Senegalese Agritech startup Afrikamart aims to be the largest quality fresh food supplier in West Africa. The company aims to become the largest quality fresh food supplier in Africa without owning any farm.
ITBusinessDirect spoke to Mignane Diouf its Directeur Général, here is our conversation,
In your own words, describe Afrikamart?
Afrikamart is an outsourced digital purchase department providing solutions for its customers to help them source good quality fruits and vegetables in their local area or internationally. We leverage on digital to connect the different stakeholders on the value chain, bypassing unnecessary middlemen thus creating cost-efficient supply chains from the farm to retailers.
What is it that you do differently from your competitors?
Afrikamart provides steady supply of fresh produce at a fair cost. To do so, we work with different partners such as farmers, cooperatives, pack houses, logistics companies, in different countries.
We anticipate harvest and build production programs aligned with market demand to advise our partners, we optimize product collection and put together all transportation means possible in order to move the crops in bulk, we have a shared cold chain storage to mutualize costs.
What is the most rewarding and challenging part of what you do?
Our system allows us to sell products at a cheaper price than competitors while paying the farmers up to 60% higher than what they would get in the traditional supply chain. Keeping this promise is the most challenging part of our model but it’s also our added value on this value chain. From March to December 2019, we were able to give back 35,000$ USD additional revenue to our 400 partners farmers in Senegal.
How is your company utilizing the use of internet and technology effectively?
Even though our partners or customers cannot always see it, everything we do is based on technology, whether it’s pricing, product collection schedule, logistics routes, product dispatching or order fulfillment.
Our web and mobile apps helps us reach our customers efficiently so that we stay close to them, we know exactly what they need and when they need it. Same for our partners whom we are able to guide all the way through their activity in order to create the best match between demand and offer.
What are the challenges of scaling to penetrate more market segments in Senegal?
Scaling a food distribution business requires good logistics. That’s the biggest challenge especially in West Africa where this sector is mainly informal and most of the solutions are not reliable and expensive. That’s one of the main reasons why end consumers experience price fluctuations, stock shortages, poor quality products. It’s an everyday challenge for a carrot harvested less than 100km from urban areas to arrive on our plates. Up to 50% of the final price on a crop is marked up by logistics stakeholders. Our ambition is to disrupt this market and turn this issue in our opportunity. So far, our major customer segment have been supermarkets. In 2020, we have good hope to build strong and reliable logistics partnerships in order to address more hotels, restaurants and traditional market retailers in 5 cities in Senegal.
What ups and downs do you see for the future of your startup?
It’s difficult to foresee those ups and downs but as we have launched the company two years ago and have been through different crisis, we have learned to celebrate every success as little as it seems and to stay strong and focus during downs because those are not moments a business can avoid. With our experience as a platform dealing with farmers on one end and food businesses on the other end, we grant a special attention to cash management. Every time we onboard new customers or integrate a new product in our catalog, it comes with the joy of achieving a milestone but the traction implies more working capital which can lead to some tension on the business. Now we are anticipating these moments as much as we can with our resources.
It takes creativity, courage and good execution. But as hard as it can be sometimes, we assume it’s the way to go when you are building incredible solutions to answer such a huge problem as supply chain for fresh produce in Africa.