New online market to boost small holder farmers in EAC

Zadock Matara displays his fruits at Suneka market in Kisii County. The ACEA Buyer-Seller Platform aims to connect agribusiness players from the East Africa Community. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

An online agribusiness market to help farmers in the East Africa Community sell agricultural produce has been unveiled.

Agribusiness Confederation of East Africa (ACEA) has launched the online agribusiness market to help sellers in the region find markets for their green produce. 

Dubbed the ACEA Buyer-Seller Platform, it aims to connect agribusiness players in the agriculture value chains from the East Africa Community. East African countries produce a lot of agricultural products but the challenge remains market for these products.

Through the platform which is free to register, farmers are able to market their products to all potential clients, such as wholesalers, importers, exporters and supermarkets around the region that already use the platform and exchange contacts for further business transactions. 

ACEA is the regional apex body for private sector associations and federations in the agribusiness sector. It is the main voice and representative of the private sector agribusiness stakeholders in the East African Business Council. 

Speaking from Rwanda in an event launched virtually in Nairobi, Robert Rukundu Chairperson of Agricultural Exporters Association of Rwanda said the country produces a lot of agricultural produce but lack information on markets.

Lack of info on markets

“The platform will offer us good opportunity to penetrate markets as we share information regarding which markets for which product,” he explained.

He said ACEA will not interfere or get involved in the logistics, business transactions between buyers and the sellers who connect through the platform.

Victoria Sekitoleko, from the Uganda business community, said though local farmers have produced plenty of agricultural produce, lack of market has forced them to sell through brokers who offer poor prices.

“Ugandans are happy with the formation of the platform. They will do even better when they have the system,” she said.

Dr Kevit Desai, Principal Secretary, State Department of East African Community, lauded the platform saying it is a remarkable step towards digitisation of intra-regional trade.

He challenged the stakeholders as they launch the portal, is important to reflect on the status of the agricultural sector and the underlying factors that have impeded regional trade such as low-level agricultural activities, extension systems, inadequate value addition and declining soil utility.

“We need to influence the formulation and implementation of policies and strategies for the improvement of agriculture value chains, and promote common interests of individual agriculture businesses in the East region,” he said.

The PS added that to improve intra-regional trade, in the agricultural sector there is a need for data.  

The stakeholders reiterated that the greatest struggle is revolutionising a traditional sector through new technologies. Fortunately, the new generations of agriprenuers are helping this narrative, as they are open to innovative platforms and applications. 

Dr Bimal Kantaria, Chairman, Agribusiness Confederation of East Africa and Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET) lauded the platform saying it will bridge the gap between the buyers and sellers.

“...coming together, trying to reduce duplication within the region and focus on agriculture and agribusiness might help increase banking investments in agriculture sector,” he said.

Jacqueline Mukindi, from Tanzania, said they are happy to formalise agribusiness trade in the East African region.

“The millions of Tanzanians engaged in farming are excited about the new platform as it will help in regional agriculture trade,” she said.

Rajan Shah, from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said the platform will put farmers and buyers into direct contact with each other, removing the middleman.

“The middleman has been filling the gaps of inefficiencies, but putting buyer and seller together is going to bring in more price transparency,” he said.  

Rajan explained that when the buyer and seller are in direct contact there is better communication of the expectation of the product quality and the standardization.

He is optimistic the ACEA Buyer-Seller Platform will trigger players like banks and insurance companies to play effective roles in unlocking capital.

Peter Mathuke, Secretary-General, East African Community who was the Chief guest praised stakeholders behind the portal saying they are critical in influencing business policy at regional level.

“Article 105, of the treaty clearly provides for a scope of cooperation and promotion of agriculture within East African Community. It calls for partner states and players to come up together and coordinate and come up with a clear framework on how to promote agriculture in East Africa. And this is what you are doing as ACEA,” he said.

Mathuke highlighted that an important pillar for a very successful seller-buyer platform is to ensure there is two-way communication between those participating communities.

“The communication should be clear in terms of what is required and specifications. But also respect for those who are providing services from those producing and consuming,” he said.

He challenged ACEA stakeholders to consider applying for observer status within the East African Community that will give them a better platform to engage with all the policymakers.