Washington, D.C. / Accra, Ghana, November
22, 2010—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Soros Economic
Development Fund have both invested $1.25 million of equity into Esoko,
a Ghanaian technology firm. The investment in Esoko will give small holder
African farmers and businesses timely crop information that can be shared
via text messaging, enabling farmers to increase their incomes.
Esoko’s software takes advantage of rapidly growing mobile-phone usage
in Africa. The technology allows farmers affordable and timely access
to market information that can help them negotiate better prices and improve
the timing of getting their crops to market.
“Our platform was developed by African software engineers here in Accra,
Ghana, and has been a totally local, market-driven initiative” said Esoko
CEO Mark Davies. “IFC and SEDF have a strong track record of helping
local companies get the funding and advice needed to expand into new regions
and markets. With their support we hope to export this African technology
all around the world.”
Esoko’s software allows different parties in the agricultural value chain
to exchange real-time market information. Farmers receive current
demands, prices of crops, and the location of seeds and fertilizers directly
on their mobile phones. Businesses can track how their products are
used and market themselves to new customers. Associations and governments
can share critical information with thousands using a simple bulk-text
messaging feature. Esoko's technology is being used in nine African
countries and expanding quickly.
“SEDF’s investment helps break the information barrier for African farmers
so they can generate more income,” said Stewart J. Paperin, president
of the Soros Economic Development Fund, a nonprofit investment fund that
works to alleviate poverty and community deterioration. “A more
transparent marketplace enables farmers to negotiate fair prices, improve
their timing on getting goods to market, and move between markets to sell
Esoko is also publishing the first commodities indices in Africa, a powerful
tool in helping ensure that farmers are fairly compensated for their crops,
as formal commodity exchanges are very rare on the continent. The
company is initially publishing two indices that provide prices for 12
agriculture commodities in seven markets in Ghana.
“African technology firms are innovating and expanding beyond their domestic
markets and we see a great opportunity to help ensure they have the proper
financing for long-term growth,” said Kent Lupberger, Global Head of IFC
Technology, Media, and Telecom. “Esoko is giving people practical
tools to improve their lives and lift themselves out of poverty.”
For a video on Esoko’s work please visit http://www.youtube.com/user/esokonetworks.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development
institution focused on the private sector in developing countries. We create
opportunity for people to escape poverty and improve their lives. We do
so by providing financing to help businesses employ more people and supply
essential services, by mobilizing capital from others, and by delivering
advisory services to ensure sustainable development. In a time of global
economic uncertainty, our new investments climbed to a record $18 billion
in fiscal 2010. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.
Esoko is a mobile-based Market Information Exchange transforming the way
markets work in Africa. Individuals, businesses, and projects can
push and pull market information in a quick and affordable way via SMS.
Working with partners in 9 countries across Africa, the Esoko platform
provides automatic and personalized price alerts, buy and sell offers,
extension messages, polling, stock counts, and much more by SMS. Esoko
also offers strategy, support and trainings to projects. Built in and operates
out of Accra, Ghana. www.esoko.com.
About the Soros Economic Development Fund
The Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) is a nonprofit private foundation.
It is part of the network of charitable foundations created by investor
and philanthropist George Soros. Established in 1997, the fund’s mission
is to alleviate poverty and community deterioration. The fund makes investments—in
the form of equity, loans, guarantees and deposits—in selected banks,
microfinance institutions, cooperatives and social enterprise projects
worldwide. To learn more about Soros Economic Development Fund, please