It is no secret that the Ugandan business environment is saturated by counterfeit and substandard products in all sectors.
In agriculture, for instance, grassroots farmers are perennially challenged by identifying authentic agricultural inputs such as seeds, pesticides, and equipment.
Take the example of Ssenabulya Patrick, a farmer, and trader, who notes that besides volatile weather, a farmer’s biggest worry is about being cheated with fake agro inputs.
“It is usually difficult for a rural farmer to know a genuine product. So, they just buy and later discover that they were cheated after it fails to work,” he says.
These worries are however beginning to fade since Ssenabulya was introduced to a mobile application by ETG, which provides authentic market information about genuine agricultural inputs, market access, financial literacy, and other extension services.
Established in 1967, ETG (Export Trading Group) is one of the largest and fastest-growing integrated agricultural conglomerates in sub-Saharan Africa, importing and exporting soft commodities to and from 49 countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa. It also has supply chain operations in China, India, America, the Middle East, and South East Asia.
“I got to know ETG through a friend who advised me where to sell my coffee. He introduced me to ETG and I found out that they are also buyers of coffee...The information on their agricultural app is readily available on your phone. This eases the search for local agronomists in villages and when I go to buy pesticides or herbicides, I am not cheated,” he says.
According to Ponsiano Byansi, an agronomist at ETG, this organisation headquartered in Dubai has the motivation to empower Ugandan rural farmers.
“[In Uganda] we have ETG logistics which deals in transport, ETG commodities which are based in Tororo, and ETG coffee which deals in the export of processed coffee and is based in Namanve. We also have ETG inputs which deal in agricultural inputs like fertilizers, crop protection products, and farm tools,” he says.
Byansi says that they came up with a mobile application that is a one-stop centre for all agricultural inputs. A user just needs to download the ETG application to their phone and start accessing these services.
The ETG one-stop solution App also has a live weather forecast which helps farmers to plan for their gardens depending on the weather forecast. For instance, if you want to apply fertilizers, you must do so immediately when it is going to rain so that you don’t incur losses.
The agronomy feature on this App provides information to farmers with a program for all crops. For instance, if a farmer is growing maize, they go to the App and open the maize program to know what they are supposed to do from the planting stage, and what fertilizers to use, until the harvesting period.
“We also have the agro-doctor feature on the App whereby if a farmer has a disease in their garden, you use the smartphone to take a photo of the crop and send it via WhatsApp to us. Instantly, the farmer gets a message about the name of the disease, pesticides to use, and more pictures of the signs and symptoms of that disease,” he says.
Byansi further adds that to ensure financial literacy and discipline, they integrated a personal finance feature named Falcon Wallet that helps farmers to plan budget management and also keep records of their finances.
“For example, most farmers invest money into their farms at the start of the season and at the end, when they sell their produce, they can’t tell if they have made profits or losses. Under the Falcon Wallet, if a farmer is planning to invest Shs 1m into their garden, they input that money into the App and every time they incur an expense, it is registered into the wallet. At the end of the season, when selling his produce, he can also input the income. The APP will then give him a balance sheet of what he spent on and what he earned,” he explains.
Byansi notes that while their mobile application has more than 40,000 users on the African continent, there are about 700 users in Uganda.
“We are working with more than 100,000 farmers in Uganda but very few use the application because many lack smartphones and several that have them have phone storage capacity limitations. So, there is competition on the apps they are supposed to retain but also an information gap,” he says.
Byansi nonetheless expresses gratitude for the opportunity offered by the organisers of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative to highlight their services and also get to know what other players in the ecosystem are doing.
“The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is a great initiative because it gives us a platform. It is an addition to the efforts we are trying to push because there is an information gap, financial illiteracy, and poor record keeping, among others. So, this platform will help us add a voice to the efforts to reduce these problems,” he says.
ETG is the 32nd participant in this year’s 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative.
Now in its fourth season, the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is run by HiPipo in partnership with the Level One Project, Mojaloop Foundation, INFITX, Cyberplc Academy, Ideation Corner, and Crosslake Technologies with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.