Following a partnership between Releaf — an agritech startup — and fintech startup, OnePipe, farmers in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states can now easily access digital financial services.
Speaking on the partnership, Releaf’s Co-founder and CTO, Uzoma Ayogu, said, “Since inception, Releaf has empowered over 1,000 farmers to supply over 10 million kilograms of quality crops to various food factories.
While disbursements to our farmers have been largely cash-based, we now have access to digitised fund disbursement via embedded, customised accounts, provisioned by OnePipe, to drive financial inclusion of previously financially excluded farmers in the digital economy.”
He also revealed that Releaf is exploring the provision of insurance services leveraging OnePipe’s infrastructure and partnerships. The partnership provides the farmers with an embedded account branded as Releaf Wallet, which can be opened and operated by USSD and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) channels.
With these accounts, the farmers can receive money from any bank/channel, transfer funds to any Nigerian bank account, and purchase airtime for themselves or third parties.
Like most digital finance services on offer, they can also access loans with the loan amounts increasing according to their wallet usage.
According to OnePipe’s Founder and Chief Plumber, Ope Adeoye, “working with Releaf was inevitable as the company’s vision to transform Africa’s agricultural future by making decentralised food processing scaleable coincides with OnePipe’s social mandate to drive financial inclusion through technology for all — including the 700m+ smallholder farmers on the continent.”
Data from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS) reveals that as of May 30, 2021, 48 million Nigerians had a BVN. With Nigeria’s adult population sitting at 105 million according to the World Population Review, that means that 57 million Nigerians are unbanked.
While fintech startups have sprung up trying to increase the number of Nigerians connected to financial services, they have mostly solved the problems associated using existing financial services.
Research shows that poverty, a lack of education, or living in rural areas — all qualities of the average Nigerian smallholder farmer — are barriers to financial inclusion.
Releaf’s partnership with OnePipe is a welcome development that follows the playbook used by super apps in Asia.
Most of the farmers who work with Releaf are smallholder farmers who live in rural areas. By providing them with an opportunity to access financial services through digital channels, they can create a digital footprint enabling them to access more financial services, thus accelerating their financial inclusion.
However, it is not yet clear if this service is available to farmers outside Releaf’s network.
Founded by Isaiah Udotong, Ikenna Nzewi, and Uzoma Ayogu in 2017, Releaf was originally an online marketplace that connected buyers and sellers of agricultural commodities to trustworthy customers.
The startup was accepted into Y Combinator in 2017, receiving $120,000 in funding. After the founders returned to Nigeria, they continued to provide a marketplace for agricultural commodities until they realised that food factories were struggling to secure raw materials for their operations.
This led to a change in priority as the startup now functions as a raw materials procurement and logistics platform with oil palm as the leading product.
Through this partnership with OnePipe, it is expected that smallholder farmers in Nigeria, most of whom lack access to financial services, can now access financial services and, in the process, drive Nigeria’s financial inclusion goals.