Ghanaian startup Africa Goodnest is an e-commerce and logistics platform that creates access to local and external markets, supports smallholder agricultural businesses, and distributes value-added agricultural products.
Founded in 2021 by Bernice Yalley, Africa Goodnest is building a secure, user-friendly e-commerce platform connecting buyers around the world with African companies selling smallholder agricultural products in personal care, food and beverages and herbs and spices.
“In the past several years, there has been a marked growth in the number of African entrepreneurs creating high quality, export-ready, natural consumable goods,” Yalley told Disrupt Africa.
“However, it is still more typical for raw materials to be exported from Africa that are then added to international brands, packaged and sold around the world, including back to Africans. We can add value here.”
Africa Goodnest exists to support producers who manufacture finished, value-added goods, which in turn goes to support smallholder agricultural farmers, reduce Africa’s reliance on raw commodity exports and supports blossoming economies in Africa.
“We want to help export-ready, natural consumable African products be shared with retail businesses around the world,” Yalley said.
She said she had always intended for Africa Goodnest to be a wholesale platform, yet when it unofficially launched in 2020, it was at the height of the COVOD-19 pandemic, which was “not so brilliant”.
“Everyone was shopping online and manufacturers were moving there too, and so we thought that’s where we needed to be. However, a lot of our brands are virtually unknown and logistically, coming from Africa, it made selling to individuals harder and more expensive,” Yalley said.
“Since re-launching in 2021 as a wholesale platform, it has been a lot easier to work with vendors because we don’t have to hold their inventory, and with buyers too because they can order products in bulk and we help them sort out their shipping and logistics. So, we are growing on the supply side and navigating growth on the demand side.”
Africa Goodnest’s first batch of funding came from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which Yalley said was a key moment for the young business.
“I was pretty excited about that just because it gave me some validation and confidence. When you are an entrepreneur who every few months reconsiders whether you should just get a job like a real adult, you need that moral boost every now and again,” she said.
“Then we were selected to participate in the UNICEF Startup Lab, which brought a bit more funding, and now we are part of the MEST Express Accelerator sponsored by the Mastercard Foundation.”
Africa Goodnest, which makes a margin on the products it sells while also charging its vendors a monthly fee for hosting and advertising their products, is primarily focused on its home market for now.
“We want to focus on growth in Ghana first, though we have brands from other African countries joining our platform. We want to concentrate on growth in West Africa, probably Anglophone, with focused buyers in North America and some in Europe,” Yalley said.
Besides its site crashing on the day it launched, she said Africa Goodnest had only faced the same challenges any other startups face.
“For any new brand, it’s tough breaking onto the scene with new, virtually unknown products, and little resources. But it’s actually not the money that’s an issue, that’s just a surface problem. The toughest part has actually been sorting out the logistics,” she said.
“We are a small brand in a small country on a marginalised continent working to digitise a logistics process for small agribusinesses. Up to now, everything has been manual – we want things to be efficient and smooth. Building that, and finding people who understand that, has been difficult.”
Yet Africa Goodnest perseveres, and with the backing of the likes of Tony Elumelu, UNICEF and MEST, a brave person would bet against it.