Up&Ap: Charles Bwanika on creating a borderless agribusiness space in Uganda

Charles Bwanika is a new generation social entrepreneur, passionate about undertaking positive challenges to bring about positive impact people’s lives he’s a seasoned child rights activist, experienced and qualified Community development expert with a BA in Development Studies (BDS) and a Diploma in Community Psychology from Ndejje University and Kyambogo University in Uganda respectively.

He also has numerous post graduate professional trainings in different fields including Research Methodologies, Child Protection, Civil Leadership, Project Planning and Management, Business and Entrepreneurship among others.

Bwanika (pictured top) is the Founder and CEO of Farm Kiosk, an agritech social enterprise, which is on a mission of creating a borderless agribusiness space in Uganda and across East Africa. He’s also the co-founder and Chief of Strategy of a civil society organization – Giving Children Hope Initiative (GCHI).

Before initiating the aforementioned organizations and projects, Bwanika worked with Winsor Consult Development Consultants as a junior research assistant back in 2012.

Charles Bwanika explains: “I chose entrepreneurship because I learnt that it’s mostly through entrepreneurship that humanity holds the opportunity of meeting most of man’s most pressing challenges across the spectrum from education to health to mobility all through to food security and am cognizant to the fact that meeting these pressing challenges of recent times requires a concerted effort and entrepreneurship is one assure route to achieving this because it brings together various actors from different walks of life.”

Farm Kiosk is an agritech startup enterprise which connects farmers with different stakeholders in the value chain using a web portal and mobile app.

In Uganda agriculture provides approximately 24% of gross domestic product (GDP), generates nearly 48% of export earnings and provides direct and indirect livelihood support to 80% of all households.  All that said, prior to COVID 19 pandemic, Uganda was estimated to be servicing a minimum of 35million US$ bill annually on food imports.

Charles Bwanika adds: “On the other hand, Uganda’s most recent national analytical report 2018 indicated that youth unemployment and women underemployment rates were on a rise with over 600,000 young people graduating into the labour market annually and the common narrative of the day is that you can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job. Moreover, as a country we are naturally endowed that 80% of our land is arable and it’s categorized into 10 agricultural zones but only 20 % of this land is being utilized. All these frightening statistics have of late been exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic.”

About Farm Kiosk, Charles Bwanika says : “Our solution is an inclusion-oriented platform with special focus mainly impacting young people in the working age bracket of 18 – 40 and women, because also according to Uganda Analytical Report on Youth Employment 2018, Young people below the age of 35 make up 78% of the country’s population but also it is crucial that both women and men have access to, use and control of ICTs as these can play a critical role in overcoming the daily hurdles that they encounter as farmers, entrepreneurs and agents of development for their communities.”

Women are the backbone of Uganda’s agricultural sector. They make up 75 % of the labour force in agriculture, yet only 7% of women own land according to customary law yet in most of the farms it’s women who plough, plant, weed and harvest. It should be noted that in rural areas of Uganda about 32% of the population, live below the national poverty line (UBOS 2016) and again all these frightening statistics have been exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic.

Because more women are already into the agriculture sector, Farm Kiosk is intentionally and strategically looking at working with the available facts and statistics to empower and improve the livelihoods of the unemployed youth and the underemployed women while addressing the triple divide gap. This is a digital, rural and gender divide, which has the effect of relegating rural women to the most marginalized position when it comes to access to and use of ICTs. The World Bank’s Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook underscores the potential for ICTs, when used in a gender sensitive way, to help bridge these divides and advance the processes of social inclusion, with tangible results, including narrowing of the economic and social divide between women and men. It is true that the use of gender sensitive ICT solutions and applications, combined with traditional means of communication and information based on local needs and expectations, can make a significant contribution to improving gender equality, and hence improved agricultural production.

Now Farm kiosk is an agritech social enterprise that has built inclusive platforms both a web portal and a Mobile App bridging the digital divide gap in the agribusiness space providing services in market linkages, crop agronomy management, animal husbandry best practices, climate smart farming approaches, relationship between agribusiness with ICT in Uganda and across East Africa.

Youth unemployment, Women underemployment, low quality production of farm produce, lack of markets, lack of digital skills to market online, lack of marketing information, low levels of financial literacy and smallholder farmers having low access to agricultural technologies that could enhance their production capacities, as well as reduce pre- and post-harvest losses through proper processing and storage are some of the issues Farm Kiosk is out to address.

“Our innovative idea will contribute in creating a network of service value chain amongst the sector actors which will in turn contribute to government revenues in form of taxes, contribute to environment conservation the effort that we are facilitating and advocating for via climate smart farming approaches but also will contribute to improving people’s livelihoods by creating 20% of employment opportunities in the agribusiness space directly to young people and women in 28 districts which is 25% of the 92 districts that make up the 10 agricultural zones of Uganda whilst significantly contributing to bridging the digital divide gap in the sector by 2030,” comments Charles Bwanika.

“Because of the COVID 19 disruptions we continue to innovate around our solution like of late we are integrating two features in our platform the 10 local languages user interface to enable our target clients to navigate our platform in their local languages but also we have partnered up with one the world’s fastest growing weather technology company (Tomorrow.io) to integrate weather data products and services into our system and here we will use a digital to support farmers access micro climate predictions and land data layer analysis for better farm planning and management.” 

Farm Kiosk in the Social & Inclusive Business Camp 2021 Cohort

Farm Kiosk is one of the 40 startups which have integrated the Social & Inclusive Business Camp 2021 cohort.

“I wanted to participate in a program like SIBC because personally I carry an open mind willing to always upgrade myself with more professional skills which will positively impact my home community in several perspectives. Mostly after my participation in SIBC I knew that my community would have a more polished technical social entrepreneur in their ranks in me who after gathering the skills and knowledge from SIBC program I will have to transform all this into an interoperable reality in this way I believe on completion of the SIBC program I will possess the networks susceptible of gathering resources to enable me scale up my innovation to a wider population. Coming to SIBC I came with the experience of working with the underserved and off the grid communities of Uganda which is a must share experience to every participant which will help me in getting the feedback and best practices lessons from other participants from their own experience and background.”

EMERGING Valley, for thinking and making bigger…

According to Charles Bwanika, there has never been a time in history well suited for young entrepreneurs than today despite all the challenges that comes with being a young entrepreneur especially in Africa, the pandemic has placed them in a situation where the world is more open to beginners, innovators, inventors, people with fresh new ideas, imaginative people who have the willingness and commitment to work for a world that doesn’t exist today in every sphere of life from health to education all through to agriculture.

Charles Bwanica concludes: “On EMERGING Valley, my expectations include harnessing technical and practical knowledge and making partnerships with specific sector experts so as to explore ways of strengthening my capacity to be nimbler and more robust especially in the post pandemic times if am to ever make my innovation scaling up dream come to reality especially in these unprecedented times.” 

Created in 2017 in Aix-Marseille-Provence, the new Hub for emerging innovations between Europe and Africa, EMERGING Valley is the international summit that attracts investors, African startups and emerging digital ecosystems to Provence that want to improve their international reputation, develop their business relationships and accelerate their impact on a global scale.

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