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Allister Banks

By Alfonce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans can now buy and sell cattle online; thanks to the Remote Livestock Marketing System - Zimbabwe’s first online marketing system for livestock.

The portal founder, Allister Banks, told BizTechAfrica that his portal had opened opportunities for farmers while bringing efficiencies to an industry that has relied more on live auctions over the years.

“I have over 20 years’ experience in the livestock marketing industry and I know that I am up against a hundred years of tradition. The industry has relied on live cattle auctions but we are saying that does not have to be the case anymore, thanks to improvements in technology,” he said.

“In particular, the growth and improvements in mobile technology have made it possible to conduct such sales without the need for the buyer to physically to an auction or farm.”

Until now, buyers have had to attend the auction to bid, and then transport their cattle all the way back to their farm or abattoir. The logistics of having all the cattle and all the people in the same place at the same time often presents challenges, he says, especially in recent times as more small-scale farmers enter the industry.

“We have brought efficiency to the whole system. A farmer can put up their cattle for sale on the website through a cellphone. We send our assessor who will look at the cattle and we put the pictures and other relevant data on the website and the bidding starts."

“Once a deal has been agreed, payment is made through mobile payment systems. The buyer will only collect the cattle once the transaction is complete,” said Banks.

Through the system, he said, he has sold between 2 500 and 3 000 cattle since he launched the service in March this year. Small livestock such as pigs, goats and sheep have also been sold via the system.

Using the power of the internet, RLMS’s reach has transcended borders, with buyers from as far as Ireland, Sweden, South Africa, Angola and Botswana.

In Zimbabwe, the company has mainly serviced the Mashonaland hinterland, but Banks says he has plans to increase the reach to other areas and the cattle rich south of the country.

“I am working on some pilot schemes in areas that have small-scale farmers,” he said. 

RLMS won this year’s Jumpstart Challenge and prizes totalling USD10 000, which pleased Banks.

“Jumpstart is for anyone with a dream, and I had one. I was looking at the Australian model for my project but in terms of developing the actual site I was inclined to go Indian, using the best free web-based resources I could find. I am not a technical person so I researched a lot on how it would work, and the result is our current website."

“But at Jumpstart, I was amazed at the technical expertise available in this country, it made me proud."

“Apart from the prize money, which would obviously come in handy, I met experts who are now helping with the back end of the RLMS system to remove some of the inefficiencies and bring it up to scratch.

“The idea is to make bring more automation into the system.”

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