Forty-six-year-old Karim Sy rejects the label of ‘incubator’, preferring to describe himself as a ‘serial entrepreneur’. Nevertheless, Jokkolabs, his non-profit organisation set up in Senegal in 2010, now has 12 hubs spread in Africa and Europe, and is trying to uncover the African entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Recently appointed to the Presidential Council for Africa by French President Emmanuel Macron, Sy has also been working for several years with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) through the AgriHack programme.Read More
In 2016, Mamadou Sall, working with Thierno Souleymane and other young Senegalese entrepreneurs, launched Bayseddo, a networking platform for farmers and investors in Senegal, aiming to optimise agriculture through digital technology. The start-up won the CTA’s Pitch Agrihack 2017 competition, and its first results are already beginning to show.
Twenty-nine-year-old Senegalese entrepreneur Mamadou Sall decided to create the Bayseddo programme in autumn 2016, while he was travelling from Paris to Le Havre. ‘I was on my way to take part in the Positive Economy Forum. Along the way, I could see all these cultivated fields, stretching as far as the eye could see, and all these people who lived right across from their fields. When I travelled from Dakar to Saint-Louis a few weeks later it was the opposite,’ he explains. Bayseddo’s ambition is as simple as it is promising: to be ‘a platform that can connect two worlds’ – the world of farmers and that of investors of all kinds.
‘In Africa, there is a lot of unused arable land, generally because the farmers that own the land lack the means to farm it. On the other hand, you have economic stakeholders, individuals, Africans of the diaspora, who want to invest in farming in their home country but don’t have the land,’ says Mamadou Sall. ‘In fact, 75% of Senegalese farmers struggle to access investments, and 30% of arable land is unused, while 60% of investors would like to get involved in the farming sector.’
Modernisation through digital technology
‘With Bayseddo, we have tried to modernise a traditional farming practice to give it greater scope, through digital technology,’ the 29-year-old entrepreneur adds. In a context favourable to new technologies thanks to the government programme Senegal Digital 2025, this kind of ‘agricultural exchange’ is already bearing fruit.
Since its launch in 2017 via Bio-Agripôles, Bayseddo has forged four agricultural partnerships between the cities of Saint-Louis and Richard-Toll in Senegal, farming 18 hectares, generating 76 million CFA francs (just over €115,000), and creating 20 jobs. These farms will produce onions, peppers, aubergines and watermelons, as well as raising 5,000 chickens. ‘Most farmers will benefit from this approach because we are not coming to buy their land, but investors support them by creating partnerships. We also plan to launch a programme in April 2018, which will allow enterprises to invest in local activities and to get involved within a framework of civil and social responsibility for our country,’ says Mamadou Sall. ‘The ambition is then to raise funds to optimise the development of the initiative in Senegal, in order to develop it at a later stage in West Africa.’
Precision agriculture and other methods
To encourage this development, the CTA has provided support to Bayseddo. Mamadou Sall’s platform won first prize at the Pitch Agrihack West Africa 2017, in Côte d’Ivoire, winning a prize of €15,000 as well as various capacity-building and networking opportunities. But listening to the Senegalese entrepreneur, it’s clear that the money matters less than knowledge gained: ‘The Pitch AgriHack meetings, and the Agri Start-up Summit, an international forum that we took part in with support from the CTA, enabled Bayseddo to make good contacts, to network and meet many other entrepreneurs from the agricultural and digital worlds.’
‘Bayseddo caught the jury’s eye at Pitch AgriHack, and that of many other stakeholders, not only because of the quality of the pitch during the competition, but especially because of the innovative and serious nature of the project,’ says Ken Lohento, coordinator of the CTA programme in charge of Pitch AgriHack: ‘The young entrepreneurs leading the initiative are strongly motivated, and they are already helping to increase the income of the farmers, the landowners and the investors who have trusted them.’
Networking and media coverage have also enabled Bayseddo to grow. Since Pitch AgriHack, ‘84 investors have come forward, for an additional 12 hectares launched’, representing 75% of the areas currently planned. CTA events also offer African entrepreneurs an introduction to other new technologies. ‘We have seen what a model farm looks like for example; agricultural technology is different from one country to another,’ adds Sall. ‘In Senegal, we’re just starting, but we have also seen precision agriculture, and how it allows the optimisation of crops with the use of drones, etc. It was a significant experience for Bayseddo’s future.’