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IFC Helps African Farmers Go Mobile for Crop Information


African farmers still count on sun, rain, and soil to nourish their crops, but they are increasingly relying on modern technology to get the best prices for what they produce.

IFC and the Soros Economic Development Fund have both invested $1.25 million of equity in Esoko, a Ghanaian technology firm, to help provide small holder African farmers and businesses timely crop information that can be shared via text messaging.

By providing farmers current market information, even rural farmers can make educated, cost effective decisions when buying and selling their crops. As a result, they are more likely to see greater returns.

“Our platform was developed by African software engineers here in Accra, Ghana, and has been a totally local, market-driven initiative” said Esoko CEO Mark Davies. “IFC and SEDF have a strong track record of helping local companies get the funding and advice needed to expand into new regions and markets. With their support we hope to export this African technology all around the world.”

Real-Time Market Information

Esoko’s software allows different parties across the agriculture sector to exchange real-time market information. Farmers receive current demands, prices of crops, and the location of seeds and fertilizers directly on their mobile phones. Businesses can track how their products are used and market themselves to new customers. Associations and governments can share critical information with thousands using a simple bulk-text messaging feature.

“Our investment will help break the information barrier for African farmers so they can generate more income,” said Stewart J. Paperin, president of the Soros Economic Development Fund, a nonprofit investment fund that works to alleviate poverty and community deterioration. “A more transparent marketplace enables farmers to negotiate fair prices, improve their timing on getting goods to market, and move between markets to sell products.”

Because formal commodity exchanges are rare in Africa, Esoko is also publishing the first commodities indices in Africa, a powerful tool to help ensure that farmers get good prices for their crops. The company is initially publishing two indices that provide prices for 12 agriculture commodities in seven markets in Ghana.

“African technology firms are innovating and expanding beyond their domestic markets and we see a great opportunity to help ensure they have the proper financing for long-term growth,” said Kent Lupberger, Global Head of IFC Technology, Media, and Telecom. “Esoko is giving people practical tools to improve their lives and lift themselves out of poverty.”

Esoko's technology is currently being used in nine African countries and is expanding quickly.

To watch a video on Esoko’s work please click
here.

For more information contact:
Kimberlee Brown
Communications Officer
Dakar, Senegal
Tel: +221 33 859 7126
Email: kbrown@ifc.org

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