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We are positively impacting farmers as well as inspiring youth to find agriculture attractive again – Kenneth Okonkwo

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Kenneth Okonkwo is the Managing Director of FarmGate Africa, an agricultural technology company focused on bridging the gap in the agricultural value chain by providing major processors and international buyers the opportunity to purchase commodities directly from farming clusters, using technology. In this e-Interview with Alaba Ayinuola, he speaks on how FarmGate is bridging the gap in the agricultural value chain in Africa, and linking African farmers directly to the international markets. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about your business (vision and objectives) and the role you play?

Kenneth: FarmGate Africa is an agricultural technology company focused on bridging the gap in the agricultural value chain by providing major processors and international buyers the opportunity to purchase commodities directly from farming clusters, using technology.

Our vision at FarmGate is to bring the farmers closer to processors and international buyers. This will by extension empower African farmers economically by curbing the loss caused by waste, among other factors, that they typically experience during agricultural transactions.

As the Managing Director of FarmGate Africa, I am leading a team to fulfil other objectives including solving the imbalance in market access faced by processors, reduce the activities of multiple layers of intermediaries playing in the value chain, and ensure that African farmers are paid premiums for toiling all year in their farms.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?

Kenneth: One of our biggest challenges is that the agricultural space in most African countries, for now, is unstructured. Many farmers do not have access to international buyers without parting with a large percentage of their profit margin, and this is a problem. Because of this lack of structure, we are working tirelessly with local farmers to make sure that the commodities that they have available for trade or purchase, meet the specifications of the processors as well as the buyers.

 

Alaba: How does your organisation measure its impacts?

Kenneth: Our impact is measured based on the improved quality of life of the farmers that we come in contact with. For example, if we work with twenty farmers who each typically sell forty metric tonnes of their farm produce for NGN 40,000.00, after working with us, we would like them to have increased their income by at least 30-50%. At FarmGate Africa, we measure our impact by the number of farmers whose livelihoods have been significantly improved because of our work with them.

We are also able to measure impact from the amount of cost savings we give to our buyers as well. Many of our processors and buyers have challenges reaching farmers directly and they also part with huge margins during these processes. Our ability to connect buyers with sellers so that they can purchase agricultural produce without actually losing their profit is a win for us. Several multinational corporations, especially in Nigeria, have significantly been affected by the activities of middlemen, many of who see their need as an opportunity to be taken advantage of. At the end of the day, we save cost for our buyers and also ensure that our farmers receive the right premium for the produce.

 

Alaba: Where do you see your business in 5 years and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Kenneth: By the end of 2019 from Nigeria alone, we would have succeeded in trading over 12,000 cattle from over 10,000 farmers; 30,000 MT of grains to local processors within Nigeria; exported over 3,000 MT of dried organic ginger while working with over 1,000 smallholder farmers in Southern Kaduna; exported over 15,000 MT of sesame from over 30,000 farmers in Benue, Nasarawa, Kano and Niger States.

I had to communicate some of the numbers for 2019 to illustrate what the plans are for FarmGate. By December 2023, we would have succeeded in connecting over 1,000,000 smallholder African farmers directly to major processors and international buyers across Africa, Europe and the Middle East. We are doing all of these through superior collaborations with technology companies, farmer cooperatives, multinational corporations, international buyers and development agencies among others.

 

Alaba: How is  FarmGate Africa contributing to the development of Africa?

Kenneth: In November 2018, we attended the Meet the Farmers Conference in the UAE alongside several other African businesses and we realised that a lot of businesses have been trying to get produce from African farmers, but it can be quite difficult. They outlined several limitations ranging from inability to meet quality specifications, multiples intermediaries and so on.

FarmGate Africa is linking African farmers directly to international markets which in return motivates our farmers to produce more as a result of the increased margins they earn from such transactions.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Kenneth: Adewale Ajadi, Country Director of Synergos Nigeria once said to me, “Nigeria is a beautiful place and a blessed country. Individual brilliance but collectively almost a failure because we compete when we should collaborate, and then we collaborate when we should compete”. As an entrepreneur in Africa, collaboration will always be key in succeeding but you must always be careful to know when to partner and when not to. Start small, understand your business model, know your numbers or hire someone that can interpret those numbers, learn from the people you seek to serve, be funding creative, be action driven and don’t speak too much English or French, and most importantly, “Always remember that not all doors are locked when you look from a distance, you just might need to get close enough to see it requires intense proximity just to open it”.

 

Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?

Kenneth: I am inspired by the fact that although we are doing good work, there is still much work to be done. The average age of a Nigerian farmer is 65 years old. If that figure remains the same for the next twenty to thirty years, we might face a major food recession. Being a part of a company that has the leverage to positively impact farmers as well as inspire youth to find agriculture attractive again is primarily what keeps me going every day and I love my job.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Kenneth: Whenever I need to relax, I travel. Travelling to developed countries gives me a fresh perspective on life and helps me appreciate the wonder of excellence and how certain countries have created robust economies and thriving enterprises from nothing. In my free time, I read Brian Tracy’s books. I find his work brilliant as well as motivational.

 

Visit: https://www.farmgate.africa/index.php?/

 

His Bio:

Kenneth is a First-Class Graduate of Economics and Business Studies (Marketing Specialization) from Redeemer’s University, Postgraduate Diploma Holder from the Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, an Associate Member of the same Institute and a PhD scholarship recipient from the Delta State Government.

Kenneth has worked on several projects spanning across diverse sectors. Before joining the Farmgate team, Kenneth was Innovation Specialist/Consultant with the World Bank Group, where he was responsible for mapping innovations that cuts across agricultural productivity, livestock, market information, financial services, etc. Kenneth has also worked and consulted for developmental projects funded by Rockefeller Foundation/Sustainable Food Lab (Food Loss and Waste Pilot), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/TechnoServe (State Partnership for Agriculture), just to mention a few.

Kenneth started his career in Heineken Nigeria (Nigerian Breweries Plc), where he was Project Support Analyst for the merger between NB Plc and Sona Breweries Projects in three locations (Ogun, Anambra and Kaduna State) in 2010-11. He has worked and consulted for several publicly quoted firms like SCOA Plc, First Aluminum Plc, Accenture, just to mention a few.

He is a result driven professional and was appointed as Managing Director of Farmgate Africa in September to drive the expansion of the business to other African countries and the Middle East. Farmgate Africa is a subsidiary of EMFATO Group.

 

Afripreneur

The power of rejection | Zoussi Ley

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Everyone knows what rejection feels life. It is the most common emotional wound we experience. Whether you’ve been passed over for a job, turned down by investors or simply left on read, you’ve felt it. You’ve allowed yourself to be temporarily defined by another person’s decision to reject you, even when it’s not personal.

The good news is, you will never stop experiencing rejection.

Wait… did I say good news?

Yes, I did.

Here are 7 reasons to consider rejection your best friend:

1. A “No” can turn into a “Yes”

Ever heard of The 4 Hour Workweek? You know, that New York Times bestseller that created a global movement to work less and earn more? Author Tim Ferris was turned down 26 times before he found a publisher.

Stephen King’s first book, Carrie, was also rejected 30 times, causing King to throw the manuscript in the trash. His wife took it out of the bin and encouraged him to submit it “one more time”. We all know how that turned out.

 

 2. Rejection teaches patience

Most of us see rejections as failure. Yet, most of the time, it is just the wrong timing. You or your ideas may still be a diamond in a rough. This aspect of rejection is humbling but necessary. Good things come to those who wait (and grind too, of course).

 

3. Rejection destroys your competition

How many entrepreneurs, artists or writers give up in the face of rejection? Although the thought of it makes me sad, it presents an advantage for you: the more other people let “No’s” stop them, the more opportunity there is for you to land this job, get into that school or secure this funding for your business idea. Resilience is your competitive advantage!

 

4. Rejection clears the path towards your success

You’ve got to see every rejection that life throws at you as obstacles you need to get past before you finally succeed. For every ‘No’ you receive, you’re closer to your ‘Yes’. Imagine if Tim Ferris had stopped at rejection #26 or if Stephen King had really given up at rebuff #30?

 

5. Rejection creates opportunities for change

When facing rejection, ask yourself why you were rejected. It may be a sign that there are lessons to be learn. For instance, if you are getting a lot of impersonal rejections, that’s a sign you may be doing something wrong and need to reconsider your approach. Something about your pitch, cover letter or samples may be lacking.

 

6. Rejection causes us to explore new paths

When a door closes, a window opens. Think about the last time you thought, “I would never have found this job / met this person if the other place hadn’t refused to hire me/ person hadn’t broken up with me.” Rejection is a powerful force for analyzing why we go for the goals we do and what it is about these goals that drives us on, or away. It is also a good time for introspection and considering your reasons for going after certain things, people, jobs, or situations.

 

7. Seeking rejection makes you fearless

 The more “No’s” you hear, the more immune you become to rejection. Whatever goal you are trying to achieve, whether it is making a sale or finding an investor, you can train yourself to actually feel happy when getting rejected. In a TED talk, author and entrepreneur Jia Jiang shared lessons of his “100 days of straight rejection”, and how it desensitized him to the pain that “No” can cause. For 100 days straight, Jiang would make absurd requests such as requesting a “burger refill” or asking a stranger to lend him $100. Jiang’s main takeaway was that rejection never defines you, your reaction following the rejection is what defines you.

 

In a word, rejection is fuel for growth.

 

& that’s exactly why you should train yourself to embrace it!

 

How? By shifting your perspective.

 

Your ability to see things as “changeable” has a strong influence on how you react to rejection. If you can embrace the idea that life is flexible and that losses open doors of opportunities, not only will you recover faster from rejection, but you will grow more within yourself and suffer less when facing rejection.

 

Moral of the story: SHOOT YOUR SHOT!

 

Author:

Zoussi Ley

co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer

Complete Farmer

Website: www.completefarmer.com 

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Afripreneur

PAS: Providing exceptional arts education experience across West Africa – Olamidun Majekodunmi

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Olamidun Majekodunmi is the Founder, Performing Arts School of Nigeria setup with the aim to promote the performing arts industry and to encourage Nigerian creative passions and talents. She is passionate about the way her company’s brand is positively impacting the creative industry in Nigeria and inspiring people to free their creativity. In this e-interview with  Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on how The Performing Arts School of Nigeria will serve as the pillar for performing arts in Nigeria by supporting the community to pursue their passions in the arts with regard to cultural diversity and inclusiveness. And it’s vision to be the foremost performing arts institution in all of West Africa by 2023. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about the Performing Art School(PAS) Nigeria and the inspiration behind it?

Olamidun: The Performing Arts School of Nigeria is a community center for those passionate about developing artistic talents. PAS was founded in 2012 to encourage Nigerian creative passions and talents, and contribute to the performing arts industry in Nigeria. We recently moved to Lagos with the development of our first Creative Center serving the Lagos Island community.

 

Alaba: What was your startup fund and how were you able to raise it?

Olamidun: Startup fund was 90% of personal savings. I also received support from family and minor stake partners.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Olamidun: There have been a number of challenges but the toughest I think is, maintaining a balance between demands of performing arts training and academics for kids. In a country like ours, where so much importance is placed on academic performance, it has been a herculean task convincing parents to see long-term value in our offerings.

To support their needs, we’ve included academic enrichment to our after school offering for kids, so we have a balance. So in addition to our discipline which is performing arts (dance, music, drama and a host of others) we have included programs such as STEM, Lego robotics, homework help etc. As for competition, there is no business without a competitor, so we try as much as possible to stay on top of trends and offer more unique propositions that make us stand out and help students grow as well-rounded individuals.

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of the Creative Art industry in Nigeria and Africa?

Olamidun: The growth of the industry is more visible now than ever and I am happy to have a footprint in the journey. We have created a wholesome space for nurturing learners and encouraging them to identify and develop their talents. Starting early with children helps us create well-rounded individuals not just in education but also creative and personal development. These developments help to accelerate their passion for arts and steer them to make their contribution to the creative industry in the future.

Also, PAS continues to provide employment opportunities to individuals looking for a platform to make a mark in the creative industry and the education sector. We have facilitators for various aspects of the arts who are paying it forward to these kids with the knowledge they have gathered. We are gradually growing an arts inclined community and it can only get larger.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of the Creative Art ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa?

Olamidun: We have more individuals pushing for the growth of the creative arts and development of talents through platforms like festivals, competitions, and creative schools. In my opinion, we are yet to have a sophisticated ecosystem because we do not have a sustainable plan that encompasses every aspect of creative arts. For instance, a hub where veteran creative’s can interact with budding creative’s for mentorship. Also, more needs to be done in connecting creative arts with academia; this will help foster innovation and development not just for the arts but the country too. Private organizations are doing our bid but with more support from the government, we can further develop a strong ecosystem for creative arts.

 

Alaba: How are government policies supporting startups and entrepreneurs in Nigeria?

Olamidun: There are policies in place to protect and promote entrepreneurship in Nigeria but the problem has always been implementation. The lack of solid implementation and continuous improvement leads to limitations for entrepreneurs such as getting the capital to finance businesses, poor electricity and the constant political and social issues also discourage foreign investors. But gradually, we are experiencing a shift through initiatives and programs being created by the government because they have recognized that entrepreneurship is the answer to our high unemployment rates and will facilitate the country’s development.

 

Alaba: What is the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Olamidun: The long term plan for Performing Arts School of Nigeria is to never stop supporting individuals with a passion for arts with regard to cultural diversity and inclusiveness. We also hope to establish creative centers across various Nigerian cities and be the foremost Performing Arts institution in all of West Africa.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Olamidun: There is a lot of progress that needs to be made to catch up with the rest of the world.  So, creative businesses, driven by passion and a long-term strategic roadmap are those that stand out. Your impact could really propel African development.

 

Alaba: How does it feel to be an African entrepreneur?

Olamidun: In total, I employ about 20 people and in an environment that is quite challenging to operate a business in, it’s a very rewarding feeling to create value through employment and through the services we offer.

Alaba: How do you relax and what kind of books do you engage?

Olamidun: I enjoy socializing mostly with friends and family- grabbing a drink or dinner with my girlfriends. I read more current events and research relevant to my field. When on holiday I may read a solid fiction novel.

 

Her Short Bio:

An avid dancer since the age of 9, Olamidun built The Performing Arts School of Nigeria/ The Studio Abuja, with the purpose of providing students with unique opportunities and a well-rounded education. Olamidun succeeded in implementing key strategic initiatives and formed major partnerships with some of the largest public and private sector organizations in Nigeria. Driven by her strong passion for wide development across Africa, Olamidun also served as a Director of Education for the Nigerian Young Professionals Forum where she led the architecture of a nationwide Education Intervention Scheme.

Olamidun completed her MBA at The University of Notre Dame, USA and has also served as an Education Strategy and Operations Consultant for Huron Consulting Group in New York City.

Visit:  Performing Arts School of Nigeria

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Afripreneur

Interview With Damansah co-founder/CEO, Claver Nambegue Coulibaly

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Claver Nambegue Coulibaly, Chief Executive Officer at Damansah

Claver Nambegue Coulibaly is passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, artificial intelligence holds a master’s degree in business and technology. His company,Damansah is improving the success rate and well-being of African micro-business owners by helping them track their transactions, business profitability and improve their financial management and business skills.  In this e-Interview, he speaks with Alaba Ayinuola, on how the team is working towards building the most powerful and largest bridge leading to financial inclusion, challenges, government policies and Africa’s business ecosystem. Excerpts.

 

Tell us about Damansah and the role you play?

Damansah is a platform that allows African micro-business owners to easily manage their financial activities and improve their financial literacy. With the Damansah application, we empower African micro business owners to track their transactions, know their business profitability and improve their financial management and business skills. The purpose is to lead them to financial inclusion where they can take advantage of financial services.

As co-founder and CEO of Damansah, my first role on the team is to ensure that we continue to work towards our core mission, enhancing the success of African micro-business owners. In addition, I maintain the relationship with our investor, define and track our key performance indicators and milestones, define business strategies.

 

What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

My co-founders, Michael Danho, Mohamed Bakayoko, and I were students at MEST AFRICA, where we took advantage of the one year program to develop our project and study the target markets. At the end of the program, after presenting the project to a panel of investors, we raised $ 100,000.

 

What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Our biggest challenge is the behavior of the micro business owners as they are used to not tracking their transactions. To overcome this challenge, we started sending them messages, notifications about business or financial trainings every two days. In what follows, when they open the application to read the course, they record at the same time active transactions.

We are not alone in the market. However, from our point of view, the user interface and the user experience of the product are the key differentiators. In addition, based on the design thinking methodology, we have designed the essential features that African micro-business owners need to run their businesses. We have created business and finance courses to help entrepreneurs improve their business or start a new business.

 

How does your organisation measure its impacts?

We are a data driven company. As a result, we use many internal and external  tools to track our performance indicators, track customer interactions and the mobile application available in the playstore, only in Ghana now, engage customers when they are not active. Also, we always discuss with our entrepreneurs to evaluate satisfaction and get feedback.

 

What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.

Before investing or starting a new business in Africa, take the time to do a local market research based on design thinking methodology. During this study, you will have the opportunity to discuss with your potential customers and verify the hypothesis you made before the market research. Here is the key to success. The problem and the solution must come from your potential customers, even with the pricing model of your services or products.

When you will encounter difficulties, never give up! Entrepreneurship is a long journey, it is a series of many challenges that will produce the big expected result, an impact.

What’s the future for Damansah and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

This year, we promise many services and features to satisfy African entrepreneurs. Among these promises, we will expand our business to Côte d’Ivoire where it is a large young market with a high smartphone penetration rate. In the middle of the year, we will launch an online accounting software for African small businesses using artificial intelligence.

All of these steps will lead us to our vision of building the most powerful and largest bridge to financial inclusion in Africa.

 

How is the government policy impacting startups in Ghana?

Well, the Ghanaian government has been actively working to ensure that Ghana  sees more and more successful startups. Last year, it set up a fund and a national entrepreneurship program to show its commitment to support start-ups. It even changed its fiscal policy so startups would have a 3 years tax holiday and focus on growing. However, not everything is rosy, in particular when it comes to the tech industry.

As the industry is moving forward and new technologies are coming out every single day, Ghana and not just Ghana actually, most african countries have failed to adapt the legislation to the digital age so to create an enabling environment for  tech startups to thrive and heavily contribute to the economic development of our countries.

 

What’s your view on the development of Africa business ecosystem?

The African business ecosystem, French or English speaking, is becoming more active and growing rapidly. The number of entrepreneurship competitions, incubators and tech hubs is growing exponentially. It all starts with capacity building. Many NGOs all over Africa teach, train young entrepreneurs to international standards of entrepreneurship and the result is there: many great projects in all sectors are born. 

We have the knowledge and the technical support. We therefore hope that many more investors from around the world will trust the ecosystem, invest in our startups and accompany them throughout their growth, like in Europe, the United States or anywhere else in the world.

 

What inspires you and keeps you going?

I have three big inspirations, my Grandmother, the entrepreneurship my passion and my family. Specially about my grandmother, she is my primary inspiration, my first role model, it’s the brave African mother we often talk about in books. She created herself a job allowing her to educate her 7 children until their professional success. Unfortunately she is dead, but I still think of her when everything goes wrong.

 

How do you relax and what books do you read?

Generally, I listen to music or walk. Walking allows me to think about everything and nothing at the same time. I read books like Lean Startup, Outside Insight. However, my favorite book is Blue Ocean Strategy. I will end with the best quote I read there: “The best way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition.”

 

Claver’s Mini-biography

Passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, artificial intelligence, after my master’s degree in business and technology in Ivory Coast my country, I started various social projects to help my community. Then, I got a scholarship from MEST AFRICA, where I improved my entrepreneurial skills during a one-year program. I have experience in IT project management.

Kindly visit: https://www.damansah.com/

 

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