
French mobile phone provider Orange has developed several support programmes for ICT start-ups in Africa and the Middle East. By providing the right, tailor made support facilities it aims to enable a home-grown e-agriculture sustainable growth model for innovative, young entrepreneurs.Read More
by Ruth Brännvall
Ignitia has developed a disruptive technology that allows smallholder farmers in West Africa to access accurate weather predictions. Engaging with local partners and initiating reliable impact measurements were key factors to gain trust and scale-up the business.Read More
by F. Oluwadamisi Okunlola and Adetola Adenmosun
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs’ (IYA) ICT unit has established its own businesses by making use of ICT tools, like drones. The members also give ICT trainings with the aim to enhance agriculture and sensitise rural entrepreneursRead More
by Kiringai Kamau
Many start-ups rely on fundraising in their own networks. However, new platforms have unlocked new ways to raise money for start-ups.Read More
The Tony Elumelu Foundation has started a Pan-Africa entrepreneurship programme for a total of 10,000 start-ups. Many of them work in agriculture and strive to modernise the sector with technology-based solutions.Read More
As the digital age advances further rapidly, more and more e-agriculture entrepreneurs are able to launch a start-up cheaper and faster than ever before by leveraging technology, access to wider range of skills, grants, competition money, crowdfunding, and accelerator and incubator programmes. e-Agriculture entrepreneurs can choose to take a traditional approach to developing a business plan or they can examine new approaches, such as the Lean Start-up Canvas and the Business Model Canvas.Read More