Every Nigerian alive today needs to pay attention to Ibrahim Maigari Ahmadu, an IT expert and co-founder/chief executive of Livestock247.com, the country’s first livestock online marketing and listing platform.
A lawyer by training, Ahmadu has been in the livestock industry in the last seven years, revolutionising a sub-sector viewed primarily through cultural and ethnic lenses.
Through his platform, livestock sellers meet buyers. The former make money from huge sales while buyers get fit-for-slaughter cattle. The story does not end there. He has now delved into solving one of Nigeria’s biggest challenges—farmers-herders crisis. His strategy is simple: He tells herders to stay where they are; he provides pasture, water, funding and market, thereby preventing nomadic movement of cows through farms, which often results in conflicts, blood and tears.
The entrepreneur tells Start-Up Digest that his firm’s big vision is to mitigate spread of animal-to-human disease transmission in Africa.
He explains that one big challenge facing Nigeria’s cattle production is lack of functional animal identification system.
“If there is a break-out of mouth cow disease, how do you trace it?” he asks.
“It means you may not know what you are eating. That is why global brands like McDonalds are not in Nigeria,” he says.
His firm creates a platform whereby livestock producers, consumers, financial service providers and insurance firms come together with a view to mitigating the spread of diseases and putting a structure to a sector that has been under the control of middle-men for years.
“We are investing heavily in production,” he says, adding that Livestock247.com is trying to solve a very serious problem—cattle rustling.
“We partnered with MTN Nigeria to develop the cattle tracking system. We developed this system ourselves. During that time, we developed relationships with rural farmers. Before we even launched our products, we had to go round the country and familiarise with rural farmers. And they are not as uncivilised as many people think they are. They are literate in their own way,” he explains.
Ahmadu says the cattle business is a multibillion enterprise and not about culture or ethnicity.
“The cow does not understand Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba or Efik. Most livestock producers are looking for market. They want to get away from the shackles of middle-men; they want good margins,” he states.
There is a popular livestock market in Jigawa State called Maigatari Market, which is busiest on Thursdays.
Traders and buyers come from Mauritania, Congo Brazzaville, several parts of Central Africa and other countries to buy or sell cows.
The entrepreneur says he is now trying to re-orient livestock producers there to ensure their market runs 24/7.
“When you go there on Friday, the place is quiet. And I ask them, why don’t you have a market on 247 basis?”
“We are bringing the financial service providers to this market because it is a business that is credit based. Maigatari Market turns almost over $3 million a week. They do over N500 million, but 80 percent of this is cash. We partnered with Sterling Bank to have what we call Experience Centres and we are bringing financial services to the cattle market. That is financial inclusion. We are bringing together the banks and the under-banked through our system. So, we are helping them to sell their cattle and now we are telling them they don’t need to come with cash. Have an account with this bank and you don’t have to come with cash to the cattle market because it breeds rural banditry and kidnapping,” he states.
He says that 95 percent of the 20 million cattle in Nigeria are owned by the pastoralist communities.
He believes that traceability has been a landmark innovation in the livestock business.
“What you are getting for nothing, you get get a fit-for-slaughter that is traceable and you are getting value for money,” he avers.
“The traceability is working at the moment. There is a microchip that we implant on the animals. It is not harmful on the animals and is based on World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) specifications. The body is like the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the animal space. There is also the International Standards Organisation. We design our products in line with OIE. Fortunately, Nigeria and other 180 of countries are all signatories to OIE,” he says.
Forty-two percent of all the livestock in West Africa are in Nigeria but we can’t export one kilogram of beef because of our poor animal identification system, he said.
“Botswana, Namibia and South Africa export beef. Nigeria has over 20 million cattle but can’t export one beef,” he says
He points out that his firm’s new Livestock Fattening Project will bring bite to the industry. He has an agreement with financial partners who are investing almost N500 million in the project.
“What they are trying to do is to show to the government that the market-driven approach is the solution,” he says.
“The farmers-herders crisis happens because every year. During the dry season –from November to February— herders start moving southwards because rains stop early in the north. So, they start looking South-West and converge at the Middle-belt. They also congregate around the Ikom Belt. By March/ April when the rain starts again, they go back. As they go back, people are already in the farm. That is why you have farmers-herders crisis. When you sit down with them, you see it is a competition of resources. The pastoralist is looking for pasture and water. The farmer, on the other hand, has every right to go to the farm. What we are telling them is, look, you say government is not investing in livestock development, there are no pasture and grazing land, stay where you are, we will give you money for feeds and also give you the bulls to fatten. We will give you money for drugs and vaccines. We will give you a veterinary doctor to supervise you. We will give you the market. Over 1,000 companies have applied to participate in the programme. Our plan is to do 24,000 cattle in 2019 to 2020. We are starting with Osun, Taraba, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Abuja. We have escalated it to reach Lagos and the South-East,” he explains..
He adds that one other thing his firm is trying to do is to de-ethnicise livestock production the way poultry business has gone mainstream.
He explains that livestock business is no longer a cultural thing. He tells Start-Up Digest how he makes money.
“We are a platform. We bring buyer and sellers together. People that want to buy, sell, transport livestock come to our platform. Insurance companies and investors come to our platform and they pay some fees.”