Back in March 2015, Togolese entrepreneur Edeh Dona Etchri launched the e-Agribusiness platform to connect people and organisations across the country’s agriculture sector. It has proved a vital source of information for otherwise isolated farmers and is helping to grow the sector nationwide. The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) worked with the founder to help him expand and market his business. Today, there are around 6,000 farmers across Togo using the platform.
You’ve long been involved in promoting digital technologies in Togo. Can you explain how the e-Agribusiness platform came about?
I started my first business at a very early age, when I was still at school. I studied management at university, but my real talent was in app and software development. I’ve always been the kind of person who sees a problem and tries to find a solution. For example, I noticed a real issue with ticket and pass fraud in Togo. So in 2011 I launched e-Orga, an event ticket security solution. The Togolese Football Federation now uses my system for official matchday tickets. In 2014, I won the young entrepreneur of the year award from the National Agency for the Promotion and Guarantee of Financing (ANPGF) as recognition for the system’s success. More recently, I turned my attentions to the challenges that farmers face here in Togo. Agriculture is the country’s key industry. I applied my problem-solving skills and began developing e-agribusiness in early 2015.
How does the platform work?
The e-Agribusiness platform connects people and organizations across the sector. Farmers in remote, isolated areas can find new outlets for their produce, either locally, elsewhere in the region or even in other countries. The platform also provides a wealth of information so users can make informed buying decisions, get weather forecasts or secure funding for their business.
Who is the platform aimed at?
First and foremost it’s for farmers. It’s about putting them in contact with buyers for their produce. And, of course, buyers can use it to source exactly what they need when they need it. It’s also useful for seed and fertiliser suppliers looking for farmers or individuals to sell to, and for agricultural development organizations, which can get key data and indicators to inform sector policy-making. In short, e-Agribusiness is a great resource for the entire sector.
The platform is often described as an app. In other words, it’s an online resource.What are you doing to reach those parts of Togo’s agriculture sector with no internet access?
e-Agribusiness is more than just an online platform. It caters to the realities of life here in Africa. There are 7.6 million people in Togo, and 4 million of them are farmers. So we’ve set up a call centre where people can get vital information they would otherwise be unable to obtain, in their own language. We’ve also set up an SMS and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) alert service that pushes targeted information to buyers and farmers looking to offload their stock or learn about new farming techniques. Aside from that, we also have an Android mobile app and a website for people who are online.
How has the CTA helped you grow your business?
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the CTA. I’ve attended subsidised courses on running an IT business for agriculture and connected with other like-minded young entrepreneurs. It’s been a valuable networking opportunity. The training has taught me a lot about my business and helped me fine-tune my strategy. I attended the Pitch AgriHack! finals in Côte d’Ivoire in September 2017, where there were sessions on financial management and fundraising. It’s proven really useful for my business. As I was one of the top performers in the finals, the CTA invited me to the Agri Startup Summit at La Roche-sur-Yon in France. I represented e-agribusiness and got to rub shoulders with other young entrepreneurs. The summit included an international pitch competition, and I won the award for the most promising start-up. But putting the awards to one side, the support I’ve had from the CTA has been absolutely incredible. I also attended the African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN) event in Senegal in March 2018, where I got the chance to showcase my services.