mPEX is our new company born out of the long collaborative partnership between RAVI, FARIP, IDESO and WEBGATE. Together over the last 20 years we have been building technology solutions for rural entrepreneurs in East Africa.
All our solutions have immerged from mentored peer exchange processes engaging networks of farmers, traders, small-scale processors, service providers and researchers. Over the years we have provided technologies for linking local learners, market intelligence and linkages, and value chain transaction security services.
We established mPEX as a special purpose company to develop our Digital Finance Application for expanding financial inclusion in the agricultural sector. Over the years we have seen IDESO merge with WebGate Consulting AG and RAVI evolve into FARIP. Here are the milestones in our story to mPEX.
The First Mile project built new digital technology to enable rural entrepreneurs access to the internet for their common learning and development. Our software designed by Webgate downloaded to a memory stick enabled entrepreneurs to communicate with each other from their villages via local internet. access points in Tanzania.
With the gradual increase in the use of mobile phones in rural areas an opportunity emerged for using SMS to share market information. Our SMS technology enabled sharing of prices from the main markets to rural network agents operating village information boards. Thus, empowering farmers to make more informed decisions on sales. RAVI then supported the establishment of Market Access Companies to function as marketing information hubs in local towns in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. These ‘hub’ companies supported the local farming groups with network agents sharing market prices and identifying crops of high market demand and finding buyers offering good prices.
Our Transaction Security Service (TSS) trading platform emerged from pulling together all the important lessons learned by the MACs and their network agents; demands for prompt and fair payment to farmers, quality control, timely delivery to buyers and transparency for all the players. The platform designed by RAVI and Webgate allowed deals to be tracked from farm to buyer with users being mentored on our LLL learning platform.
To bridge the financing gap between farmers and buyers we developed a Cash-on- the-Bag (COB) financing system. We integrated this new functionality into our Transaction Security Service (TSS) platform along with links to mobile money technology for secure payments to farmer, buyers and agents in rural areas.
RAVI and its network of local entrepreneurs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, established TruTrade to test the commercial viability of the TSS business model on a franchise basis. Our TSS technology with its COB functionality allowed small businesses to calculate viable deals, request financing and make mobile payments. All the entrepreneurs were mentored on the LLL learning platform. After two years of trading TruTrade’s franchisees shared the limitations of TSS to growing their businesses. First was the need to move our platforms from web based to mobile phone based. Second was the need to move to sizable commercial loans to run and build their businesses. While the move to mobile technology was implemented demand for new technology to access commercial loans became their top priority.
The significant social impact of our LLL and TSS technologies were recognized at IBM Connect 2016. Local entrepreneur James Weru told his story of building his avocado export business. His demand for technology to support access to commercial loans took centre stage. RAVInvest and Webgate established mPEX to take up this challenge of securing financial inclusion for our networks of local entrepreneurs.