#Re-ImagineRural (Part 6)

__A case study: from vision to provision.

Zimbabwe has approximately 1.5m smallholder farmers. Almost 1m are registered with a platform called EcoFarmer which we launched in 2013. Through this platform, we interact with farmers on a daily basis with one objective: How do we make them more profitable in an increasingly digital world?

We help our farmers with information on markets, inputs, financing, skills, and weather. We are always looking for ways to offer services through “smart-techs” which cover everything from insurance, to banking, to data services, and more.

Every part of this business, including our solar power solutions, is aimed at servicing our farmers and people living in rural areas.

Our services to Zimbabwe’s rural farmers generate, directly and indirectly, more than $150m in revenue in Econet Group revenue.


We have only just started. The “digitalization” revolution is enabling us to #Re-ImagineRural entrepreneurship and identify ways to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers whilst doing good business. It’s up to you!

For us, it did not happen by accident. It was a deliberate business strategy, which we executed quietly, efficiently and effectively. It is not a government platform, and each farming family joined the platform totally voluntarily.

Just a couple of months ago, we launched the EcoFarmer Club, where our members get a bundle of different services including a mobile trading platform that allows them to sell their crops to buyers using a basic mobile phone. #Processesare still in progress to ensure grading quality standards are win-win for all.

The platform also enables our farmers to check and compare market prices for 37 commodities over 30 municipal markets across Zimbabwe! This helps to protect them from people who might try to convince them to sell their products at lower-than-market prices…

EcoFarmer Club members also get exclusive discounts on farming inputs like fertilizer, animal health products, seeds, stock feeds, farming tools, poultry supplies, and more. Our local #Partnershelp make all of this possible.

EcoFarmer is part of a subsidiary of Econet called Cassava SmarTech, which includes other services such as EcoCash, EcoSure, EcoHealth, Ownai (mobile eCommerce) and Cassava On Demand Services (formerly Cumii Technologies). Cassava SmarTech is set to be listed separately in a few weeks. I will be writing more about this in the days ahead.

Stay tuned…

Now that we have our business model working, we have identified key African markets where it will be scaled!

As you look at this EcoFarmer case study, here are some principles I want you to remember:

#1. We reached out to solve a problem with what we had in our hands.

#2. We re-imagined and re-engineered existing products and services to make them accessible to smallholder farmers.

#3. We scaled through skilled and talented#people, #processes, and continue to develop#products. We have a pipeline of innovations aimed at making EcoFarmer the most important platform for African smallholder farmers.

One day it will be a billion dollar “unicorn” that could be spun off and listed on a major exchange. Why not?!


To be continued. . .

by 14 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

14 thoughts on “#Re-ImagineRural (Part 6)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    An AGRA report five years ago noted that Africa had just 70 agricultural researchers per one million people, compared to 550 researchers per million in Latin America and 2,640 in North America…

    I hope this number has improved since then!? Are you yourself a researcher in an agricultural field? Who can tell us about agricultural and agritech programs across Africa, whether at universities, technikons, etc? How about online courses that could be of interest to aspiring #Agripreneurs on this platform?

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.

    President Obama once quipped, “Strive is on a mission to make smallholder farmers rich, so that they can buy his smartphones.”

    I laughed in agreement. When that smallholder farmer gets rich with my help, he will buy lots and lots of products from me!

    These days I talk about the importance of “livelihoods”. The more people have money in their pockets, the better off our businesses will be, right? So let’s also spend time helping others get ahead, and in so doing we too will get ahead even more.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    It is estimated that Africa currently imports basic agriculture products valued at over $45bn a year. It includes everything from corn, rice, chickens, fish, beef. You name it, we import it.

    Don’t be outraged by it, just do something about it, that’s all!

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mokwue writes,

    Sir, please I want you to comment on those that are nothing but still an apprentice but are following your posts. I do feel left out seeing so many opportunities but due to lack of finance and freedom I can’t do much, what do I do now? Please comment or even write series of post about Africa upcoming entrepreneurs that are still under apprenticeship. We’re feeling left out Sir.

    My reply,
    You need that apprenticeship!
    This too is part of your apprenticeship!

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Lawal writes,

    Mangwi Ako I believe this questions aren’t entrepreneurial. Its of no issue whether they are in Cameron or not.
    You too can get up and make money!

    My reply,
    Beautiful answer Lawal!
    When you read anything I do, all I want is to inspire you to see possibilities, even beyond what I see!
    You must now reach out to friends and say to them:
    “Guys, we can also do this! Let’s have a go right here in Cameroon, or in Togo!”
    Cameroon is a beautiful country which I first visited when I was only 15. Some of the smartest African friends I have ever met come from Cameroon.
    Do you have problems? Yes you do, and I know about them, but so does every single African country!

    Remember my dictum:
    “We fight in the conditions, and not the conditions” as entrepreneurs.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Syd writes,

    Thank you Sir..i see a great opportunity for those in transport and logistics.As small scale rural farmers our farm produce have to reach the target markets while still fresh(mobile cold rooms).In addition, transport cost can be reduced if it can be shared among small scale farmers within a local area

    My reply,
    Now you are thinking my boy!
    There is a huge entrepreneurial opportunity in developing solar powered containerized freezer systems for vendors and small holder farmers.
    There is actually a company in Israel which develops such systems.
    They also develop crop-drying systems for rural entrepreneurs.
    Imagine if you can set up such systems at rural business centers. They work just like the grinding mill business, only you would make more money!
    They actually displayed at this year’s AGRF in Kigali. Do your research!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Simon writes,

    We are working on a fruits farming group so as to build a strong bargaining power in the global market.
    As villagers we look up to institutions that will enable us get into the world map .
    What DR strive has done proves to me that Rural farmer will benefit more by this exposure into the world’s market’s.
    This is really good, hope in away it can roll down to Kenya and particularly Makueni COUNTY.

    My reply,
    There is an interesting comment about a new innovation from a Cape Town-based company, which is helping fruit farmers to use drones to inspect their crops. This is really smart.

    Cumii Technologies [one of our companies ] has a company called Drone Africa.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Moses writes,

    Sir check out this SA start up using drones on agriculture disrupt-africa.com/2018/10/cape-town-startup-aerobotics-launches-host-of-innovative-agri-tech-products

    My reply,
    This is a very interesting company. It is the type of business I like to invest in!
    Thanks for the tip!

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    This is how most great entrepreneurs begin.
    Read this story carefully, then summarize for me in a comment what lessons you have just learnt:
    PS. One of the lessons is not that you should drop out of school!
    But you can make it, and become a billionaire even if you did drop out of school!


    How a high-school dropout with big ideas founded GoGoVan, Hong Kong’s first US$1bn start-up

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    One of the greatest explorers ever is a man called Robert Swan. This remarkable man has undertaken expeditions on foot to both Poles!
    He is still alive.

    His most famous quote is:


    Unfortunately this also applies to a lot of other things:
    Our neighborhoods, our communities, cities, our villages, schools, countries even.

    I really want to express my deepest appreciation to the thousands of Zimbabweans, including the First Lady of Zimbabwe, who have joined us in our campaign to clean up our cities in order to stop the spread of cholera.
    These people knew that unless they get up and do something to help, nothing would be done, as well or as effectively.

    Then there is our planet. Let’s all get involved there too by finding small practical things we can do to help.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Mo Dewji,

    My wife and I are pleased to learn that Mo Dewji has been released, following his kidnapping in Tanzania.
    He was in our prayers during his ordeal.
    We know Mo through the Giving Pledge Organization, where we are members with him. We know him to be committed to his own work as a philanthropist in Tanzania.

  12. Collen Simango

    Thank you Doctor Masiyiwa.

    I always try to follow up with all your programmes and posts but sometimes, I failed because of different issues.

    Can you assist me to understand the best way to go about it.
    I am a boy aged 21 years. I came from a poor family but this is not the excuse for not executing my idea. I heard you saying a lot about Agriculture. I took my time to analyse and I found out that agriculture is th biggest industry ever in this world and also it is life time industry. I believe into this idea and I feel that if I tapped into this industry very well I can be far richer than Apple.

    My challenge is that I don’t have land, implements and inputs. How best can I source out these things?

    This industry is the biggest because it is 7 in 1. Why we don’t have a billionaire in Agriculture?

    Why agriculture is being underestimated is because the richest men and women in this world are from science,sports and arts. So us as you youth we start thinking that agriculture is outdated activity not knowing what it held for us.

    I wish I could receive a response from you on this issue. I also need you to explain what is financial literacy and what it takes for someone to become financial literate.

    God bless you,God bless Africa!!!


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