If a growing number of women are involved in IT on the black continent, still a very few are engaged in agritech. Ndeye Amy Kebe a young Senegalese of 34 is one of the exceptions to the rule. She is the founder and CEO of Jokalante, a digital platform that provide effective solutions to farmers. Let’s meet the woman that skillfully brought together digital knowhow, education and a new collaborative scheme to the service of agriculture.
An unquenchable thirst for knowledge and new technologies
Ndeye Amy is definitely a woman passionate about education. Born and raised in Senegal, she first completed a bachelor’s degree in finance and accountancy at the University of Dakar, then a master’s degree in educational science and adult learning from the University of Lille France via distance learning, with a specialty in multimedia. She worked as an accountant at the Francophone University Agency (AUF) and soon felt limited and unfulfilled by her assignments. And her strong interest in IT soon caught up with her (already as a teenager she was fascinated by computer and new technologies) she started to voraciously attend trainings to keep abreast of new developments in the field. She was so keen on developing her skills and attending courses that her then supervisor gently teased her as “Mrs. always on training”. And her entrepreneurial dream is awakening and she launches her first venture in field of education. However, the turning point is the call for proposals from USAID to develop an innovative digital project to promote agriculture in Senegal. The Panel was seduced and impressed by her business plan. The adventure of Jokalante has begun…
Digital knowhow yes but social impact first…
One must say that Jokalante (which means discussion in Wolof, one of Senegalese native languages) is not like any other start-up. Indeed, Jokalante is a digital company that promotes agricultural solutions through community-radio shows or telephone messages. It shares best practices and the opportunities offered by new technologies while still capitalizing on locally available knowhow.
Farmers are not instructed on what to do. Interaction, discussions and peer mentoring are the company’s keywords. And as Amy tells herself farmers only practice what have proved to be working and what has been properly demonstrated to them. Therefore Jokkalante builds on a solid network of grassroots farmers’ organization and local focal points that are known and trusted in the communities.
Jokkalante acts as a real game changer since it aims at bringing about a positive change in mentality and turning local farmers into proactive actor of their development and growth. For instance Amy is very proud when she shares the recent story of Moustapha, a 49 year-old farmer based in Kaloack, who substantively increased his revenues and stop using fertilizer by adopting a technique promoted by Jokkalante, khetakh the millet residues that farmers often get rid of when they are actually excellent soil fertilizers. Moustapha was so convinced by the benefits of this technique that he became a volunteer and is moving from village to village to train other farmers.
“At often times farmers just don’t realize that they have all the tools to develop their business” says Amy. As she observes the wait-and-see attitude that is common in many rural areas. So she and her team are really keen on raising awareness on the benefits of self- investment, and affordable alternatives.
A woman committed to make a difference in a crucial sector in Africa
Today Jokalante employs 5 full time staff and reaches out to 50, 000 people across the 11 regions of Senegal. The digital content and radio spot are available in 5 local languages in Senegal (Wolof, Mandigua, Serere, Diola, Pulaar). Amy plans to expand the company’s operation in neighbouring Gambia. Jokalante has successfully built a reputation of its own and partnerships are flourishing national and regional institutes of research, ISRA and … to name a few. The usual customers are government agencies, NGOs…
Next challenge reach out to local firms operating in the field of agribusiness who to some extent have not yet embraced the wide range of innovations and opportunities offered by digitalization.
Ndeye Amy is also a spouse and mother of 3 children who admits that the challenges of growing her business, caring for her family can be hectic. But setting up her priorities purposefully has help her to reach her business goals in a society where social events and solicitations are numerous. To all women who wish to start a business and make a difference, she share her 3 winning attitudes: a boundless optimism, as Amy puts it “There are no failures only lessons”; being adventurous and finally being genuinely committed to a cause, in her eyes this is a best way to have a meaningful impact in the community.
As in many African countries, nearly 70% of the population is engaged in agriculture. The growing demography of the continent is also a ticking time bomb if nothing is done to allow agriculture to develop and embody a lever for an entire continent. In addition, climate change, soil depletion and the loss of biodiversity add up to the farming issues.
Amy strongly believes that current challenges can be addressed by new technologies if those latter are smartly adapted to the African context. The benefits are manifold: regulated irrigation, improved seeds, satellite imagery, fintech, agricultural machinery, etc… Such tools will change the way farmers think about how they work.
Bringing affordable solutions with high value addition, that is a battle horse of Amy Ndeye Kebe. We wish her lots of success!