When I concluded my Masters from IE Business School in Spain, I flirted with the thought of moving back to Africa. I wanted to work in an impactful and growing sector. I was drawn to the Tech industry, mostly because its impact is felt across other sectors. I truly believed technology held the keys to the continent’s economic development. Hence, when I was offered a position at an Ivorian AgTech company, WeFly Agri, I packed my bags and moved to Abidjan.
My time in Ivory Coast came to an end when I had gathered enough to begin the entrepreneurship journey. While researching the African AgTech ecosystem, I found out about Complete Farmer, a crowd-farming platform based in Ghana. I was mesmerized by the concept of involving everyday people in African agriculture. Coincidentally, I met one of the co-founders at DEMO Africa in October last year, where I got to learn more about the company and the team. I wanted to be part of that journey and contribute to the vision. Joining this venture felt right so, within a few days of meeting the co-founder, I moved to Accra, Ghana to assume the role of Chief Marketing Officer at Complete Farmer.
Zoussi Ley — Photo credit: Nana KwekuChocolate.
During my time in Ghana, I got to meet and build a strong network of players across the food industry/agricultural value chain — from commercial farmers to commodities traders, supermarkets and agro-processing firms. A major new player I got to deal with is the Ghana Commodities Exchange (GCX), the first-ever regulated market linking buyers and sellers of agricultural products in West Africa. After passing the certification, I was able to start trading at the GCX. This move allowed Complete Farmer to gain access to a wide range of market actors, thereby creating opportunities for the company to increase its revenue streams.
Ghana taught me that a conducive ecosystem can make the tough entrepreneurship journey an enjoyable one. In fact, Complete Farmer was incubated by Pan-African incubator MEST, meaning my team and I were working out of the incubator’s office space alongside other entrepreneurs. I loved the MEST environment. As entrepreneurs, we received practical advice, got introduced to ecosystem partners and most importantly, I truly valued the guidance I got from the fellows and entrepreneurs.
My time at Complete Farmer illustrated the not-so-obvious benefits to having competitors. Of course, every entrepreneur should pay some attention to their competitors, as they’re an important part of business. Understanding how our competitors operate allows us to avoid making their own mistakes while giving us ideas to expand our market. Being an entrepreneur in Africa also means collaborating with other startups. With Complete Farmer, I got to partner with Jetstream for logistics services, Qualitrace for agrochemicals and Stanbest for irrigation systems and this was exciting working with other stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
On a personal note, I have also learned from many challenging and enlightening experiences through my journey. The first lesson has been to master my thoughts and emotions. Most lessons come from failures and setbacks. Although painful experiences, they develop the self-awareness to grow. They forced me to spend time on mastering my thoughts and emotions. As entrepreneurs, our cool is often tested. Not being able to resist these frazzled emotions can lead an individual to react the wrong way, thereby causing setbacks and more failures. I learned that being clear-headed before making a decision gives me an edge when handling challenging situations.
Africa Tech Summit in Kigali, Rwanda
My experience in Ghana showed the importance of building a network. As an entrepreneur, I quickly realized the importance of building relationships with other key players of the ecosystem — entrepreneurs, influencers, media platforms, investors and international organizations. You never know when an opportunity to collaborate may come!
Being an entrepreneur in Africa also taught me to stay curious and not stick to what I know. I had to learn to do my research on other industries, companies, and business models; to always be prepared to welcome new ideas and opportunities. All in all, I learned to embrace the challenges for personal growth and to find true joy in my entrepreneurship journey.
More so, I have come to appreciate researching about the vision and values of the organizations you work with. We get excited about new ventures, the prospects of building something new and having our names on a business card that I am a Co-Founder too. However, my experience over time has taught me that doing your due diligence on the industry and your team while having a common goal and clear vision with your colleagues will get any start-up off the ground and running at a phenomenal pace.
So, in this light, I am stepping down from my role at Complete Farmer to pursue new and exciting opportunities in Lagos, Nigeria. I am grateful for my experience, the lows, the highs, the blessings and the lessons learned.
While I will remain in AgTech, I am exploring the personal care and beauty industry, a sector I believe technology can help redefine in Africa. I look forward to bringing my creativity and experience into this industry, from the economical heart of Africa — Lagos.
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This post is sponsored by Africa Female Entrepreneurs Network (AFEN). AFEN is committed to supporting and promoting female entrepreneurs in Africa.