In the face of recurring famine and drought in Karamoja, Uganda, the area is receiving enormous developmental interventions by developmental agencies, NGOs, governments, private companies. Most if not all of these initiatives share one aspect in common lack of transparency and accountability, a scenario where organisations are not sure if the interventions reach the target beneficiaries.
As a computer scientist and entrepreneur I asked myself questions like how can organisations track the impacts of their funds in real-time? How can the process be made more effective and efficient?
These questions coupled with the will to advance agricultural developmental agenda, led to the birth of Uganda’s first female led digital service business - Vouch Digital. This platform helps the government, the private sector and development agencies distribute resources, send payments and track impacts more easily and efficiently. The platform generates customised electronic vouchers which are then sent to end users via mobile phones using USSD platforms. In collaboration with the implementing organisation, we gather basic information about the farmers, the vouchers can then be tailored to their specific requirements. The farmer takes the digital voucher to a merchant selling the product (seeds or crops), who then redeems the voucher.
This process enables the verification of with who, when and where the transaction occurred, helping the development body to track programme progress and outcomes. The platform helps beneficiaries get exactly what they are entitled to get and gives organisations an ally to know who their beneficiaries are, make follow ups and link them up to other programmes.
The business niche for Vouch Digital is therefore the simplification of goods and service management from the donor to the recipient. Since its launch in 2017, about 100,000 farmers have used the platform, generating about UGX 3 billion worth of transactions.
The future of women in agri-tech
In the era of technological advancement, I am pleased to say Vouch Digital is a timely initiative, which is in line with even bigger continental developmental interventions like CTA’s VALUE4HER. To this end Vouch Digital emerged as one of the winners of the VALUE4HER Agripreneur award, receiving a cash prize of €2,000, at the 2019 Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), organised in partnership with CTA. VALUE4HER is dedicated to promoting women entrepreneurs in Africa and to encourage business expansion and value addition to benefit women businesses all along the agricultural value chains.
VALUE4HERConnect is an applaudable idea by CTA and its partners in a sense that it creates a network of women to connect with, to discuss business challenges and opportunities. It is an essential tool for fostering women participation in agribusiness across Africa as well as globally.
For Vouch Digital, the cash prize was timely for our planned developments to build a smart phone application. Vouch Digital also intends to set up new partnerships in 2020 to access new markets and drive our contribution to agricultural development using digital technology.
AWIEF also provided me with an opportunity to interact with women undertaking different types of agri-businesses across Africa. Interacting and learning from women at the forefront of building businesses was a big inspiration for me. I understood that our challenges are similar and therefore VALUE4HER gives us a platform to help each other be better in agribusiness. I also believe the future looks bright for women in agri-tech. When women, as the main contributors to agriculture, interact with technology they will be unstoppable.