Tech entrepreneur Dozy Mmobuosi is changing Africa’s agricultural sector through innovation
Renowned tech entrepreneur, Dozy Mmobuosi, has changed how Africans in the farming sector access mobile technology, digital financial services and market through an advanced Agri-Fintech company Tingo Mobile.
He founded Tingo Mobile in 2001 to bring mobile technology and Fintech solutions to the underserved and unbanked rural communities in Nigeria.
Mmobousi’s first Fintech endeavor was a revolutionary SMS banking solution which represented the first SMS mobile payment platform in Nigeria which remains in use today.
In 2021, Tingo generated over $865 million annual revenue and nearly 10 million subscribers, is Nigeria’s leading Agri-Fintech platform aimed at accelerating digital commerce in the agricultural sector. In 2022, Tingo expects to generate revenues in excess of $1 billion. The company helps farmers acquire mobile phones through a unique leasing plan, connecting them to mobile and data networks through its own virtual mobile network.
Tingo has continually evolved over the years and, now also connects farmers to markets, services and resources via Nwassa, its digital Agritech marketplace platform that commenced operations in 2020. The distinguished technology entrepreneur is an advocate for technological advancement and social upliftment in Africa and beyond.
His business and philanthropic endeavours are influenced by several global challenges including Climate Change, Food Security and No Poverty. He is passionate about the social upliftment targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
At the heart of Tingo is the ethos to provide an opportunity for Africa to be a core focal point to tackle some of these pressing topics.
In December 2021, Mmobousi launched the Dozy Mmobuosi Foundation, aiming to support Africans across multiple sectors including education, healthcare, technological skills upliftment and to also facilitate social empowerment by solving key structural challenges present on the continent. Mmobousi has a deep passion for football and firmly believes true talent is nurtured through strong grassroot programs.
He has long been involved with grassroots football having funded scouting schemes, training programmes and talent management for Porsche United and Nassarawa United, two formidable grassroots clubs in Nigeria.
He has also long held aspirations to work with a top tier UK club and believes that the combination of grassroots initiatives and top tier football will pay dividends for clubs, fans and management teams for years to come.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Master of Science degree in Economics from Ambrose Alli University in Nigeria. Mmobousi also holds a doctorate in Rural Advancement from Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Early this year, he completed the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.
To learn more about the renowned agri-tech billionaire, continue reading below.
Tell us more about your Agri-business platform, what are its main objectives? What kind of solutions does your business offer to its clientele?
Dozy Mmobuosi (DM): Every commercial decision I make is the result of careful consideration and evaluation. As an African I have made it my mission to utlise every cent to improve the lives of the people of Africa.
I am proud of what I have been able to create and will continue to drive for strong financial performance across every business I have.
At the heart of this is creating products and solutions that solve issues. When we do this customer demand will be there and the results will follow.
I believe that the perception that Africa is lagging behind in technological innovation is misplaced.
I see a vast continent of innovators and entrepreneurs who understand the nuance and unique challenges of Africa.
Tingo Mobile, is a mission-driven Agri-Fintech company that transforms rural farming and provides solutions that enable financial inclusion for our customer base.
Our aim is to utilise technology and digital services to impact smallholder farmers and the entire agricultural value chain in Africa.
We have three core products, firstly we offer our customers mobile devices which they obtain through a unique leasing programme. We do this to remove the upfront cost burden which we found was often prohibitive for lower income, rural communities to access technology.
Embedded within these devices and available to the general public we have built Nwassa Market, which is Africa’s leading digital agriculture ecosystem that empowers rural farmers and agri-businesses by using proprietary technology that enables users to access markets in which they operate.
Using Tingo’s ecosystem, farmers can ship produce from farms throughout Nigeria and now Ghana, in both retail and wholesale quantities. We offer real-time pricing, straight from the farms, which eliminates middlemen. Basically, Nwassa Market is an Agri-marketplace that connects farmers with other players in the agricultural value chain.
Our third core product is Tingo Pay, a smart, cashless and convenient payment solution that enables customers to make and receive payments, pay bills and buy airtime. We have a strategic partnership with Visa, our focus is on deepening our financial services offerings in Nigeria and across Africa by providing Tingo Visa cards to the millions of people across our platforms.
This payment solution has proven to be efficient and effective for individuals and SME’s. Through this we also run Tingo Payment Gateway, a comprehensive and simple solution to receiving payments online. This gateway enables companies to take online payments for their ecommerce business.
What does it mean for you owning such a business and eventually making it profitable, especially given that Africa has always been seen as lagging behind when it comes to tech innovation?
DM: The most important thing for me is being able to provide a service that transforms lives of many across Nigeria and the continent at large.
Africa has a very young population; these are the people who have grown up with technology thus the technological landscape is changing.
We have always wanted to be at the forefront of harnessing this invaluable resource and progressing Africa.
I believe that technology has the potential to transform every sector, but it must be developed and implemented in a very considered way.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have come across as a business person?
DM: Some of the biggest challenges I have faced are dealing with challenging corruption, high cost of securing capital and poor regulations and government policies in Africa.
This issue continuously affects businesses across the continent, although, I should note that massive regulatory reforms are definitely underway in several African nations and this is making the business environment more favourable than when I started.
Despite the impediments, I set out to break barriers to ensure success for the customers I serve whilst maintaining my integrity, reliability, honesty, and good judgment.
What makes you still want to wake up every day and keep on doing what you do despite the many challenges you have mentioned above?
DM: Purpose drives me. Having a purpose to see the Africa we dream of being realised. Narratives of an Africa rising have been repeated over the decades in international forums and publications but there has been very little to show for it, pockets of success here and there.
We have left too much to talking rather than doing. I am a doer. I wake up every morning wanting to see lives changed in Africa.
I want to see a prosperous people and prosperous nations. Nigeria and her people need opportunities and empowerment, so does the rest of the continent.
What were some of your proudest moments as a businessman?
DM: My proudest moments as a businessman have been being able to turn my visions into realities that empower the people we serve.
To see positive socio-economic impact on the lives of millions of people. In addition, I set out to build a strong team, one that is dedicated to our work, core values of transforming Africa in line with our company’s vision and mission.
Stepping back and seeing how everyone in the Tingo family has grown as individuals and as a team with those shared objectives being met to empower our customer base is truly phenomenal and key to our current and future success.
What are your thoughts on tech innovation within the agricultural industry?
DM: Tech innovation is playing a vital role in transforming the agricultural sector through the application of innovative tools and new business models.
This technology is growing fast across the continent thus allowing vast populations in the value chain, including smallholder farmers to have access to real-time data and computational power making it possible for more effective selection and timing of product-to-market decisions and provision of credit, to name a few.
These tech innovations are already playing a key role in the alleviation of poverty, hunger, nutrition, and health.
But more needs to be done to really boost Africa’s lagging agricultural productivity and combat the ills of food insecurity.
Do you think Africa is doing enough on promoting small scale farmers?
DM: Take a moment and let this thought sink in, sub-Saharan Africa has a quarter of the world’s arable land but yet it only produces 10% of the world’s agricultural output.
There is a lack of investment into the Agri space; a lack of political will at the top, with very few supportive agricultural policies to really impact the small holder farmers…more needs to be done.
You’ve been described as the ‘African giant building a digital inclusive ecosystem’ – what do you believe is lacking within this ecosystem in terms of those being excluded?
DM: We need to do more to solve barriers regarding digital inclusion, this is the first step.
The accessibility, availability and affordability of technology is tough for many Africans, and this is caused by poor electrical supply, power outages, poor infrastructure, and high costs of internet.
Private sector and government need to work together to rectify these challenges. But even where there is access and affordability to technology, the uptake may still be low and this is caused by poor education standards.
These two are intrinsically linkes and I am actively seeking how I can support better education throughout Africa.
It is up to us in the private sector and government to come together develop the right forward looking frameworks, from policy to investment, to be able to drive this technological advancement and make it inclusive.
Can you give us your top tips on how to make successful investments?
DM: Making successful investments is always challenging especially in a world that is changing and progressing as rapidly as the one we live in today.
I always look to identify problem areas which are preventing economic growth or hinder the ease of doing business. Once I have identified these, I consider how we can create a product or service to solve this challenge and then set to work either building it in house or exploring the market to find entrepreneurs who are already on this path.
If you invest in companies, products and people that solve global issues the demand for the product will be there and you will see significant returns on your investment.
Additionally, knowing that not every investment you make will be successful and knowing when to quit is important.
Value your time more that money. Time is your most valuable resource, use it wisely.
Finally, the most important thing is to invest in yourself, by this I mean read a lot and be willing to learn from your peers and your mistakes. This will allow you to know what works in the market and what doesn’t.
As one of the wealthiest businessmen in Africa, what advice would you give to someone starting out especially in the tech industry?
DM: Key pillars to starting out as a business owner are having a product, the right people and mastering the process.
Believe and invest in yourself; invest in people and create a product that solves challenges in your identified space.
Lastly just before we let you go, we’ve learned that you are a big sports fan, and the soccer world cup is underway in Qatar, can you give us 3 of your favourite teams to watch out for at the World Cup?
DM: Sports is such a wonderful tool that brings people together, from all walks of life, languages and culture.
With that said, I am behind the African nations during the World Cup in Qatar.
But, if we look at other teams, I would say Argentina, Brazil and France look really strong as favourites. England may be the underdogs for this tournament.
If the African nations can make it past the group stages, then it is a matter of knockout games leaving the tournament open in classic cup fixture manner.