You can’t overestimate the importance of agriculture to Africa’s current and future economic prospects.
With 65% of Africa’s labor force engaged in agriculture, the sector accounts for about 32% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), growth in sub-Saharan agriculture employment accounted for half of all employment growth between 1999 and 2009.
Reliant on erratic rains and forced to work with exhausted soil, farmers and cooperatives are working to raise crop yields and adopt modern, sustainable farming methods. Founded in 2018, Afrique InnovActions Multiservices (AIAM) imports and exports liquid, soluble and solid fertilizers that help farmers achieve both of these goals (and more).
Based in Ivory Coast, the company’s eight full-time associates and 33 independent contractors operate throughout Western Africa, helping to spread the word about the value of its liquid fertilizers in a region where product cost is a primary buying criteria. “Our customer is oriented to low cost,” said Thomas Okou, General Manager. “We’re trying to show them a product that can increase yield and reduce deforestation but they still focus on out-of-pocket costs versus the value that the product can add. Our aim is to help them carry out best practices in the field, and it works.”
For AIAM, complete end-to-end supply chain visibility is a must-have. Previously using Excel spreadsheets to manage the business, Thomas lacked the knowledge of where products were at any given point in time, each customer’s specific price parameters, and the logistics costs associated with each fertilizer shipment.
A newer entrant into Africa’s fertilizer import/export market, AIAM also wants to be able to carve out a viable niche while competing effectively with other, more established players. “We’re not interested in functioning like the traditional companies in this space; we want to innovate,” said Thomas, who went in search of a cloud-based enterprise system to help AIAM achieve this and other goals.
After reviewing the options on the market, Thomas decided to implement NetSuite Cloud ERP with the help of ERP Success Partners, a company that had the experience he was looking for in a good implementation partner. “ERP Success Partners had a lot of experience with NetSuite implementations,” he said, “and provided a flexible quote as compared to other offers that we received from other partners.”
A Unified System to Work With
AIAM also relies on NetSuite to manage its procurement, purchase order, quoting, and estimating. The ERP’s customer relationship management (CRM) functionality helps the organization evaluate prospects and determine their probability of becoming customers.
Thomas especially likes being able to access NetSuite from his laptop or mobile phone from anywhere. “I can’t be out in the field all the time, but I need real-time information from the market in order to be able to make good, strategic decisions,” said Thomas, whose company works primarily with agricultural companies, individual farmers, and cooperatives. “Anytime I want to check my financial statements, they’re right at my fingertips.”
When handling communication with suppliers and customers, Thomas said NetSuite offers a very transparent, easy-to-use setup. “The emails that we exchange are all fed right into NetSuite,” he said, “so I can easily search all of those historic emails for communications to get the answers that I need.”
ERP Success Partners Provides Crucial Support
With all of its mission-critical information and processes now housed in a single application, AIAM is ready to continue with its goal of helping African farmers, cooperatives, and agricultural companies better understand the value of using liquid, soluble, sustainable fertilizers. A member of an industrial agricultural group, Thomas has proposed that the rest of the organization also move over to using NetSuite (most are currently using other ERPs).
“We’re growing in the market,” said Thomas, “and already looking forward to upgrading to a new, expanded version of NetSuite once we expand.”