OKO, an Insurtech start-up with operations in Mali and Uganda has raised $1.2 million to strengthen its presence in Mali and Uganda and expand its offerings to more African markets, starting with Ivory Coast.
OKO’s investment round was led by Newfund and ResiliAnce with participation from Mercy Corps Venture, Techstars, ImpactAssets and RaSa.
According to Simon Schwall, founder of OKO, “Agriculture is by far the largest source of occupation in Africa, with an estimated 33 million farms. And yet, farmers are deprived from basic financial services like insurance and loans. We are using technology to solve this issue and secure the income of those farmers”.
OKO uses satellite data and mobile payments to create automated insurance products for farmers whose fields are affected adversely by weather events — primarily droughts and floods. The company already has approximately 7,000 paying customers in Mali and compensated more than 1,000 farmers last year, who were affected by floods. OKO’s customers typically grow maize, cotton, sesame or millet. OKO also works with agro-industries to help them with their sustainability goals and secure their relationships with suppliers. Successful pilots were completed with ABInBev and Touton in Uganda.
This convinced Augustin Sayer, partner at Newfund, to support OKO: “We believe recent advancement in iOT and data availability will lead to the rise of parametric insurance in Africa for the benefit of the local populations. Simon and his team have built solid bases in Mali from which OKO can now expand in new countries and offer new insurance products.”
OKO takes pride in being the most inclusive crop insurance available. All farmers need to connect to OKO is a phone (no smartphone required): they can dial a short code to obtain more information and pay through mobile money services. To achieve this level of accessibility, the company partners with mobile operators. “OKO has taken full benefit of the Orange Money platform to provide a service that is both innovative and inclusive” says Aicha Touré, CEO of Orange Money in Mali.
“While other micro-insurance for farmers exist, we were impressed by OKO’s ability to partner with a pan-African operator like Orange and establish a direct consumer link, which allows for an exciting opportunity to drive deeper user engagement and expand to a suite of insurance products for rural farmers in the future,” added Daniel Block from Mercy Corps Ventures.
The service offered by OKO is supported by regulators and has won both the Fintech Showcase Award by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, representing financial regulators of emerging countries, and the SME award from ITU, the telecommunication governing body.
OKO’s next challenge is to find more partners who can bring its product to farmers, be it NGOs, agro-industrial players, mobile operators or governmental programmes.
Earlier OKO told TechMoran it aims to launch in multiple markets in the next 5 years. In Africa but also in South Asia, in South-East Asia, in the Middle-East and maybe in Latin America. The rise of smartphones is also expected to allow the firm to improve the customer experience, and launch more products to cover not only weather risks but also pests and diseases.
“We proved that our solution is working and answers a strong need. Now we need to scale” concluded Schwall.