Digital solutions for agribusiness companies during COVID-19
In July, AECF brought together stakeholders in the agribusiness sector for a webinar on how African businesses can adapt to COVID-19 disruptions and explore some of the challenges in adopting new technologies.
The panellists that contributed their expertise were:
- Fahad Awadh – CEO, YYTZ Agro-processing, Tanzania, a full service cashew processing company dedicated to consistently producing high quality cashew nuts.
- Naoko Koyama-Blanc (main speaker) – Partner and Regional Director for Africa at Dalberg. Dalberg is a global consultancy company that partners with governments and communities to drive development.
Michael Maina – the Production Manager at Equator Kenya Ltd, a Kenyan company that supplies the market with premium quality dried fruits and vegetable products.
- Daniel Ngotho – Marketing Manager at Mkulima Young (Kenya), a social enterprise and popular online marketplace for various agricultural produce.
We were grateful for their contributions as pioneers in this space and we had more than 80 participants from a diverse range of agribusinesses joining the webinar to ask questions and listen to their advice.
Ms Koyama-Blanc explained that digital solutions can help farmers get credits faster, enhance the dissemination of information and help track the supply chain to improve profitability. By directly engaging smallholder farmers through digital tools such as customised messages, businesses can have better access to markets, which can be a major driver of job creation.
Her remarks were supported by Mr Maina of Equator Kenya Ltd who said, “We send bulk SMSs to farmers who are in areas we cannot physically access. This helps in the mobilisation of our stakeholders, especially during COVID-19.”
The panellists discussed different software that they would recommend – such as eProd, a versatile management system that enables companies to efficiently and cost-effectively manage their supplies from a large out grower base:
“We are employing eProd for tracking and making payments to farmers. We also use block chain QR codes to ensure transparency for consumers,” said Mr Awadh from YYTZ Agro-Processing in Tanzania.
eProd was highlighted as a digital solution that can be used for different value chains like horticultural crops, dairy companies, poultry and livestock, grain and cereals, or flowers. It helps businesses minimize losses by monitoring farmers’ credit status on a regular basis so that they can determine when to give out more loans or withdraw funding.
Participants had the opportunity to interact with the panellists and list some of their top concerns and barriers to adopting digital solutions during
Covid-19. Some of the challenges that they mentioned included: the difficulty in identifying the right digital technologies for businesses facing various management challenges; low literacy levels for technologies among grassroots farmers; inadequate infrastructure; and poor internet connectivity in remote areas.
The panellists advised agribusiness owners to have a long-term vision of where they wanted their companies to go and then assess which digital solutions would contribute to that vision. It was emphasised that for the agribusiness sector, digital solutions would hardly work for short-term goals. They do take time to pay off especially due to the seasonal nature of activities. The panellists using these technologies during this COVID-19 period mostly found their returns on investment to be in efficient engagement of suppliers (farmers, inputs providers), data analysis to inform strategic decisions, enabling access to finance and access to sophisticated but lucrative export markets.
The webinar is one in a series of knowledge exchange events to help AECF portfolio companies and the wider sector adapt to crises and increase their resilience during Covid-19. Agribusinesses continued sustainability is crucial for maintaining essential food supplies for households, as well as jobs and livelihoods for small holder farmers.
The next webinar in this series will be communicated via our social media pages:
Nicholas Sewe, Communications Assistant, AECF.