At a time when the price of oil in the global market is falling and the economy is receding, many oil producing nations are turning to other more lucrative ventures in order to buoy their economies. In Africa, it is known that the next best revenue-generating venture, aside from oil, is agriculture. This is why many countries in the continent, especially Nigeria, are clamouring for the resuscitation and revitalisation of the agricultural sector.
The problem however, is that nobody, particularly the youth, is willing to return to the ‘dreariness’ of agriculture and farm life. Not even the inducement of mechanised farming is enough to entice youths into agriculture as the business has been all but left to the old and the less educated people. Only a few courageous youths are willing to take up the challenge by going back to the basics. Some others, although not physically involved in farming, have found a way to marry technology with agriculture.
On CEOAfrica’s Personality of the week, we will look into the achievements of a young man from Ghana who has found a way of using technology to improve local farming and is making waves as a social technology entrepreneur. He is Alloysius Attah, the Co-founder and CEO of Farmerline.
About Alloysious Attah: Alloysius is a 28 year entrepreneur who alongside his friend, Emmanuel Owusu Addai, founded Farmerline, a technology product company that builds supply chain and value chain solutions to integrate agricultural outputs of rural farmers in Africa.
Growing Up: Alloysius grew up in a rural farming community in the Volta region of Ghana. His parents’ divorce when he was five, forced him to live with his aunt who was a small scale farmer – an arrangement he hated but which exposed him to many farming challenges in Africa.
Schooling: Alloysius’s desire to be a doctor changed into wanting to study business while he was growing but he got to study agricultural science. In college, he opted to study Natural Resource Management thinking it had to do with oil and gas but was disappointed to learn it was about forestry, fisheries and wildlife. Determined to improve his chances of getting a non-agriculture based job; Alloysius went on to acquire coding and computer programming skills.
Trials and Errors: Alloysius, still a student felt the desire to give back to his family which prompted him to start up his first company called “Alloyworld”. The company, which was involved in photography, video editing and building websites for student groups, failed twice but broke even on the third try. He, alongside a friend, also founded iCottage Networks, a Web and Mobile start-up.
Start-up Idea: Upon graduation from college, Alloysius and Emmanuel enrolled into a programme organized by the World Wide Web Foundation, where they received training on how to build apps for mobile phones. Armed with this newly acquired skill, Alloysius wanted to empower small scale farmers across Africa who, like his aunt, faced challenges with weather, expert agricultural advice, and real-time data support. This desire birthed the organisation, Farmerline in 2013.
About Farmerline: According to Alloysius, “Farmerline is a service specifically focused on smallholder farmers and organisations that need more access to resources. Farmerline connects farmers to markets, financial information, weather forecasts, farming tips and techniques and equipment services through the application of mobile technology. The overall objective is to help smallholder farmers increase their productivity and yield so that they can generate more profit and develop viable, sustainable businesses.
Challenges: Alloysius almost gave up his business a result of several discouragements he received. People found it difficult to believe in the possibility of the business succeeding much less impact people positively.
Achievements: Presently, Farmerline has reached over 200,000 users across West Africa. Alloysius has spoken about his work at the 2013 Social Capital Markets Conference and 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He became a 2014 finalist: HRM Prince of Wales and Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneur Award at the Cambridge Institute of Sustainable Leadership (CISL). He is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow and the recipient of numerous awards including the 2016 SEED Award and the Financial Times/IFC World Bank Group Transformational Business Award. He was also named one of Africa’s 30 most promising entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine.
His Vision: Alloysius’s goal is to get the technology into the hands of those who need it the most and to reach at least two million farmers all over the world.
With a simple and humble beginning, Alloysius Attah identified a need among rural farmers and with technological skills, he met the need. Many celebrated entrepreneurs identified needs and met them. There are still thousands of unmet needs around us. If you can only take the time to look harder, you would identify places you can serve your purpose.