Brastorne Greatly Impacts The Agriculture Sector in Botswana
In this infographic, we unpack the core challenges for rural farmers in Sub Saharan Africa and the hugely beneficial effect the mAgi platform has on crop yields and economic opportunity.
Information and communication access are expensive. Approximately 60% of Botswana’s population cannot afford data. Brastorne empowers small rural farming communities through its platform, providing them with access to valuable resources and knowledge that are necessary for successful harvests and increased yields. Additionally, they have been able to make their produce more accessible to the national market, allowing them to create additional revenue streams from their yields.
Beyond simply improving output, mAgri's impact includes giving those who depend on their land hope for the future and a chance to participate in the broader market. By giving local farming communities access to market prices, pest warnings, agricultural management advice, and more, mAgri gives them the dignity that comes with having autonomy over their own income. These farmers can now make more informed choices and boost their chances for economic growth.
To learn more about how Brastone is impacting lives across Sub-Saharan Africa, read our latest Impact Report.
Brastorne Bridges The Connectivity Gap in Guinea
The expansion of internet connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa is challenging. Approximately 80% of people do not have access to basic internet service. Poorer health outcomes, a lower life expectancy, more social isolation, and restricted access to employment and education opportunities are just a few of the ways a person's life may be significantly harmed by a lack of digital literacy and information access. Unfortunately, this is reality for the people of Guinea, where there is only a 23 percent internet penetration rate as of the beginning of 2022.
Guinea has a population of around 13 million people. This year alone, the disparity between underprivileged and more prosperous populations has risen. This wealth gap has much to do with geography, with rural areas hosting 63% of Guinea's population, with urban areas housing the remaining 37%. In Guinea, these rural marginalized groups have few options for earning a livelihood and as a result are home to local farmers who have attempted to improve their standards of living through subsistence farming.
Opportunity Knocks On Guinea’s Door
The world is a global village, with much of its economic and social activity now happening online. Improved connectivity can be a lifeline, providing information, entertainment, and education in regions that have limited or no access to TV, radio, or newspapers. Guinea is home to an active mobile phone user community, with 14 million cellular mobile connections being made this year alone. The people of Guinea have demonstrated their resilience, using any technology available to them to get online. The challenge is how do you ensure that everyone has access to technology and information?
To overcome the barriers to digital inclusion, innovative and cost effective solutions are required. Brastorne has developed solutions for people, like the citizens of Guinea, who don't have access to broadband or electricity but desperately need connectivity. “We're interested in understanding how we can make things work better for everyone and help grow communities through digital inclusion programs” says Martin Stimela, CEO of Brastorne. Brastorne aims to be part of the solution for Guinea by understanding connectivity issues in different areas, looking at how to empower people using technology, and address gender equality issues.
Understanding that a large portion of the population works in agriculture, Brastorne has brought mAgri to Guinea to enable farmers to have unrestricted access to important information that will have a big impact on their lives. mAgri is a USSD mobile application that enables all farmers to promote their goods and services across the nation, changing how the agricultural community communicates.
This revolutionary service offers several advantages over current solutions. Farmers will be able to gain access to farming expertise, markets, and short-term capital using this USSD platform, which allows them to sell their products and services across the country using ANY mobile phone. Framers will not need to change anything about their way of life except to go forward in a new direction that will result in more productivity in their communities.
Guinea's farming community has the currently untapped potential for increased crop production and general economic development. Brastorne is looking to bring to Guinea the same benefits it has introduced to African countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon.
To learn more about how Brastone is impacting lives across Sub-Saharan Africa, read our latest Impact Report.
Brastorne Wins the AYuTe Africa Challenge and Further Develops its Relationship with Heifer International
Digital access remains a serious difficulty for the majority of African countries. Despite increased attempts to overcome the barriers to digital inclusion, diverse populations, particularly women and people with disabilities, remain disproportionately affected. A connected continent, country, and individual have endless potential for creating economic growth.
The same can be said for the agricultural sector, the biggest source of income for most Africans. This sector in Africa is an essential component of the continent's economy, contributing significantly to its growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, most African farmers lack access to modern farming tools, techniques, and technologies, preventing them from achieving maximum productivity. For this reason, there is a need to equip and empower African farmers with the knowledge, resources, and technology required to increase crop yields and maximize their profits.
"We believe that digital inclusion is a basic human right, so we have focused our efforts on building a simple digital inclusion system for farmers through mAgri," said Martin Stimela, CEO of Brastrone. This is what Brastorne does—we bring digital inclusion to rural economies, giving people access to information, markets, and community. mAgri is a USSD mobile application that connects the unconnected regardless of the mobile phone they use, enabling both farmers and buyers to engage in profitable transactions.
Brastorne Wins the AYuTe Africa Challenge
At the MIT Solve 2022 event, Brastorne’s mAgri received an award from Heifer International for “Innovation in Smallholder Agriculture Products” amounting to $100,000. Brastorne’s innovative solution was notably appreciated the same year when it participated in the AYuTe Africa Challenge and proceeded to be awarded a whopping $300,000.
“Brastorne is proud to be named a winner of the AYuTe Africa Challenge, partnering with Heifer International in order to help bring digital access to smallholder farmers across the African continent.” Naledi Magowe, Chief Growth Officer, stated. “With countless individuals across the continent still facing barriers to accessing critical information, this effort promises to provide much-needed connectivity and economic opportunities for farmers.”
African smallholder farmers face a unique combination of challenges in growing food and sustaining themselves. While lack of resources is one of the most pressing challenges facing smallholder farmers, they frequently face a lack of technical help, as well as productivity shortages, leaving them unable to invest in critical resources such as better seeds that replenish soil nutrients. These issues are especially complicated for rural African households, where there is little understanding of agriculture technology, a lack of access to essential information, and poor infrastructure, which add to the already overwhelming list of challenges.
Through this collaboration with Heifer International, Brastorne will use its innovative solutions to disrupt smallholder farmers' digital inclusion barriers, while Heifer will bring decades of international aid experience to promote social change through digital access. The partnership will help to emphasize the critical role that mobile solutions play in developing possibilities for smallholder farmers. Brastorne will also benefit from the MIT Network's technological and business expertise, interacting with thought leaders and industry professionals in order to expand Brastorne into a Pan-African organization.
Brastorne has already expanded its footprint in the DRC and Cameroon and plans to expand its solutions to 19 different African countries. This award from AYuTe will help Brastorne scale its solutions into new geographies as well as enhance its technology platform, creating multiple additional comprehensive solutions that will serve the underserved, create jobs, improve gender equality, food security, and youth empowerment. It's exciting to see how this partnership can help smallholder farmers facing socio-economic disadvantages become empowered by gaining control over their futures across Africa.
A Landmark Year for Brastorne
Last year was a landmark year for Brastorne and our mission of connecting the unconnected in Africa. It is only through the hard work of our team, the enthusiastic support of our partners, and the trust of our customers that we were able to accomplish so much in 2022.
Here’s a look back at some of our accomplishments from last year.
Brastorne launches in Cameroon and acquires 60K users
Brastorne, in partnership with Orange, expanded into Orange Cameroon, bringing our total user base to 2 million. Orange has been a valued partner in helping Brastorne deliver on our mission of connecting the unconnected. Learn More
For 2022, we became more intentional and deliberate about monitoring and measuring our impact. Working with independent impact measurement consultants, Impactable X, we generated our first impact report. This report uncovered the many real-world benefits of the work
we do, including increased yields for female farmers and greater access to employment. We’ll be sharing the full report on our blog shortly.
Africa Newsroom published a press article about the important work we do here at Brastorne to dissolve the barriers to digital inclusion in Africa. Please read it here.
Brastorne becomes a Google black founders fund recipient and graduates from the programme
Brastorne was selected as a Google Black Founders Fund recipient and was awarded $100,000, the first start-up from Botswana since the history of the programme to do so! Being a Google Black Founder has truly been an inspiring and insightful journey. We have learned so much from the Google team and other founders, and have established new connections that will extend beyond the programme. Learn More
MIT Heifer International prize winner
Brastorne was selected by Heifer International and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Solve as one of two winners of the Innovation in Smallholder Agriculture Products prize for our work in Agriculture through our mAgri Solution. mAgri enables rural poor smallholder farmers to access markets, advisory services, climate information, a social community, and the internet on their feature phones. This honor came with a $125k award. Learn More
Brastorne accepted into Anglo American Sustainable Investment Initiative
The Anglo American Sustainable Investment Initiative (SII) breaks down barriers between impact businesses and investors to accelerate impact investment deals. The SII was created to
support businesses looking for finance, to help them overcome hurdles in preparing for investment, and to match them with aligned Investors. Learn More
We are humbled by what we have been able to achieve together. Thank you once again for your continued support!
Brastorne Enterprises Wins Heifer International Prize at MIT Solve 2022 Event
Local company Brastorne Enterprises has been selected by Heifer International and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Solve as one of the two winners of innovation in Smallholder Agriculture Products prize.
The Heifer International prize for innovation in smallholder agriculture recognizes solutions that support smallholder farmers to grow and scale their businesses, while in the same process also protecting them from the adverse effects of climate change.
Every year, MIT Solve solicits tech-based solutions to global challenges and chooses the most promising that will drive transformational change. This cycle has piqued the interest of over 9,600 innovators from 160 countries since 2016, who have submitted solutions for ongoing global challenges. Brastorne began its solver journey in 2021,
when it was chosen for the Class of 2021 MIT Solve Team and became the first local company to advance to the final stages.
The Solve Team cohort included over 40 solvers from around the world, with Brastorne Enterprises being the only representative from Botswana. “Our journey with MIT as a solver team has been truly rewarding, we are so excited to work with Heifer and Solve to expand our impact and mandate of connecting unconnected smallholder farmers in Africa,” – Naledi Magowe, Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer. Heifer International is a non-profit organization that aims to have a lasting impact on addressing poverty and hunger strategically through community development. MIT Solve, in partnership with Heifer International has awarded Brastorne a staggering $125,000 (approximately P1.6 million) in prize funding to help support them in achieving their goal of connecting the unconnected and to scale its solution to make a greater and lasting impact.
Brastorne Enterprises has established significant impact in Africa by Connecting the Unconnected with over 1.8 million users to date, which is a combined user-base for Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Connectivity is a challenge in Africa, particularly for the less fortunate, who cannot afford to buy data bundles or have easy access to wi-fi. Brastorne leverages simple data protocols (IVR, USSD, SMS) to enable users to connect to the power of the internet over their existing telco networks using their feature phones. Brastorne received the Heifer International prize for its mAgri solution – which seeks to give farmers access to a social community, agricultural advisory services, and markets.
Brastorne was also recently selected as one of the 60 beneficiaries of the Google Black Founders Fund Africa 2022 program, and received $100,000 (about 1.2 million pula). Brastorne was the only organization from Botswana that has ever participated in the program and was successfully awarded among the cohort of 10 African countries.
Learn more about how Brastorne Enterprises Connects the Unconnected in Africa on www.brastorne.com
Brastorne Selected as Recipient of The Google Black Founder's Fund for Africa Program
Brastorne Enterprises has been announced as one of the 60 beneficiaries of the Google Black Founders Fund Africa 2022 program. The cohort represents 10 African countries with Botswana joining for the first time, represented by Brastorne.
The Google for Start-ups Black Founders Fund provides non-dilutive cash awards to Black led startups that have participated in their programs or have been nominated by partner communities or a previous recipient. Selected founders receive up to $100,000 (about 1.2 million pula) in capital along with Google cloud credits, advert grants and hands-on support to help their startup grow. Google started its Black Founders Fund in 2021 as a commitment to invest in Black entrepreneurs to fuel generational change. This is because Google is uniquely positioned to provide capital and support to help founders grow their businesses, as well as create opportunities for founders to thrive and create greater impact for their communities.
Brastorne applied for the opportunity to join this year’s program early this year, along with thousands of other eager startups in Africa and across the world. “We saw the program as an opportunity to learn from the best in the world and obtain support to scale our solutions to new markets and carry out our mandate to bridge the digital gap for less fortunate Africans.” Brastorne is a Botswana founded company which is committed to connecting 760 million Africans who lack meaningful access to today's digital world. “We connect unconnected rural mobile users with our solutions, and work in partnership with organizations such as Orange, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Draper Richard Kaplan Foundation, Stanford University (Stanford Seed Programme), Mercy Corps, and now
Google” says Brastorne Co-founder, Naledi Magowe. Brastorne is best known for their mobile solutions – mpotsa, mAgri and Vuka chat which enable under-served users to build communities, connect, access timely information, and participate in a mobile marketplace. “Given Brastorne’s success in Botswana and solution scalability, we have since launched our flagship mAgri solution in the DRC in partnership with Orange DRC and Mercy Corps, and have reached nearly 2 million users in Africa. This quarter we are implementing a commercial launch in Cameroon and Guinea.” – Martin Stimela, Brastorne Founder and CEO.
Access to capital remains a major problem in Africa – in 2021 African tech startups collectively raised $4.3 billion – a 2.5 increase from 2020 funding. This growth, however, does not discount the existence of a significant funding gap for locally founded African start-ups, as 82% of them report difficulties in accessing funding. This year 60 additional start-ups were selected as beneficiaries of the Google for start-ups Black Founders Fund in Africa initiative. Last year 50 black-led businesses across the continent were supported through the program and have gone on to raise $73 million in following-on funding, hired 518 staff members and grown their revenue. Similar to other African start-ups, Brastorne has also faced challenges in accessing funding. “Getting funded is already difficult enough as an African founder and ten times harder if you are a Botswana founded start-up. The little funding available comes from the western world (Europe and America) and is usually diverted to East Africa, west Africa and South-Africa. Botswana is often excluded and unrepresented. We have a very small and nascent start-up ecosystem which hasn’t attracted a lot of investors, which is quite unfortunate. However, we are proud to raise the country’s flag and show that something remarkable and scalable can come from Botswana’s tech ecosystem” – Naledi Magowe.
Brastorne has previously received some accolades – they were selected as one of the Solvers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Solve 2021 Initiative, and were the first local company to advance to the finalist stage. They also won the Hewlett Packard (HP) award in 2021 for advancing digital equity.
Learn more about Brastorne Enterprises and its impact on under-served communities in Africa here www.brastorne.com
BRASTORNE CONNECTS THE UNCONNECTED IN DRC
Brastorne Enterprises has officially launched its mAgri service in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Its the beginning of a new dawn for Brastorne Enterprises as we expand our impact to reach feature phone users in DRC. One of our flagship products- mAgri- is live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mAgri app was launched on the 12th May, 2021 . mAgri is a USSD mobile application that helps transform the way the farming community interacts by allowing all farmers (including the mostly underserved in remote villages) to market their products and services across the country as well as affording access to all the crucial information and resources they need to sustain their livestock and take-care of their farms.
With a mobile penetration rate of 55%, we have the potential to serve up to 45+ Million users in DRC and we are excited to impact underserved communities in the DRC. mAgri provides a bouquet of services which aim to facilitate communication & make access to information easier via its chat function, catering for the needs of users in the agricultural market. The essential point of mAgri is to inspire Africans in remote, under-served communities to take charge of developing themselves and progress financially, basically being able to sustain themselves.
With mobile service reaching 95% of the global population and mobile internet access spreading fast, the digital revolution is empowering citizens and re-shaping societies all over the world (GSMA). At Brastorne Enterprises we believe in Connecting the UnConnected in Africa and are pleased to be making a difference in the lives of semi-rural communities in DRC.
Brastorne Enterprises Becomes a Member of Draper Richards Kaplan (DRK) Portfolio Foundation
Brastorne Enterprises has officially become a member of Draper Richards Kaplan (DRK) Foundation. The Draper Richards Kaplan foundation is a global venture philanthropy firm that supports early stage, high impact social enterprises.
Essentially, DRK finds, funds and supports exceptional leaders with innovative and highly impactful ideas that have great potential to scale and provides them with unrestricted capital as well as ongoing support - by joining their board of directors and partnering with the leader to help build capacity in the organization and scale their impact. DRK invests in a wide variety of sectors, both in the United States of America (USA) as well as internationally. To date DRK has invested in over 185 organizations across the world, which represent some of the most exciting new initiatives in the social sector. Over 150M+ lives have been affected by the DRK portfolio organizations and we are pleased to announce that Brastorne has now become part of this global movement.
Brastorne has built a suite of products targeting 300 million feature phone users in Africa, who are among the world’s poorest and most marginalized citizens. We provide access to trade (mobile marketplace), information, knowledge sharing, market prices, and chat services through feature phones, without the need for data or internet. Brastorne’s deep understanding of the mobile phone usage in Africa, expertise in technology, as well as affinity for the financial constraints of its users, has allowed it to scale rapidly to more than 1 million users in Botswana within two years of launching.
Between 2014 and 2016, global socially responsible investments grew by 25% to $23 trillion, a figure that clearly represents society’s growing demand for companies to acknowledge their role as influencers of the masses, and contributors to environmental and social welfare (McKinsey & Co). It is apparent that most telcos, versatile application designers, and the whole advanced economy are currently working against Africa's poor. However, free access to the web empowers low-pay families to get to devices and administration that can lift
them out of destitution. Unfortunately, just 24% of the 1 billion individuals in Africa have routine access to the web, while destitute Africans are excessively detached.
Hence our central goal of connecting the unconnected.As a result of our partnership with telcos in Botswana, Brastorne has reached more than 1 million users altogether, with 150,000 month to month dynamic users—addressing 40% of dynamic telephone clients on the Orange portable organization in Botswana. In light of our traction with Orange in Botswana, we intend to expand our reach to other African nations. In May 2021, we dispatched Brastorne and mAgri to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in partnership with Orange DRC; within the first two months, we had reached 200,000 users in the country.
Through the DRK foundation support, Brastorne has had access to a treasure trove of resources, opportunities as well as connections that have taken Brastorne Enterprises to new and greater heights. We are looking forward to working with DRK foundation.
Brastorne Connects the Unconnected in Cameroon
We have officially launched our flagship service mAgri in Cameroon. Although the service will be marketed under the name Myfarm, it continues to give farmers access to agricultural information, marketplaces and short-term financing – providing much needed support to smallholder farmers in Cameroon.
According to Joseline Lalon, Head of Consumer Segments and Multiservices at Orange Cameroon – “The benefits to the rural farmers of Cameroon are many. Affordable internet will give them access to information, markets and a community they otherwise would not have had access to. The mAgri solution also requires little bandwidth, making feature phones smart by bypassing the need for high-speed networks or expensive infrastructure.”
“In today’s always - online digital world, digital access equates to opportunity, making the internet a basic human right. At Brastorne, we believe every African, regardless of where they live or their resources, deserves access to information, markets and community through easy and affordable internet access,” says Brastorne Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Martin Stimela.
This is no less different in the country of Cameroon, where agriculture is the largest contributor to household income and most families live off subsistence farming. These farms are often located in rural areas where internet access is unavailable or far too expensive. Easy and affordable internet would make a meaningful difference for the unconnected farmers and the economy of Cameroon as a whole.
Agriculture is one of the largest income sources in Cameroon, with approximately 90% of Cameroonian households having found employment in the agriculture sector. With access to information through internet connectivity, farmers in the agriculture sector can produce even greater yield, while also gaining access to local markets.
To bring its mission of connecting the unconnected to Cameroon, Brastorne partnered with Orange Cameroon, through its long-standing relationship with Orange mobile group, which includes Orange Botswana, Orange DRC as well as Orange France. Through the partnership Orange advises which countries would be an ideal fit for Brastorne’s mAgri solution, it is these countries that the organization then expands into. Orange Cameroon was the first telco to express interest in working with Brastorne after Orange DRC.
“This is another great stride for us in connecting unconnected communities in Africa. Given Brastorne’s success in Botswana and solution scalability, last year we launched our mAgri solution in the Democratic Republic of Congo in partnership with Orange DRC and Mercy Corps and have reached nearly 2 million users in Africa so far,” said Brastorne Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, Naledi Magowe.
To learn more about Brastorne and its impact in Africa visit www.brastorne.com