Student wins big with tech solution for township farmers

Thinking on his feet and moving with the times has seen Lungo Momoza cause a stir among Western Cape township-based farmers and traders with his exciting new agritech venture

Lunga Momoza, the founder of Basket, a new e-commerce and agritech start-up. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Lunga Momoza, the founder of Basket, a new e-commerce and agritech start-up. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Township-based farmers and traders in the Western Cape could soon benefit from Basket, a new e-commerce and agritech start-up founded by Lungo Momoza, a Stellenbosch University student.

According to Ventureburn, a sister publication of Food For Mzansi, Momoza recently won Stellenbosch Network’s Entrepreneur of the Month award for his venture called Basket. It all started when he witnessed first-hand during the Covid-19 pandemic how his aunt, an informal trader and agripreneur, was struggling.

“It was a very difficult situation. The tough [lockdown] regulations meant that only a handful of traders could stock-up on fresh produce. This caused a major backlog for farmers, who had to quickly find a new way of selling their goods before they perished,” says Momoza.

At first, Momoza and the team developed a digital application. However, they soon discovered that informal farmers and traders they came in contact with were wary of adopting new technologies that deviated from traditional business models.

As such, their initial efforts to get users on board saw little success.

Giving up not an option

But Momoza refused to call it quits.

“Truth be told, this was a fairly new and confusing technology for our market, so we went back to the drawing board. After more research, we found that – while farmers and informal traders lacked computers and a stable internet connection at home – they were very adept at mobile phones and frequently used WhatsApp to liaise with family and friends,” Momoza says.

As such, Basket pivoted to a chat-based model, with producers and retailers now able to meet and negotiate terms completely online.

Balancing business with academia

In addition to starting his own business, Momoza is also completing a degree in international relations and economics at Stellenbosch University.

“I find it fascinating to learn about how changes in the global economy can have such a pronounced effect on people at a grassroots level, and I feel that my studies are contributing greatly to my overall understanding of doing business in South Africa – but I must admit, it is sometimes a challenge to juggle my entrepreneurial and student lives,” Momoza says.

At the end of the day, he says it’s all about balance and good time management – two qualities that have proven hugely beneficial when trying to solve other issues facing the business.

“Initially, I had thought that funding would be our major problem. However, as we grow, our focus is now on on-boarding more farmers and traders from across the province on to our system. This is complicated by the fact that we receive very little support from government stakeholders such as the department of agriculture, who are key to connecting us with big commercial players. But with time and persistence, we will be successful in reaching them,” Momoza says.

Basket solves SA challenges

With his own hurdles in mind, Momoza believes that young people in South Africa are fortunate to live in a country that presents so many challenges to its people.

“I see it as endless opportunities for innovation. As the next generation of leaders, we are faced with issues such as the high unemployment rate, which need us – the youth – to start thinking differently about how we solve them.”

He adds, “Especially young entrepreneurs, they should not be afraid to take that leap of faith, explore how and where we can make a difference, and utilise what we have available to kick-start our solution. We need to change our mindset, in which we tend to shy away from hardship, to one that welcomes adversity and recognises the growth and opportunity behind it.”

To this end, the Basket founder calls on young people in South Africa to have the courage to take the first step in their entrepreneurial journeys and become active players in moving the country forward.

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