A South African startup based in Cape Town has been named as an Innovation Prize for Africa finalist.
Social entrepreneurs Nokwethu Khojane, left, and Lauren Drake envisioned Lakheni in 2015, when designing a food buying cooperative that helps families to pool their resources and purchase food in bulk within their communities. Cost reductions of about 30 percent make staples like maize and cooking oil more affordable for low-income families, who place their orders via app or at selected community locations.
More than 50 buying groups signed up in the first six months of operation in 2016. The cooperative clubs arise from neighborhoods, day care centers, faith communities – or almost anywhere at least seven community members commit to buying products together. The money they deposit then goes to purchase the bulk products which are delivered to community-based locations for pickup, with the added benefit that people living in “food deserts” without a nearby grocery have easy access to food.
Beans, peanut butter and tea all become closer, but so does the community that comes together around Lakheni. The day cares and other partners also earn commissions for each new family they sign up.
The app developed by Khojane that attracted the eye of the African Innovation Foundation may also be expanded for financial and other services. “In essence, the poor end up paying a poverty premium,” the foundation noted. “Lakheni solves this problem by aggregating poor households into a buyer’s market by leveraging mobile technology.”
More than 2,500 applicants from 48 African countries applied for this year’s prize. The 10 finalists also include Dougbeh-Chris Nyan of Liberia, who developed a single rapid medical test to handle multiple infection diagnostics, and Nzola Swasisa of Democratic Republic of Congo, whose Lokole device makes mobile email access far less expensive than standard-bandwidth service provided by cellular companies.
The awards will be presented in Ghana on July 17 and 18.