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Mobile Solutions For Small-Scale Farmers Building New Markets in Ghana


Telling Our Story

April 2011

Building New Markets

Ghana

 

Mobile Solutions

For Small-Scale Farmers

 

Knowledge is power.

 

In rural Africa, it means higher incomes for small-scale farmers—especially when it is knowledge of the latest market prices, delivered to remote villages by mobile phone.

Suddenly power goes to the producer, not just the consumer.

 

This is part of the value propositions of Ghana-based IT company Esoko Networks. It sells market price information to local agricultural co-ops, whose members then receive them via text messages.

 

Not knowing the prices being paid in other parts of Ghana, Ama Prosper used to sell her peanuts at home—in small quantities, at low prices, with no room to negotiate.  For years, she went to the local market once a week to sell a 5-kilo bowl, her future limited by her lack of options.

 

“People always cheat you,” she says.

 

No more. Now she gets Esoko price alerts stating better prices paid for peanuts in Accra and regularly gives friends going there a 100 kg bag to sell, generating higher profits.

 

Once Esoko informed Chief Saaka Mahama of prices available elsewhere, he turned away a trader who came to buy his cashews. A week later the same buyer returned and paid the higher price—giving the Chief 700 cedis ($70) more.

 

Similar mobile services have long been offered noncommercially in Africa, working for a while, then leaving farmers disappointed when they disappear as donor funding runs out. Esoko is the first private business to tap this large base-of-the pyramid market. An SME itself, it sells subscription services to co-ops and other associations as well as businesses and individuals, while also offering technology solutions to large projects, and is looking to expand across Africa via franchising.

 

In the market for just a year and not yet profitable, Esoko is a high-risk investment for IFC, but one with great potential.

 

With no local venture capital funding available, our $1.25 million equity stake fills a big gap in this African high-tech start-up. We believe in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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