• Kees Kibinda

Releaf, a Startup that Ushers the Nigerian Agricultural B2B Market into the Digital Age

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Agricultural produce have a short shelf life and need to reach the market as fresh as possible. Releaf's platform and strategy help Nigerian agri businesses to reach their target market faster than the traditional methods.

Releaf’s 3 founders, Chief Executive Officer Isaiah Udotong, Chief Operating officer Ikenna Nzewi and Chief Technical Officer Uzoma Ayogu started working on Releaf 4 years ago in 2015. Their aim was to help Nigerian farmers get the same online tools that other markets have.

They realised that building a new platform was not enough. They also needed to address cultural differences. Releaf is a business to business platform that aims to help African businesses to prosper in finding partners that they can trust. The startup is another participant of the Y-Combinator (find my article on another Y-Combinator startup here) and managed to collect 120,000 USD.

The founders say that businesses find it difficult to trust vendors and suppliers online because fraud is rampant in Nigeria with people becoming victims of the so-called 419. Instead, businesses usually focus on word of mouth referrals and one on one networking. This is a cultural difference that the company had to overcome. To do so, the company vets every firm that becomes a member of their platform.

One of the main barriers to growth in Nigeria is that the company also needs to master the art of forward and backward integration. For example, when they want to set up a new product, or get more of a certain ingredient; they may have to set up a farm. That farm might need electricity, meaning that they may have to set up a power plant as well.

Releaf therefore helps businesses stick to their core business so that they do not have to do any forward and backward integration by connecting them with the right businesses. At present, a lot of Nigerian and African businesses at large, join whatsapp groups and send out messages in the hope that they reach potential clients that get back to them and finally a sale is done.

This process, although happy go lucky and tedious, is one that works. However, in the agricultural business one deals with a product that has to be fresh and has a low shelf life. It is therefore paramount that action is undertaken in a moment’s time, with a lot of the work being done prior to the produce being ready. Releaf aims to mimic the easy communication of whatsapp, and at the same time help business reach the right target group so that a sale is done as soon as possible.

At the time of the production of the video, the startup was only focusing on Nigeria so that they can conquer that market. However, soon, they do intend on going cross borders. The reason why they chose agriculture is because they read somewhere that it is 11 times more likely that agriculture will help alleviate poverty.

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