Maize farm

Markit Opportunity was recently crowned winner of the Barclays Africa Group’s supply chain challenge. The challenge kicked off on 24th July when participants were expected to start submitting their applications, ended on 18th September when submissions were closed, and culminated in an event in South Africa on 3rd November when the winner was officially crowned and handed the US$10,000 prize money cheque.

The Barclays Supply chain challenge was open to African start-ups, teams as well as individuals. Entrants had to be between 18 and 35 years. There was no limitation as to which industry the entrants were from, but they had to demonstrate the ability of their ideas to create more transparency in the supply chain.

The ideas were then subjected to a judging session by a panel of renowned industry players in the tech industry who included Ian Merrington – CEO of the Cape Town Innovation and Technology initiative, Andrew Baker of Barclays Bank, Teju Ajani of Youtube and Eric Hersman – CEO of BRCK. Markit Opportunity emerged the winner based on the promise of their product to solve a real and pressing problem in society.

Kenya had four finalist entries and other than Markit Opportunity, there was Solutech Distribution App –  a web based app through which manufacturers can track their products from the warehouse to the shop front, Farm Inputs Authentication which tracks distribution of fertilizer and seeds from the source to the farmer and Catch Counterfeits which aims to streamline the pharmaceutical industry. The fifth entry which won a cash prize of US$5,000 was Freshmart App for Provenance from South Africa which enables customers to research and review the conditions in which the produce they purchase was grown, sourced, handled, packaged and transported.

How does Markit work?

Simply put, Markit uses mobile technology to ensure that more money gets into small scale farmers’ pockets. This will be achieved by connecting buyers and sellers directly, thus making the supply chain efficient and transparent. The result will be to have a farmer fraternity that is well informed about markets from which they buy inputs and those to which they sell produce. Farmers are provided with real time supply and demand statistics as well as market related pricing. Informed farmers are ultimately richer farmers and that is Markit’s goal. Head here for a deeper understanding of the inner workings of this app.

I would relate to what Markit is aiming to do. As an example among many, my mother back in the village and indeed many neighbouring homesteads have dozens of mango trees and during mango season, their compounds are often teeming with brokers who come and request to purchase sack loads of mangoes at a song. Where they sell these mangoes and the mark-up they attach when they’re selling is not in the farmer’s knowledge but one thing is for sure. They’re making thousands in profits at the expense of the farmer. They’re able to do this because they have created and maintained a level of mystery in the supply chain where farmers do not know what is on the other side. Supposing the farmers were directly in touch with the actual buyers? Would they not be more empowered by being able to bypass the middle men and putting more money in their pockets?

The Barclays Supply Chain challenge is ultimately spurring economic growth across Africa and farmers could very easily be described as the base of the African economy. Markit has touched on a good one here.

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