ThriveAgric emerged as the winner of the Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI) 2022 for Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa Region (CEMEA).
Visa Everywhere Initiative is an open innovation program that enables startups to unlock new opportunities and also gives them a global platform to demonstrate their ground-breaking solutions. Since its launch in 2015, almost 8,500 startups have participated in the initiative, and have collectively raised more than $16 billion in funding, according to a statement shared with Benjamindada.com.
During the VIE 2022 pitch, Ayo Arikawe, co-Founder, ThriveAgric pitched its product—Agricultural Operating System (AOS), which is digitising the African agricultural value chain. The system enables the company to map farmers' lands, onboard farmers, record farm visitations, monitor the progress of the farms in real-time, data gathered at the point of harvest, and inventory management.
Since 2017, ThriveAgric has disbursed over $70 million in financing to over 240,000 African farmers. And has helped these farmers to double their income and triple their outputs. With the partnership with VISA, ThriveAgric intends to deploy VISA cards to farmers so as to ensure faster disbursement and secured transactions, access to credit scoring and profiles as well as digitising payment flows. Currently, the company has over 1000 terminals deployed with over $5 million processed monthly.
ThriveAgric's victory in the CEMEA region of the initiative will be backed by a $25,000 prize and a spot in the Global Finale scheduled to hold in Qatar, in November 2022. Speaking on how startup founders can pitch their ideas effectively, Ayo said "while you are building a great business, there are many other great businesses, so the most important thing is to make the judges care, make them understand why what you are building is important, and help them care."
VIE supports startups in two other ways: As a competition, it gives them a global stage to pitch their solutions to a panel of payments experts, win prizes and gain wider attention in the sector. As a program, it plugs start-ups into our global network of partners.
While you are building a great business, there are many other great businesses, so the most important thing is to make the judges care, make them understand why what you are building is important, and help them care. — Ayo Arikawe
Arikawe said "agriculture is at the center of the Nigerian economy, yet the sector faces productivity-limiting challenges like access to finance, poor access to the market, and technical know-how. This is why our goal at ThriveAgric is to provide profitable support for smallholder farmers and enable food production efforts, leveraging technology. So this partnership with Visa is a testament to the work we have put in so far and we look forward to scaling our solutions to more farmers."
Aside from Thrive Agric, Carepay, another Nigerian fintech also made it to the final five and won the Audience Favourite Award. More than 1,300 applicants entered the competition from across the region, each with solutions aimed at delivering innovative payment and commerce solutions to consumers and businesses.
"We have witnessed substantial growth in the fintech sector in Nigeria. Last year, Nigeria had the most entries from Central Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, this year two indigenous startups made it to the finals with ThriveAgric emerging as the winner. This is a clear demonstration of the country’s significance in the fintech sector, and the growth potential of the digital economy." said Andrew Uaboi, Country Manager, Visa Nigeria.
In March, ThriveAgric raised $56.4 million in debt funding from local commercial banks and institutional investors. The raise also included a co-investment grant of $1.75 million from the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment. The company's objective with the fund was to grow its 200,000+ farmer base and expand into new African markets, including Ghana, Zambia, and Kenya.
This debt funding came a year after ThriveAgric completed its repayment to retail investors (crowd-funders) in April 2021, after COVID-19 induced delays. In the same year, the company paused crowdfunding from retail investors to focus on building technology solutions for its agriculture business.