Emerging markets are known for their informality. Whether they’re smallholder farmers or small-scale tradespeople like those who run kiosks or their own boda boda businesses, the informality of such markets is booming with micro-entrepreneurs who rely on the hustle to make a living. Even though a 2012 Institute for Economic Affairs report showed that the informal sector contributed to an estimated 34 % of GDP in Kenya, its exact size is hard to determine due to the inherent nature of informality . Despite that, it’s interesting to note that micro-entrepreneurs find it difficult to grow their businesses. After reaching a certain size, they tend to hit a ceiling beyond which they do not grow. A lot of people cite the lack of capital as the biggest bottleneck to growth of the rural segment in emerging markets. However, let’s say you walk in your local village and hand every farmer cash, do they know what to do with it to grow their farms or will the money be spent on betting apps? That’s why it can be said that a lack of knowledge is the biggest barrier to growth.
That was an insight that inspired our unique “learn, connect and grow” mantra with the mission of increasing the livelihoods of rural communities. However, while the words are easy to say and make a cool mantra, their mechanics are complicated as will be depicted in this article:
Don’t Just Learn, But Implement
Our modern world has made it easy for information to be disseminated thanks to technology. Whether one has good access to the internet via their smartphone or like many of our beneficiaries one is part of a community with no little connection but can get access to knowledge via the classroom-in-a-bag model, learning does not directly translate into applying. That’s why having a trusted local Agripreneur who is mentored to provide support to multiple smallholder farmers ensures that farmers don’t just learn about topics, but actually take relevant action so they could eventually increase their incomes. Closing the learning-doing gap can happen with a proper accountability system in place, which is what happens when a community of farmers and farming households back up and invest in one of their own Agripreneurs with whom they have a relationship of trust.
Also, closing the learning-doing gap happens more naturally when the topics that people are learning is relevant to the problems they are facing. This ensures the application of experiential learning as many of the topics would be related to daily challenges that micro-entrepreneurs face.
And while the knowledge barrier can be overcome through micro-learning modules, the existence of a platform enables the installations of point solutions that solve the other problems that micro-entrepreneurs face when they are trying to build their business; whether it’s access to quality inputs to increase crop productivity, or access to financial credit to finance their business as well as markets to sell their produce.
This is what is known as the platform thinking approach to business. Technology is now disrupting business thanks to the existence of ecosystems that aggregate information in one place and then optimally match solutions to customer’s needs through the utilization of algorithms. Once you add the ability of creation of more inventory within the platform, the value of any platform goes up as it allows for the access of multiple solutions to multiple problems. That is the thinking behind disruptive companies such as Uber and Airbnb  that redefined the space problem, with the former asking, “What if we drastically expand the number of cars available to choose from for commuting from point A to point B?” and the latter asking, “Can we enable anyone with a spare room and mattress to run their own Bnb?”
Meanwhile, we keep on thinking, “Can your average micro-entrepreneur be empowered to not only grow their own business but the businesses of those who work with him?”