Sibesonke’s mobile service to help millions of farmers in East Africa

Finnish mobile-service company Sibesonke Ltd was established in 2009 in Espoo and has from early on been directing its actions towards the developing markets. Sibesonke has successfully piloted a mobile farming service in Tanzania and has now entered into the commercial phase of the project. Sibesonke received Business Partnership Support from Finnpartnership for conducting the preliminary studies which were needed before establishing a subsidiary company and starting co-operation in Tanzania.

Sibesonke announced in March 2013 a National Technology and Content Cooperation with the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development. The announced cooperation allows both Ministries to better reach the 33 million Tanzanian farmers with relevant up-to-date farming content on mobile phones. The target of the project is to expand the service portfolio of life-relevant services and to make it accessible for mass-market of low-income people across Tanzania. Sibesonke provides both the cross-network technology platform and the business model. Overall target is to substantially increase farming productivity and food security in the region in a financially sustainable way.

The kick-off event on March 12, 2013 in Dar Es Salaam was attended by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Mohamed S. Muya, and other senior officials from both Ministries. The event was also honored by the Ambassador of Finland in Tanzania, Ms. Sinikka Antila expressing the strong support of the Embassy of Finland in Tanzania for this cooperation. In May 2013 Sibesonke will participate in the Ministerial delegation of Ministers Heidi Hautala and Alexander Stubb in Tanzania. During the Ministerial visit Sibesonke will launch its subsidiary Sibesonke East Africa Ltd in Dar Es Salaam.

Support from Finnpartnership

Sibesonke has received financial support from Finnpartnership for partner identification, preliminary studies of the project and for employee training. According to Juha Hynynen, Chief Operation Officer at Sibesonke, Finnpartnership and other early-stage financiers have a vital role especially for start-up businesses that are heading to developing markets. “Finnpartnership’s support has been instrumental in making our project possible.”

Help is needed in establishing a company in the target market, as well as in starting the actual business. Only after that can companies begin to negotiate with the investors. “Finnpartnership’s support in addition to entrepreneur’s own capital and business angels’ support is a prerequisite to make success stories possible”, emphasizes Hynynen.

Strategic importance of viable solutions for increasing farming productivity

Poor transport and communications infrastructure mean that farmers in countries like Tanzania struggle to get access to vital agricultural information, as well as training on proven farming practices. Sibesonke’s innovative mobile service offers cost-effective and scalable solutions to address these challenges. Farmers get real-time weather forecasts and crop and livestock management tips including advice on topics such as pests and disease treatment. This presents small-scale farmers in Tanzania with an unprecedented opportunity to increase their yield, thus closing the productivity gap with other parts of the world.

For Finnish Sibesonke Ltd this cooperation in Tanzania is a major step in expanding its award winning and patented mobile community platform in East Africa. Life-improving content on a social network for basic phones has not been seen earlier in emerging markets.

“In a world where food prices continuously rise we believe services that increase farming productivity for millions of farmers are not only an extremely viable business serving farmers in the region – they also become of global strategic importance”, says Uwe Schwarz, CEO of Sibesonke Ltd. “We are very excited about the cooperation with the Ministries. In cooperation with mobile operators our easily scalable solution presents a healthy business relevant for emerging countries across the Globe“. Sibesonke continuously develops content and functionality of its service further to secure the lead in the Tanzanian innovation landscape. Next life-improving services will address health questions of people across Tanzania.

Finnish embassy supporting Finnish companies

Finland has for long cooperated with Tanzania in different sectors, like agriculture and forestry. “Our strong relationship is leading to a new form of partnership that is based on creating jobs through business partnerships based on high-tech and innovation”, Ms Sinikka Antila commented at the kick-off event.

Ambassador Antila continued to point out that the service that Sibesonke Ltd offers is truly inclusive. It has the potential to reach all Tanzanians, regardless of their location or mobile phone model. “It is truly in the spirit of the Finnish priorities here in Tanzania to support these kind of base of the pyramid innovations to contribute to the fulfillment of the Tanzanian Development vision 2025”, noted Ambassador Antila at the kick-off event.

Sibesonke Ltd press release 12.3.2013.

Embassy of Finland in Tanzania, “mFarming innovations for all”.

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