Up until December 2017, it was not very clear to Cameroonian entrepreneur Che Azenyui Bruno what exactly he was going to do to support domestic production and domestic consumption of high-quality agricultural products in Cameroon and Africa as a whole. He was particularly concerned and deeply worried about Africa dependence on imported agricultural products and the rising rate of post-harvest crop loss in the continent which, as estimated by the African Development Bank, stood at slightly above 30% with products like tomatoes and vegetables recording even higher figures in some years.
As a young man born and raised into a family of small-scale agricultural commodity producers, he had firsthand experience of the ordeals endured by low- and middle-income earners in Cameroon, all of whom struggle to access urban markets in the continent amidst the deplorable state of farm to market roads and fragile commodity supply chains especially in the agriculture sector.
But in 2017, three years after his degree in Journalism and Mass Communications and armed with substantial work experience in Communications, Social Enterprise and Project Management functions, Che Azenyui began asking himself deeper questions as to how he would leverage his academic training, professional background and deep passion for technology to proffer solutions to some of daily challenges threatening Africa’s long term food security.
In January 2018, it became clear to him that with digital innovations, he could use the growing influence of technology to boost local production and local consumption of agricultural products in Africa. His first step was to come up with a business plan to the best of his ability and then mobilize resources to bring the dream alive. It was then he encountered the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme in 2019, which led to the startup that is today known as Digifarms Africa.
Beyond the seed funding he received from the programme, the Startup Enterprise toolkit provided an ideal platform for learning growth and expansion for Digifarms Africa. Among other things, it taught Che Azenyui resilience, record keeping and financial reporting, enterprise communications and business forecasting. One of his biggest lessons is in the importance of long-term planning as an enterprise, even as Digifarms navigates through challenges and successes.
With a database of more than 500 local commodity producers in Cameroon across aspects like commodity value addition, farm optimization, packaging, branding and marketing, farmers sell their farm produce from the comfort of their farms. Some have witnessed a sharp decline in post-harvest crop loss just by connecting with buyers via Marketplace, Digifarms’ online sales platform.
Since the launch of Digifarms Africa, Chi’s pride in seeing Cameroonian commodity consumers consuming Cameroonian products has been unmatched. He has successfully pulled together commodity producers and Consumers in Cameroon into one big trading community referred to as the Digifarms Community. This has greatly cut down the comparative cost of product acquisition, reduced up to 70% of the amount of time spent on acquiring agricultural products and provided easier market access for small-scale farmers in Cameroon.
DigiFarms is now one of the major distributors of locally grown rice (Ndop Rice) in the South West Region of Cameroon – an achievement that has significantly downsized dependence on imported rice in the SW Region of Cameroon. His vision to make Digifarms Africa an agri-commodity one-stop-shop for every African citizen has found him in search of partnerships with manufacturers, angel investors, wholesalers and even traders all over the continent, just to ensure that food security, revenue generation and job creation remains evergreen and ever fresh.