Steward bank recently unveiled a somewhat mysterious product they are calling AgroFuture. While it received some press coverage the coverage lacked the sort of detail that inspires. What is known is that Steward Bank worked on the product with other companies under its listed parent Cassava Smartech that include Ecocash, EcoSure, Vaya, Moovah and Ecofarmer. They say they offer tailor-made solutions for farmers and say this is set to boost agriculture in Zimbabwe.
The reaction to this launch has been somewhere between inquisitive and dismissive. A great majority would like to know how this product plans to boost agriculture in Zimbabwe. According to the Steward Bank CEO Courage Mashavave, the bank will offer access to finance and key innovations. The dismissive quickly call back to the reimagine Rural project which also enjoyed a big launch but seems to have receded into the shadows. AgroFuture will also finance for Re-imagine Rural so it is not dead just yet.
The ambitious project wants to offer farmers a 360° support system. This will include financing, technology access assistance, advisory services, logistics, insurance and transacting. To bolster this the bank has also worked closely with the Food Agriculture Organisation, the United States Development Finance Corporation and the International Finance Corporation to assist with access to technology and presumably markets too.
Agriculture and food security are at the core of basic survival for the general populace across the country, hence the support of agribusiness activities will certainly have a great economic and social impact,” said Mr Mashavave. Our product will offer solutions focused on enhancing agricultural production by providing access to finance and key innovations to farmers, rural agro-dealers, aggregators and manufacturing companies,” he continued.
Perhaps it is within the very DNA of Zimbabwe as a nation to beat the drum and shout from the top of the hills every time some new idea comes up. As an observer, you start to wonder if our energy is being spent on the right things. AgroFuture does sound good and promising but the presentation on it so far is not convincing. Does this make it a bad idea? No! The problem is that we don’t know if it’s any good. Understanding, of course, the product is all about tailor-made solutions so it’s not one thing to all people. It’s a lot like ordering a sandwich, you still know all the ingredients but can combine them however you want.
The action by Steward bank and their desire to live up to being the everyday bank for everyday people is both palpable and commendable. The thing together of multiple companies under the Cassava banner is smart if not genius. Utilising existing assets to create new solutions is certainly welcome.