First of all, can you pitch us your company in just a few sentences ?
As agriculture is the backbone of The Gambia’s economy and a $200 million market size , Money Farm Gambia is an Agri Tech crowdfunding platform that matches agropreneurs with investors especially those in the diaspora who would invest in their ventures to help them scale their business. There is profit sharing at the end of each cycle of 12 months.
Can you tell us more about yourself, your personal background, your experience and how you went to this journey ?
I am an ICT specialist and i specialise in database administration with a combined work experience of over 20yrs. I was born and raised in The Gambia. I also worked as IT Manager for 2 banks in The Gambia . I have travelled widely including the USA, UK, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Switzerland, Mozambique, Egypt , South Africa, Rwanda to name a few. I also setup Gambia’s first online agro food store in 2014 called Farm Fresh and it is still in operation www.farmfresh.gm. I won the Seedstars Start Up Regional Competition in The Gambia in October 2018. I also won the Future Agro Challenge Audience Award in South Africa in 2017.
Access to finance is a huge problem in Africa and specifically The Gambia and for farmers or agropreneurs it is even more difficult. There is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy involved. Due to these frustrations which often mean most farmers cannot gain access to loans i came up with the idea of setting a crowd funding platform to address this issue. This was how Money Farm Gambia was born.. I built the platform myself and so far with zero seed capital we have raised $20,000 from 6 investors and 6 farmers have been onboarded since September 2018 when we officially started operations.
Can you tell us more about Gambia? Why this market?
The Gambia is a small but peaceful country of 2 million on the Western Coast of Africa. It is a popular tourist destination and well known for agricultural produce such as groundnut/peanut and cotton. Gambians are very entrepreneurial in nature and entrepreneurs including farmers form the bulk of the working population.
What are the main issues you have been facing with Money Farm in Gambia ?
Agriculture is a $200+ million industry in The Gambia alone and most of it is untapped thus creating a huge opportunity for investments.
Who are your main competitors around? And outside of the country, who are your inspiration?
Currently we do not have any direct competitor but banks and micro finance companies can be regarded as competitors such as Reliance Financial Services. Outside the country i am inspired by the likes of Tony Elumelu from Nigeria, Strive Masiyiwa from Zimbabwe as well as Elon Musk originally from South Africa due to their entrepreneurial drive and spirit.
What is your point of view, as a startup founder, about Gambia?
As a start up in The Gambia i feel that our government is doing a lot in encouraging entrepreneurs and start ups however a lot more work needs to be done such as the setting up of hubs. We currently have only 1 incubation hubs. The government must also be seen as taking the lead role in promoting entrepreneurship and should also consider reducing taxes for start ups despite the strides made in this area thus far. We need to have vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Is it hard to find investors there?
Yes it is challenging to find them due to lack of awareness and trust.
What do you think is lacking to Gambia to develop it more? What are the main barriers to develop a startup there?
We need to have a sound entrepreneurial policy and act which will give priority to Gambian entrepreneurs. At the moment there is a lot of foreign dominance in our markets over 80% of our food and goods are imported. Gambian start ups should be given the opportunity to compete in terms of supplying needed goods and services which are often given to Non Gambians. The importation of fresh produce can also be controlled so that local produce can thrive.
What is your perspective for the next years on Gambia and more regionally on Africa?
I believe that despite the many challenges we face in The Gambia and Africa the future looks promising as more and more people in Africa have embraced entrepreneurship and innovation. The Gambia can potentially become a good model for Africa if the right mindset is in place amongst entrepreneurs and the government.
As you know, we are always on the look of great startups, new products and amazing entrepreneurs, could you name a few locally or regionally in Gambia ?
Locally check out Farm Fresh, AssuTech, Tropingo Foods, Tiga, Tedungal Farms (fishery). Regionally check out Jumia, Africas Talking and Sooeretul.