Introducing Seekewa, the MEST Africa Challenge winner from Côte d’Ivoire
This post was written by MEST Community Manager, Lundie Strom.
Over 35 members of the Abidjan tech eco-system gathered together on February 28, 2019, to watch pitches from regional finalists of the MEST Africa Challenge. Eight companies pitched back to back, and after much deliberation and a tight race, the judges chose Seekewa — an Agri-tech startup focused on crowd-farming in Côte d’Ivoire- as the finalist.
Seekewa was founded by Serge and Fred Zamblé, two brothers passionate about technology and social innovation and concerned by the exploding poverty among small farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.
In 2018, there were nearly 50 million smallholder farmers in Africa. Although smallholder farmers provide up to 80% of the continent’s food, most are living on less than $2 a day and are among the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the world. The Seekewa team aims to change the overarching issues they face, including access to financing, financial exclusion, post-harvest losses and gender inequality. Seekewa’s innovative crowdfunding platform allows any Internet user and organization around the world to financially support the projects of these farmers.
When asked why ‘now’ is the right time for their company to exist, Seekewa told MEST, “We believe that the time is right for Seekewa because it is now clear that traditional financial systems have shown their limits in financing small farmers. As well, technology now makes it possible to develop new and more appropriate models, such as crowdfunding.”
They explained further, “Because in Côte d’Ivoire, and more generally in the West African monetary space, regulation prohibits the lending of money by any economic actor without a banking or financial institution license, this barrier makes it almost impossible for a startup to set up a crowdfunding platform.” Seekewa therefore “had to reinvent the classic crowdfunding model by combining it with an electronic voucher system valued in points. This innovative approach makes it possible to provide resources (goods and services) directly by credit instead of needing money to acquire them.”
Their unique platform acts as a trusted third party that brings together contributors (individuals or organisations around the world) who can secure and maximize the impact of their funds, farmers who have access to those necessary resources, and consumers who are able to pay for quality local products at fair cost.
When asked how winning the MEST Africa Challenge would help their goals, Seekewa said, “In the next 2–5 years, besides our expansion into at least 3 new countries, we also want Seekewa to be a world-renowned fair trade label focused on the African smallholder farmer’s production and based on the blockchain technology. The equity investment in Seekewa by an actor such as MEST Africa will strengthen our capacities and expand our network while enabling us to gain media exposure. All these elements are essential to our desire to scale up in the next few years.”
MEST and Microsoft look forward to welcoming the Seekewa team to the finals at the MEST Africa Summit in June!