By Idris Bakare
Konga, Nigeria’s foremost composite retail giant, has once again led from the fore, revolutionizing agriculture in Nigeria by leveraging e-Commerce in helping rural farmers access better agricultural inputs such as crop seedlings, fertilizers and much more at highly competitive prices.
The initiative, a first in Africa, is a partnership with UKAid-funded Frontier Technology Livestreaming established in 2016 to help innovators apply frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development.
The programme, which commenced in March 2019, has seen Konga – arguably the most trusted player in Africa’s biggest market – leverage its e-Commerce engine, huge technology backbone, Central Bank of Nigeria-licensed payment system – KongaPay, considerable network of branches across the nook and crannies of Nigeria, advanced delivery capabilities through an internally owned logistics outfit – KXpress and effortless ability to reach the last mile in empowering rural, smallholder farmers to overcome obstacles faced in their agricultural practices.
Konga emerged as the technology partner for the project after it came out tops in a rigorous selection process.
Through Konga, the agricultural sector – one of the most important in Nigeria in view of the fact that it provides livelihoods for about 70 per cent of the rural population – is receiving a much-needed turnaround aided by technology.
Part of the challenges that have for long held back this critical sector is that of reduced yields attributed to limited use of modern agricultural inputs by farmers, sub-optimal delivery times and limited information on availability and price. This problem confronts about 80 per cent of farmers in the rural population, the overwhelming majority of whom are small-scale farmers who contend with low productivity, resulting in severely reduced incomes. In addition, these farmers are often excluded from the formal sector and find it difficult to access capital or credit facilities. Also, most agriculture input suppliers are based in the urban areas, with limited presence in rural areas due to high transaction costs.
However, Konga is bringing its suite of advanced competencies to bear in revolutionizing this sector.
Specifically, Konga is making it easy for these rural, smallholder farmers to purchase agricultural inputs online, meeting demands that have for long defied government and other allied agencies. Further, the e-Commerce giant is providing farmers in hard-to-reach, far-flung and under-served locations in Nigeria with an easy to use platform for listing and purchasing agricultural inputs and products, as well as providing logistics through KXpress and a reliable payment solution through KongaPay within the ecosystem.
Konga’s e-Commerce platform is accessible to rural farmers with low internet connectivity, allowing them to buy inputs at competitive prices from agro-dealers and suppliers, with pre and post-pay options.
So far, Konga has recorded commendable success with the initiative, onboarding 12 merchants, recording over 7000 hits on the website and successfully delivering scores of orders.
An Independent Technical Expert on the project, Ganiat Ettu has hailed Konga for its sterling work.
“The biggest challenge has been onboarding the suppliers, the agro dealers. Konga is used to doing business with dealers, but they found that in this space, it’s not business as usual given that their customers (the farmers) operate in rural or peri-rural areas…Physical sales are what works for them. If farmers can access agricultural inputs they require at the right price and when they need them, this will increase their yields and productivity will rise significantly.’’
Meanwhile, the pilot initiative, which has seen a fruitful marriage of e-Commerce and agriculture, has also seen potential talks of Konga making additional critical investments in agri-tech.
This was confirmed by Nick Imudia, Co-CEO, Konga Group, who described the experience garnered from the project as very insightful and useful.
‘‘The agricultural sector in Nigeria requires government to better channel its resources in helping it to scale. There are fears of famine or food insecurity in Nigeria in the next six months as recently predicted by the United Nations. But our experience shows that Nigerian rural farmers have the capacity to feed the nation and even have some left over for export. All they need is the right support.
‘‘We are doing our best in this area as well but we cannot do it alone. What determines whether we grow the category or invest is the number of customers we get. Do we get unique requests for products? Do we see growth in specific regions that would mean opening warehouses or new logistical hubs?’’ he concluded.