Even with their feature phones, farmers now have the power of direct bargain with buyers and minimal intermediaries. This has been made possible by the 2KUZE app which was unveiled on the 17th of January in a round-table session. It places the seller and buyer at an open field of interaction, where prices are negotiated, deals sealed and the agent goes to pick the produce, and once it is received, payment is made either in mobile money, cash or bank payment. This no doubt enhances reduced cash transaction and saving habits which consequently leads access to loans.
With its main agenda being financial inclusion, Mastercard Lab exposes the flaw bedeviling the agricultural sector as its value chain. “Agriculture is big in Africa, a high percentage of the population is in agriculture, but its major undoing especially for the farmer is the value chain,” explains Daniel Monehin, the Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa and head of financial inclusion for international markets at Mastercard.
The new app, 2KUZE makes transacting much safer and simpler for all stakeholders in the agricultural supply chain: the farmer, the buyer and the agent.
With 2KUZE, farmers are saved the trouble of having to walk for hours to deliver their produce to a market that they are not sure will give them a desirable bargain. “This new product which is operable with the feature phones mostly owned by the farmers, provides a platform for buyers to express their need for farm produce, once the message reaches the farmers via an SMS, those with the product initiate a negotiation and the agent goes for the produce right at the location of the seller. This also works the other way round where a seller informs potential buyers via the SMS, and transactions are done the same way.
Once the negotiations are done, it’s up to the farmer to choose a mode of payment favourable to them. “Among the farmers we have encountered in our pilot phase, 99% of them prefer mobile money to cash,” explains Monehin.
This clearly shows the urge for farmers to be able to save their earnings in a safer and convenient way which is not given by cash transactions.
The process is also geared towards cutting down the number of intermediaries between the farmer and the buyer who contribute to the low gains acquired by famers from their hard-earned produce. It therefore enables them to capture a greater percentage of the wholesale value of their goods by providing price transparency and direct access to buyers. “In transactions that are permeated by brokers, farmers hardly get to know the market price and value of their produce, the only value they know is that which is quoted by the last broker, which in most cases is less than the actual value by huge percentage. When a farmer therefore has an opportunity to establish negotiations directly with the buyer, then there is transparency and better pay for the farmer,” adds Monehin.
This process of digitizing the transactions in a trusted, auditable environment provides a legitimate financialfootprint, opening up access to loans and other financial services.
While the app does not only benefit the farmers, Mastercard aims at maintaining its services to farmers free of charge and striking a bargain for other future users, which is obviously a better way of transacting as it lessens costs and is more convenient.
“Right now, the app is in use in Kenya and Tanzania and will soon be in Uganda,” explained Michael Elliot, the head of Mastercard Lab in Nairobi.
Since part of the project’s mission is to link the farmer with large market such as institutions, the experience as at the pilot phase is that the institutions require consistency of supply with the farmers they identify, for smooth running, which can at times be a challenge, but not just a challenge but one with an opportunity as farmers can see this as a sure market for their produce and be diligent in growing their crops.
Mastercard highlights the power of partnerships which enable interoperable technology such as 2KUZE, by leveraging on the already existing resources, and opening up more possibilities using them. The nature of this new product which fits so well with the devices at the disposal of the farmers it mostly targets, also shows its strength as a product for the people especially since it comes in forms that the farmers are already familiar with, which are the SMS and mobile money.
“Just like the name 2KUZE suggests, this technology which will help people grow financially, is not closed but is bound to grow and offer many more benefits to users in various other ways,” he concludes.