In this interview, Ayoade Ahmed Oyedotun, the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Afrimash Limited, Nigeria’s leading agri-tech eCommerce platform speaks on the agriculture sector and how Afrimash is using information technology to improve food security and productivity in Nigeria via their new USSD Code and Agent Network. Anthony Nwosu captures this in an exclusive interview.

 

 

What is informing your decision on deploying these technologies in Nigeria?(Tell us about Afrimash) 

Our mission is to make agriculture convenient for everyone. We want to create a system where farmers can have access to quality products without stressing them in Nigeria and in Africa as a continent. We know that the industry is growing and the players making waves are focused on funding, off-taking and access to credit facilities. While we focus on access to quality inputs and so on, we can be looking to off-take from farmers.  We wouldn’t wait for the full digitalization of our farmers. We rather chose to bring these technologies to them and make life easier for them. They do not have to be tech gurus to be able to place orders. With the USSD code and agent network, farmers can be anywhere and have access to any farm input they so desire.

Tell us about your USSD   that you just deployed?

The agent network works with these three platforms; the USSD, Agent Mobile app and IVR (Integrated Vertical Response – a self-service voice response that prompts callers on what to do). The USSD technology made it possible for people that do not have smartphones to access our products and farm inputs using the code – *2282*2#. At AFRIMASH, we are focused on convenient agriculture. Although we started with just the website, we had to discover the bridge to link us to farmers, especially those that do not have access to the internet. This was the sole reason we deployed our USSD codes, to help those that do not have smartphones. The USSD code is important to these farmers and we have a lot of products in various categories. The USSD option grants access to lots of products in various categories. Features under the USSD option include order placements, shipping options, wallet, hot deals, and much more. By using this code, farmers can be notified of the nearest pickup locations to pick up their products. Our USSD makes it easy for farmers to access quality farm inputs and can be accessed via any network.

 

Tell us about the Agent Network and how it works

We realized that access to quality agricultural inputs has always been a challenge for farmers in rural communities. In 2021 we applied for and won a $150,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in order to solve this critical problem for farmers. This birthed our Agent Network which is particularly unique in Nigeria’s Agri-tech ecosystem.

AFRIMASH has over 3,000 products on our website and we have the desire that farmers should know how to get easy access to these products. What we did was get an agent in every community to serve these farmers and farming clusters who asks them what they need and places an order on the website or Agent app and we get them delivered. We started this network in sixteen (16) states, Kaduna, Kebbi, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Borno, Benue, Niger, Ebonyi, Delta, Cross River, Oyo, Osun, Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti States. This agent network is co-sponsored by USAID and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit).

Tell us about this USAID  ?

In 2021, we made a pitch to USAID, and won a grant. We were given a sum of $150,000. This grant helped us in expanding the scope of our business. Their support made it possible for us to reach areas and communities that have insecurity issues such as Borno, Gombe, Yobe and Adamawa.

 

How many agents do you have presently and what are the impacts they have been able to make in the farming ecosystem?

Across these states we have a minimum of hundred agents in each state and multiply it by these sixteen states then we have over a thousand six hundred states. Although this has positively impacted our finances, most importantly, we have created jobs for over one thousand six hundred people and we have also been able to reach out to over one hundred and twenty-three thousand farmers across the nation. This is a remarkable achievement for us this year. We have also seen our revenue growth and have been able to reach out to places that we only dreamt of.  Our drive is that farmers get quality farm inputs irrespective of their literacy level.

Our app is so easy that Agents can know how much they are making on orders and can withdraw it to their regular bank accounts. The Agent Network has made things easy for farmers in the country.

Trust and acceptability would have been a challenge. How were you able to surmount this?

We initially had this challenge, farmers were used to the ‘cash and carry’ mode of transactions, but we are disrupting that model. We were able to gain an edge due to the profile of the agents we used- reputable individuals in the community. We also worked with Agric Extension officers from the ministry of agriculture. This method has helped us scale.

 

 

Support system for farmers in Nigeria is mostly lacking especially in the rural areas, what are you doing about this?

We offer systems and technical support from our in-house experts in fields such as agronomy, veterinary medicine and agricultural engineering. These experts reach out to these farmers, take enquiries and offer advisory services. Farmers understand that we have industry experts and due to this confidence, we have been able to advise them through their production processes; from delivery to production. We do not leave farmers without aid. We follow up from conception to production till access to the market. We have partnered with many organizations on the best farming methods for these farmers.

What are the challenges you have with poultry farmers in  ?

One major challenge has been the quality of the birds. We have started verification of the day-old chicks by putting stringent measures which ensure that farmers get quality day-old chicks from hatcheries across the country. We want farmers to get quality birds that will give them maximum output. We have put in place robust quality assurance processes that are conducted by our in-house veterinary doctors. These experts certify the quality of these birds that will go out.

 

How has this agent network program impacted the lives of farmers?

One of the critical areas that affects farmers is expiry of products. Most times farmers buy from villages or roadside Agro-allied product vendors that take time to sell a product. With our Agent Network, the farmers can have access to products that haven’t expired because we have partnership with manufacturers and authorized distributors. This way, farmers can be assured of the quality of the products, hence the issue of buying expired products have been eliminated.

As we are approaching the end of the year, what can you say AFRIMASH has been able to achieve?

We have made tremendous strides such as the introduction of the USSD technology and the agent network program. We wanted to capture farmers and farming communities in remote areas in all the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. We have also worked on various projects and have been able to impact the lives of several farmers.

What are we to expect from AFRIMASH this last quarter and in future?

Running our platform online, we have been able to close to a million items to farmers in over 10,000 transactions in Nigeria till date. The introduction of USSD and the agent network has the potential to scale it up and get to millions of farmers in Nigeria. We want to enable them to also shop through the IVR technology where they have access to online shopping assistant. We have a long product roadmap and they are designed for farmers regardless of their level of exposure to digital tools.

We want them to have access to quality products and we are just one click away.

 

 

Our mission is to make agriculture convenient for everyone. We want to create a system where farmers can have access to quality products without stressing them in Nigeria and in Africa as a continent.”

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

Agriculture Business Culture Economy

FG TO STREAMLINE EXISTING SORGHUM VARIETIES TO ENHANCE SELF-SUFFICIENCY, OTHERS

post-image

 

Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to streamline the existing sorghum varieties in the country to enhance Self-sufficiency, income generation, Food and Nutrition Security amongst others.

The Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar revealed this while receiving report of the Sorghum Technical Committee, in his office, in Abuja, recently.

He stated that the objective of streamlining the existing sorghum varieties was to find other ways of improving productivity, value addition and quality of sorghum produce, noting that the exercise was crucial as it would enhance farmer’s income, attract more youth to sorghum cultivation, meet national demand as well as contribute to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product.

In his words” This cannot be achieved without the collaborative efforts of all Stakeholders of which farmers, Seed producers, Input providers and international Institutes are part”.

He recalled that the technical committee arose from a sorghum stakeholders meeting on…

Read More
Business Economy

African startups are weathering the funding storm with acquisitions

post-image

A new report from Africa’s foremost digital economy consultancy, TechCabal (https://TechCabal.com) Insights has revealed that acquisitions have become more frequent in Africa’s tech ecosystem, showing signs of a maturing market. According to the report, 2021 saw 32 acquisition deals on the continent. At the end of Q3 2022, there were about 43 acquisition deals, signaling a consolidation trend.

 

 

After two years of continuous growth in VC investment, funding announcements have hit a plateau. Startups have resorted to cutting costs to extend their runway, and acquisition deals have become necessary for survival, particularly with startups operating in the same market. The number of acquisitions between startups operating in the same market increased from 31% in Q2 to 52% in Q3 2022.

 

The State of Tech in Africa Report compiled by TechCabal Insights, also found that the average seed ticket size remained stable at $2.5M in…

Read More
Business Economy Society Technology Technology Trends

Multimillion-dollar boost for small business as more African countries join MultiChoice Africa Accelerator Programme

post-image

Following the success of the MultiChoice (www.MultiChoice.com) Africa Accelerator (https://bit.ly/3OtthRz) Programme, which secured $16 million (USD) of funding for six emerging businesses last year, the programme has been expanded to eight more countries across Africa.

 

Many more small businesses in Africa’s technology sector now have the chance to benefit from the 2023 programme, which provides the skills and opportunities needed to attract transformative business funding.

“We’re really excited to be expanding the MultiChoice Africa Accelerator Programme to more African countries,” said Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, announcing the launch. “It’s part of our long-term commitment to growing and multiplying Africa’s technology potential, which is critical to our future growth.”

The MultiChoice Africa Accelerator Programme, which kicked off during Global Entrepreneurship Week,  is aimed at established start-ups and small enterprises in specific technology sectors – healthtech, agritech, fintech, edutech, the circular economy and the creative industries.

“There…

Read More
Announcements Business Culture Events Technology Tourism Trends

Spark Africa set to hold the largest tech gathering in Africa; the Africa Technology Expo.

post-image

 

Spark Africa, The African Technology Leader has announced the company’s readiness to host the African Technology Expo, a gathering of tech enthusiasts and stakeholders with the aim of promoting indigenous African talents and innovations.

This was disclosed by the Convener of the event and CEO of Spark Africa, Nnaemeka Clinton, during a Press briefing.

According to him;“Nigeria has over 30 Million People with viable ideas, about 10,000 startups and over 200 of these startups are fintech.

Most tech events in Africa and Nigeria specifically do not solve the issue of helping our unique talents with viable tech ideas translate their ideas to startups.
This isn’t about creating an avenue for motivation and encouraging networking amongst African talents alone, that is good, however, the “working the talk” is by transforming their ideas into startups.
The Africa Technology Expo, the largest tech gathering in Africa is different, this year’s debut edition is aimed at converting over…

Read More
Announcements Business Economy Technology Technology Trends Telecoms

ON THE UPCOMING AUCTION OF TWO (2) LOTS OF 3.5GHZ SPECTRUM

post-image

 

The Nigerian Communications Commission (the Commission), in line with Section 121 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (the Act) has the responsibility to manage and administer Spectrum resources for the communications sector in an efficient and effective manner. This is for the socio-economic benefit of the country.

Accordingly, it is the Commission’s responsibility, as the industry regulator, to ensure that harmonized and standardized Spectrum resources are made available in a timely manner to ensure its optimal utilization. The impact of the Commission’s regulatory activities in this regard is evident in the contribution of ICT, and telecommunications in particular, to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

The Act allows available Spectrum resources to be licensed through different methods. Spectrum licensing via Auction is one of the most transparent methods of assigning Spectrum resources globally. It is important to note that the Commission in response to requests for more Spectrum lots…

Read More
Business Economy News Technology Technology Trends Telecoms

NCC-CSIRT Urges Adoption of Two-Factor Authentication as Somnia Ransomware Targets Telegram Accounts

post-image

 

In response to the discovery of a new attack that compromises victims’ VPN (Virtual Private Network) accounts to compromise messaging app, Telegram, the Nigerian Communications Commission’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (NCC-CSIRT) has advised users to adopt two-factor authentication to protect their Telegram accounts and to not download unknown Advanced IP Scanner Software.
Ukrainian cyber experts discovered the attack, which uses Vidar Malware (Vidar Stealer) to steal Telegram session data, which in the absence of configured two-factor authentication and a passcode, allows unauthorized access to the victim’s telegram account and corporate account or network.

The malware, which exploits unauthorized access to users’ Telegram accounts and corporate accounts to steal data, targets platforms across iOS, Android, Linux, Mac and Windows Operating Systems.

“The Ukrainian CERT alleged that a Somnia Ransomware was created to be used on Telegram that tricks users to download an installer that mimics ‘Advanced IP Scanner’ software, which contains Vidar…

Read More
Business Economy Energy

KOLMANI OIL AND GAS PROJECT HAS ATTRACTED OVER $3BN INVESTMENT IN FOSSIL ENERGY – PRESIDENT BUHARI

post-image

 

– Restates Net Zero Carbon Emission By 2060

President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that his administration attracted over $3bn investment in the Oil and Gas Sector at a time of near-zero appetite for investment in fossil energy.

Speaking Tuesday in Bauchi at the Flag-off Ceremony of the Kolmani Integrated Development Project, a fully integrated in-situ development project comprising upstream production, oil refining, power generation and fertilizer, President Buhari said:

“Considering the land locked location and the huge capital requirement, the economics of the project is a challenging proposition. Consequently, from the outset, I instructed NNPC Limited to utilize and leverage their vast asset portfolio across all corridors of its operations to de-risk the project to attract the much-needed investment.

“It is therefore to the credit of this administration that at a time when there is near zero appetite for investment in fossil energy, coupled with the location challenges, we are able to attract…

Read More
Business Culture Economy Technology Technology Trends

uqudo Paves The Way for Digital Identity in Africa

post-image

uqudo’s (https://uqudo.com/) CEO, Mohamed Fagiri recently spoke on “Building Global Bridges: How to Access New Markets” at the Africa Tech Festival, the leading tech festival connecting innovators and changemakers across the continent. Mohamed shared his insights on scaling start-ups and building key products that can transform the world.

 

 

A digital identity company that is building an “identity layer” that makes customer onboarding safe, efficient and cost-effective in a digital world, uqudo has seen major growth in the past few months. Providing digital identity verification for key fintech players in the EMEA region, uqudo has also partnered with numerous entities in the African region to enhance digital identity in the continent.

 

The World Bank and Africa Development bank estimate that of the 1.3 billion people in Africa, 50% are smartphone users. With the population projected to increase in the next few decades, smartphone penetration will also see drastic…

Read More