Do you need to understand the passions, motivations, successes and challenges of Entrepreneurs across Africa? Then, #EntrepreneurTuesday is right up your alley.
Africans are coming to the realisation that farming and Agriculture are bedrocks of a strong economy, and some faster than others. Farming is no longer the occupation for the illiterate or the unlearned and a few have ditched white collar jobs for the ‘green’ collar job of tilling the earth for produce. Alex Elphinstone is one such person.
Alex holds a Masters Degree in Development Studies from the School of African & Oriental Studies at the University of London.
No shade to those working and climbing up corporate ladders, but Alex Elphinstone quit his job with British American Tobacco (BAT) after eight  years because “the corporate world wasn’t exciting anymore.”
Incidentally, he worked as a Manager in charge of smallholder farming networks and supply chains in Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Brazil and Zimbabwe.
He was responsible for the purchase and logistics of 15,000 tonnes ($20m) of tobacco annually from 25,000 Ugandan farmers. H also played a key role in introducing emerging technologies into BAT, including the migration of all BAT’s Ugandan farmers to “cashless” payments using a combination of mobile money and rural bank payment products.
In 2013, he got an itch that wouldn’t go away; the entrepreneurial itch and the desire to make a palpable difference in smallholder faming in Uganda and Yield Uganda was birthed.
Yield Uganda is a vertically integrated agribusiness, focused on the production, sourcing, processing and marketing of high quality and sustainably sourced crops. Our approach benefits from a deep understanding of the opportunities and risks inherent within Ugandan agriculture, involving both controlled land and smallholder network operations.
Yield Uganda operates a farming contract scheme through which farmers are guaranteed markets and a minimum price for their crops such as sesame seeds, white sorghum, green grams and chia seeds, thereby supporting smallholder farming. The company assists farmers in the growing process by offering extension services such as training.
Yield Uganda sources crops from 4,000 farmers for export to the UK, India and China. It also supplies local producers, including a major Ugandan brewery and in the last two years it has shifted around 2,000 tons of produce.
Yield Uganda has further expanded its offering to smallholder farmers to include yield-improving services such as mapping, soil testing, weather services and market intelligence. These tailored input services will make it easier for farmers to access credit and insurance.
Their long-term goal: To have farmers producing at true potential and integrated into the formal, transparent international food market, in other words, globalization. They aslo practice world-class smallholder extension services that enable their farming partners to improve their livelihoods, whilst employing a suite of modern technologies to ensure chain-wide transparency and quality assurance, from field to fork.
Alex Elphinstone acknowledges that life as an entrepreneur is challenging but exciting in Uganda because there are lots of opportunities as the global food market is increasingly looking for traceable produce, reliable volumes and sustainably produced produce.
According to Alex Elphinstone via HowWeMadeitinAfrica, “Rising worldwide demand for food presents an opportunity for smallholders to be even more involved in the global food chains.
Alex graciously credits the experiences and knowledge gained whilst working with the BAT for his quick assimilation into the smallholder scene. As an acquaintance of mine likes to chime, “No knowledge is ever wasted. Strive to learn every day.”
Yield Uganda has six key objectives:
To supply its customers with reliable volumes of high quality soft commodity products;
To offer customers full traceability through the entire value chain;
To provide full production and sourcing management services to companies looking to benefit from African agriculture’s untapped potential;
To increase the productivity and incomes of its smallholder farming partners;
To help Uganda achieve its full agricultural potential through value addition to agricultural produce;
To deliver strong financial returns to shareholders through a diversified mix of activities across the agricultural value chain in Uganda.
…interesting to note that only the last objective mentions the financial gains achievable through this enterprise…tells us quite a bit, doesn’t it?
To summarize: Learn. Explore opportunities. Money is important but impacting a nation’s people and economy is much more important.