Agriculture is Africa’s green gold; it is the continent’s oldest and biggest company. “Agriculture is the most important sector of the African economy and will have to be its driving engine out of poverty. It accounts for 65% of the continent’s employment and 75% of its domestic trade,” the Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Kandeh K. Yumkella, said in a 2012 news release. In Kenya alone, the sector accounts for 26% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and another 27% indirectly through linkages with other sectors. The agricultural sector contributes north of 65% of Kenya’s total exports earnings and provides more than 40% of the total population with employment. The sector has continued to grow at almost 5% annually while exhibiting further potential for expansion. That said, it is only natural that it is a driver of economic transformation in the continent.
Agriculture in modern times is beset with ever emerging problems, problems technology has the capability to alleviate or eradicate. Problems such as climate change, equipment, soil quality, et cetera. With the rapid urbanization and spread of modern technology, agriculture has also begun to take a new modern form. Technology has brought with it agricultural advancements that were previously inconceivable using traditional methods. Various African companies have risen to the task, and brought with them innovative solutions to the challenges at hand. Investors too are not shying away from backing them. This new found funding coupled with the entrepreneurs’ drive is the recipe for robust growth and high returns. Value added agriculture as a percentage of GDP for Africa remains very low, and there is thus room for significant growth in that arena.
Here are some of the companies in Africa at the forefront of this growth, changing the face of African agritech.
Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy, launched in 2016 by founder Onyeka Akumah, is an online agriculture platform that allow Nigerians living around the world to collaborate in farming projects. From the comfort of their own homes they can invest an agreed sum to own a farm space, start and complete a farming cycle. Registered partners on the platform can sponsor any farm of their choice from maize, poultry, cassava Farms and tomato farms. The partners then get weekly updates about their farm’s progress, inclusive of pictures and videos taken by the farmers on the ground.
Releaf is an up and coming agro startup that connects buyers and sellers of agricultural products to good customers. It was founded by founded by Isaiah Udotong, Ikenna Nzewi and Uzoma Ayogu and officially launched in August 2017. The startup currently has north of 500 active users, 100 connections and 600 companies actively using the platform. In 2017 Releaf raised $120,000 investment from YCombinator to scale its startup in Nigeria.
Kenyan based Twiga Foods is a mobile-based cashless, business-to-business (B2B) supply platform for Africa’s retail outlets, kiosks, and market stalls. The company enables vendors to order supplies such as tomatoes, pineapples, et cetera using its platform, upon which Twiga sends it over the next day with a low-cost, better quality, product than informal markets can provide. The company was founded in 2013 and aims to be Africa’s biggest grocer without a single physical store.
Ghana’s Farmerline is a platform that is focused on Ghana’s smallholder farmers. Its main aim is to provide improved information access, record keeping services and communication. It links farmers to markets, finance, inputs and equipment services via technology. Farmerline was founded in 2012 by Alloysius Atta and Emmanuel Addai.
Arinifu is an agri-technology company in that aims to enhance poultry farming in Kenya and Africa at large through making technological innovation accessible to both low and medium-income farmers. They have come up with an environmental control device for chicks, known as ‘the smart brooder’ which ensures the conditions within the brooding space are kept within optimal levels, increasing efficiency and ultimately bettering the health and development of chicks.
South Africa’s AgriProtein was launched in 2015. AgriProtein is pioneering waste-to-nutrient recycling technology to up-cycle organic waste into high-protein animal feed using fly larvae. The startup carries out insect-based bioconversion of waste to animal feeds. They build and operate their own fly-factories and licence set-up and operation by others. Their main business is finding a better way to feed the world: solving the food security challenge, tackling the waste crisis and repairing the environment.
Lake View Fisheries Limited is a Kenyan based company that has created a network of micro franchise fish vendors deployed in some of Lake View Fisheries’ 500 locations within Nairobi. Each business comprises of a fish vendor strategically placed in a low income settlement equipped with a patented temperature controlled fish transport box that rapidly cools the payload to the desired temperature and uses sensor technology to maintain and stabilize the temperature. It enables transport and storage of fish at optimum temperatures and works without an external power source. It’s backed by a cloud based GPS tracking system so that the location and quality of produce can be verified at any time.
WeFarm calls itself, “The internet for people without the internet.” The company provides a free peer-to-peer service that enables farmers to share information via SMS, without the internet and without having to leave their farm. Farmers can ask questions on farming and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world in minutes. It was founded in 2014 by Kenny Ewan. WeFarm translates and connects queries from continent to continent, and has thus far provided more than 100,000 answers to its 43,000 registered farmers.