Brothers Fred and Serge Zamblé have built businesses before. Fred has a background in finance, while Serge is a computer engineer, and they have previously founded a web development startup and a digital marketing company.
Now, though, they are turning their attention to agriculture, and their latest startup may be the most successful of the lot. Seekewa, founded in 2016, is an all-in-one crowdfunding platform that provides direct support to smallholder farmers. The platform allows individuals or organisations to buy e-vouchers valued in points, and grant them to small agricultural projects sourced by the startup.
“With the money raised, we buy all the necessary resources at the most affordable rates and deliver them to the farmers’ doorstep,” Fred, who is Seekewa’s chief executive officer (CEO), told Disrupt Africa. “We support them throughout the process with our technological tools, expertise and training. Once the projects are successful and the crops sold, Seekewa pays the project expenses and transfers all profits to the farmers. Individual contributors can also purchase these fresh food products at reduced prices.”
Essentially, the startup makes consumers actors in the production of their own fresh food, by allowing them to choose and finance farmers directly through the platform. From the crowdfunding perspective, Seekewa is similar to a host of other African agri-tech companies, such as Farmcrowdy and Thrive Agric in Nigeria, and Complete Farmer in Ghana. But Fred says the startup stands apart.
“We propose a socio-economic model based on the direct relationship between consumers and farmers. The commitment on the platform is free of charge for the contributors and the farmers. Seekewa addresses both the living conditions of farmers in rural areas and the improvement of the purchasing power of the lower and middle classes through a circular economy,” he said.
Both sets of stakeholders seem to like it. Around 100 projects have been published on the platform, with half of them receiving the required funding, since Seekewa went live in December 2017. Clients – or should we say investors – on the platform include multinational insurance company Ascoma, the Bayer Cares Foundation, two rural town halls, GIZ, and the UN International Office for Migration.
Seekewa, which makes its money from the sale of e-vouchers to organisations and the sale of products from harvest, has already raised two rounds of funding totalling EUR300,000 (US$340,000) and was one of the finalists for the recent MEST Africa Challenge. Fred said it is planning to expand to Benin and Burkina Faso by the end of 2020, a great leap considering its small beginnings.
“Initially Seekewa was to be a simple traditional crowdfunding platform where individuals raised funds for small farmers by receiving their capital with interest at the end of the projects,” he said.
“However, given the rigidity of West African banking regulations, which deprived a startup such as Seekewa of any chance of a public offering, the founders had to adapt and modify the initial model, making it both unique in its kind and in compliance with the legislation in place.”
That uniqueness has propelled it to prominence in Ivory Coast, and now Seekewa is thinking bigger.