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Kenya’s Markit Opportunity wins Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge

Kenyan startup Markit Opportunity, which seeks to provide farmers with accurate information for fair trade, won the Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge. Part of Barclays’ global Rise initiative, this challenge sets the tone of what we can expect from the banking giant.

Founded by Ashley King-Bischof, Markit Opportunity pitched alongside three other Kenyan startups and one from Nigeria. The winning startup received US$10 000, with runner-up Freshmart App for Provenance hauling in US$5 000.

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The other three startups that pitched were Catch Counterfeits, Farm Inputs Authentication, and Solutech Distribution Application.

Markit Opportunity is a social enterprise that improves the incomes of smallholder farmers in the East African community. This is done by incentivising trade by leveraging mobile technology to create transparent and efficient supply chains.

“Farmers in Kenya has so many constraints,” King-Bischof told Ventureburn. “They don’t have a lot of money to invest in moving their goods, storing their goods and so on. Capital is a huge issue for them.” She added that access to transparent information such as pricing is thus key to growing their businesses.

In total, the Supply Chain Challenge received 240 applications from five countries around the African continent. Chief design and digital officer at Barclays Derek White — who judged the competition alongside the likes of iHub founder Erik Hersman, YouTube’s Teju Ajani and CiTi CEO Ian Merrington — says that this challenge is one of many yet to come.

He believes that innovations within the supply chain are significant in shaping the future of financial services. “Markit Opportunity has identified a real opportunity within the agricultural space to solve the problem that exists in the supply chain of agriculture,” says White.

Read more: Barclays Africa launches startup community aimed at FinTech innovation

White, who heads the Rise programme globally, explains that it’s through challenges such as these that Barclays can keep an ear on the ground of what’s happening in terms of innovation:

Through our Rise programme globally we have of over 20 000 startups that we engage with in the ecosystem. We get insights on the early reads of what’s happening in the very fabric of the ecosystems — what’s cooking. The true success of those that survive and those that create the future will be those that can quickly translate what’s bubbling into actual tangibility for customers and clients.

In an effort to engage the global innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, Barclays launched its Rise initiative in London, Manchester, New York and now Cape Town. White explains that the initiative is grounded in the insight that disruption is happening in the financial services industry.

Read more: Barclays Africa launches accelerator for health and fintech startups

On the one hand, Barclays gains heaps of insight into innovation trends while the tech startups can gain support through capital and access to markets and expertise. “If there’s one thing that startups need it is customers. If there is a way for us to unlock heritage industry and become the customer of these startups, that’s where true magic happens. That’s reciprocity,” explains White.

Rise will also officially launch the Barclays Accelerator for South African fintech startups this December at the Bandwidth Barn, run in partnership with renowned global accelerator Techstars.

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