Picture: 123RF/sasha85ru
Picture: 123RF/sasha85ru

Multinational brewing company AB InBev Africa is rolling out a blockchain solution to assist smallholder farmers in its supply chain.

The solution was developed by BanQu, a US-based finTech company. It will enable farmers in the AB InBev value chain to monitor sales of their barley, sorghum and cassava crops, and receive cash through a mobile money solution.

Blockchain, or the distributed ledger system, has given rise to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. The system uses independent computers to synchronise transactions online without the need for independent validation.

AB InBev said 1,200 farmers have signed up on the BanQu blockchain platform. These farmers now have access to full accounting information, such as sales price, volume sold and payment — with this information made available via SMS. They also have records that they can take to the bank, allowing them access to credit and form a verifiable economic identity.

Another benefit to AB InBev’s smallholder farmers, which has recently been made available by BanQu, is the integration of mobile money, which means that farmers do not have to walk around with cash that could be stolen, and can, instead, store money, pay bills or send remittances online directly through the free, secure platform.

AB InBev’s solutions Africa director of innovation & analytics, Sameer Jooma, said that BanQu’s solution can be applied to almost any industry.

“Most people have a rudimentary understanding of blockchain because it is the platform that enables bitcoin transactions. What BanQu has done, as the world’s first company to offer this solution, is to take this technology and expand it beyond cryptocurrency. After all, what is being moved is information, because even money can be distilled down to data now,” said Jooma.

BanQu co-founder and CEO Ashish Gadnis said that through developing the non-cryptocurrency blockchain platform, BanQu connects people to global supply chains, enabling them to do business with brands, organisations and governments.

“Almost 2.7-billion people across the globe don’t have access to credit or other banking services, because they don’t have what we call an economic identity — the data record of their financial position. BanQu seeks to solve this dilemma by providing auditable financial records, which are bankable, allowing more people to participate in the global economy.”

The partnership also gives AB InBev Africa better visibility of farmers in their supply chain, and the company can easily see how much, and when, a farmer was paid, as well as track produce from the farm to the brewery through geolocation tags.