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5 Nigerian agrifintech startups providing digital financial services for smallholder farmers

December 6, 2022

Affordable financing options are a challenge for Africa’s smallholder farmers. A recent report determined that collectively, around 220,000 small and medium-sized (SME) agribusinesses in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are in need of $160 billion in financing.

While financial institutions have been wary of providing capital to Africa’s smallholder farmers, agritech entrepreneurs are leveraging advancements in fintech to fill financing gaps and provide adjacent financial services.

In a country with a population of over 400 million people, Nigerian agritech entrepreneurs, in particular, are doubling down on advancing agricultural financing through embedded fintech tools for the 78% of Nigerian farmers who face a lack of access to formal financial services. And they’re making the most of Nigeria’s fintech strengths; the country is home to three fintech unicorns so far.

At the top of the list of Nigerian agrifintech startups, entrepreneurs are mostly working on new lending services, facilitating transfers, purchases and bill payments, and general wealth management services to unbanked farmers.

However, most of them do not offer stand-alone financial services as the nature of the industry calls for support in other areas such as market access and financial and agronomic education.

Here are five Nigerian agrifintech startups helping farmers access some form of financial service.

Tingo

Founder: Dozy Mmobuosi

Year founded: 2015

One of the first Nigerian agrifintech startups, Tingo serves rural farming communities through two avenues. The first is Nwassa, a marketplace where farmers can list and sell their produce to local and international buyers.

To handle the transactions, Tingo offers digital payment services through its second subsidiary Tingo Pay, which facilitates bill payments, airtime purchases, and data top-up services, and also provides lending and insurance services.

Last year, Tingo teamed up with Visa to enhance its digital payments services and issue Visa cards to users on Nwassa and Tingo Pay. Further, the partnership will aim to increase financial literacy in Nigeria in the communities it reaches.

Tingo was recently acquired by Chinese fintech company MICT. The merger will see Tingo merged with the Nasdaq-listed MICT.

HerVest

Founders: Solape Akinpelu and Yomi Ogunleye

Year founded: 2020

HerVest was founded with the aim of providing financial inclusion for female Nigerian farmers, along with helping them access markets and relevant training.

Its co-founder Akinpelu had worked in the financial services industry and observed the low access to such services among women, especially those in agriculture.

The startup offers an in-built savings app on its platform that allows women to own savings accounts and set savings goals. The women then have the opportunity to invest in farmers within HerVest’s network with short-term loans, which HerVest terms as impact investments.

Further, the app allows for transfers and provides essential financial literacy information for its users.

ThriveAgric

Founders: Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe

Year founded: 2017

ThriveAgric provides a host of tech solutions for smallholder farmers under its ‘Agricultural Operating System’ to help them increase their productivity. Among these solutions is input financing for farmers.

The startup collects farmers’ data as it onboards them and maps their farms, allowing it to assess their creditworthiness. With this, ThriveAgric calculates how much credit a farmer can receive and provides inputs to the value of the loan. The inputs include seeds, fertilizers, and crop protection products.

Just this year, the startup secured $56.4 million in debt financing. The amount included a $1.75 million co-investment grant from USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub.

Other services in its portfolio include farm monitoring and the provision of farmer advisory services as well as post-harvest inventory management.

Crop2cash

Founder: Michael Ogundare, Seyi Alabi, and Emem Essien

Year founded: 2018

“A lot of banks shy away from lending to farmers because they just don’t understand how to solve the problem,” says Ogundare.

Witnessing the lack of access to capital by Nigerian smallholders inspired the team to create Crop2Cash, a platform providing financial accounts for otherwise unbanked farmers.

The accounts are linked to e-wallets, which facilitate money transfers and make purchases, all through USSD technology with the option of English or Hausa.

With their financial transactions being tracked, Crop2Cash has been able to build financial identities for over 100,000 farmers. The startup is now working with financial institutions, leveraging these identities to help the farmers access credit. So far, Crop2Cash has unlocked $2.8 million in credit.

Beyond extending financial services to smallholders, Crop2Cash hosts a supply chain management platform to serve agro-processors. They interact with farmers and purchase products from them via the Crop2Cash platform, which has also been designed as a marketplace.

TradeBuza

Founders: Nonso Eze and Opeyemi Kufoniyi

Year founded: 2017

TradeBuza wants to help farmers access financing for their operations. The startup provides technologies and data infrastructure that can be leveraged to access financing from lenders.

Apart from providing lenders with creditworthiness assessment data, the startup has three main offerings; TradeBuza Capture, a tool that enables GPS farm mapping and collection of farmer KYC particulars, TradeBuza AgroAPI which provides remote sensing and satellite imagery services as well as TradeBuza Agro, a cloud-based farm management platform.

Agribusinesses can manage their outgrower schemes with its solutions and even automate their payments with suppliers and farmers.

Apart from significant efforts by startups, the government, through the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), is working to extend credit facilities to rural businesses and small and large-scale farmers.

BoA even partnered with African digital payments company, Cellulant to drive mobile money transactions in agriculture and help more farmers in the region access financial services.

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