By Ajong Mbapndah L
In a continent experiencing galloping demography, if we want to ensure that we continue to feed everyone, we will have to find effective ways to produce more and better, says Flavien Kouatcha Simo as he explains the mission of Save Our Agriculture. The ABH 2022 Top 10 Finalist and participant in 2022 Alibaba Netpreneur Training, says the initiatives by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group are an indescribable opportunity for any young African, as they provide practical and concrete knowledge of entrepreneurship, and often as is the case with ABH, funding and valuable exposure that can only be productive for business.
Fabien, Could You Introduce Save Our Agriculture Sarl For Us And What Prompted Its Creation?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo: Save Our Agriculture is a company created with the aim of providing a solution to a problem faced by many small farmers in the rural area, in particular that of the inconsistency between food supply and demand. Indeed, we have designed and patented aquaponic units that allow the use of fish waste as natural fertilizer to grow organic vegetables, with many economic, social and environmental advantages that make it a very current solution at a time when climate change affects the extent of the planet intensively.
What impact do you think structures like Save Our Agriculture Sarl and others are having on the agricultural industry in Cameroon?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo: It is not only in Cameroon but in all the countries of the African continent where the observation is practically the same. We live on a continent that is experiencing galloping demography (the population will have doubled in less than 30 years) while expanses of arable land are increasingly rare. Therefore, if we want to ensure that we continue to feed everyone, we will have to find effective ways to produce more and better. This is where companies like ours come in, with the aim of putting innovation at the service of more productive, more sustainable, more responsible agriculture.
As a top 10 finalist of 2022 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition, can you share your experiences with ABH, and the important lessons you have so far taken from the competition?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo: This is not the first competition I have entered as an entrepreneur, but I can say without a doubt that ABH is a competition that takes you from one stage to another. It is not only for the prestige of the competition whose reputation is now talked about in the four corners of the continent. The profiles of the expert judges who intervene from the first phases of selection, quality of their feedbacks or even the fundamental elements for the growth of a company such as PwC’s due diligence, have enabled us to learn a lot about ourselves and our company. It changed our relationship with the company, gave us a better idea of the potential for progress. Finally, the best gift we have received from this competition is the network. Whatever expertise you are looking for, it is there. Being part of the same ecosystem as the brilliant entrepreneurs of previous editions is something that cannot be bought.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced in growing Save our Agriculture?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo Our first challenge was human capital. We are in a field that is not yet sufficiently popularized in our environment. So, we had to train ourselves and strengthen the capacities of our employees, mostly online. Secondly, the financial resource, because we initially positioned ourselves in the individual segment which requires a high investment from the outset, whereas we are in an environment with very low purchasing power and no possibility of setting up payment mechanisms supported by banking institutions.
To the many unemployed out there in Cameroon who neglect Agriculture, what message do you have for them on potentials the sector has to change their lives?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo I would not like to enter into purely commercial speeches because it is true that it has requested effort and sacrifice to find myself here today. But agriculture is the only sector that can effectively recruit in Africa. We must commit ourselves to it with a firmness and a passion that forces fate. Always plan our projects in their greatest aspect, and develop them gradually, being aware that there will be a difference between what we plan to do and the actual result.
You are currently taking part in training on Digital Economy by Alibaba Global Initiatives, what does this mean for you and how do you think the experience will help Save Our Agriculture?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo: Today, we have developed a technically successful, economically profitable and socially useful product, which has proven its replicability potential. The training in digital economy that we are taking aims to give us the keys and tools that can accelerate the growth and adoption of our product in our country at first, then in other countries on the African continent. We’ve discovered the history of the Alibaba group, how and why all its companies were created, the difficulties the founders went through and the tools they used to get by.
How do you think initiatives like the ABH and now Alibaba Global Initiatives are changing the entrepreneurial landscape especially for young Africans? Any message you want to send to its organisers and management?
Flavien Kouatcha Simo: If there is one thing that I regret in our society, particularly in French-speaking Africa, it is that many people do not share their experiences. Whether they succeeded or failed, it is useful to talk about what happened, how they handled the situations they went through and what could have changed according to the different parameters that may be at their disposal. Young people are invited to embark on entrepreneurship but without really knowing how to proceed. The initiatives by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group are an indescribable opportunity for any young African, as they provide practical and concrete knowledge of entrepreneurship, and often as is the case with ABH, funding and valuable exposure that can only be productive for business.