A constant concern and worry for graduates who are posted to deprived areas for their national service has been that many, when posted, go for reposting. But who knows, this could be a blessing in disguise for Corporate Lead and Co-founder of Sustainable African Youth enterprise and Technologies (SAYeTECH), Jeffrey Boakye Appiagyei, whose passion to see change paved the way for his entrepreneurial journey.
This week’s B&FT Inspiring Start-ups tells the story of how it all began, and how that one decision and passion has given opportunity to other young people and is bringing huge solutions to farmers. Read on.
Jeffery holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering and Biosystems Engineering gained at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) from 2013 – 2017. After graduation, he served for a year as an elementary teacher in a rural community without electricity in the Northern Region. His choice of the north for his national service was born out of his desire to become a Christian missionary. To achieve this goal, he had to become a teacher in a deprived community; and the only way he could do that was to do it through the National Service Scheme.
During his stay, he assisted in raising funds for the construction of a solar-powered library that serves over 900 pupils in seven communities as part of an effort to contribute to the solution needed.
As a result-oriented person, he also noticed another challenge – wherein parents, even before close of school, drag their children to the farm to help them thresh grains; especially during the harvest season. For him this was disheartening, and as a graduate who has knowledge in agriculture engineering and machine-building he just didn’t sympathise with the situation but wanted to develop a solution for it. He thought about manufacturing a thresher locally that farmers could use rather than disrupting the education of their children.
He then spoke to his friend, now a Co-founder of SAYeTECH, Theodore Ohene Botchway.
“I convinced a friend to join me in this endeavour, and we began designing machines that could solve the problem. Our team became bigger with a few more resourceful additions, and in 2018 we set up the company – Sustainable African Youth enterprise and Technologies (SAYeTECH). My only goal was for students to be in school, but we later realised the trickle-down effect on farmers, many agriculturists and various other players in the value chain,” he said.
SAYeTECH Company Limited
SAYeTECH is a product and service-oriented company that designs and builds smart agricultural machinery suited for African conditions and use. It provides fabrication training services and computer-aided design services to impact the manufacturing industry. Its software suite in development is to promote design know-how transfer for Technical High Schools in Africa.
SAYeTECH’s premiere product is the multi-crop thresher, which significantly reduces human drudgery in the threshing phase. It is a simple machine fitted with smart monitoring devices that successfully separates grains from cereal plants. The multi-crop is 60 times faster than manual threshing, reduces post-harvest losses by up to 35 percent and increases farmers’ income by 50 percent.
Since inception, the company has produced 60 multi-crop threshers and other machines to assist the agricultural work of about 6,000 farmers. It can thresh most of the cereal crops grown by smallholder farmers in Africa.
“Also, AgriCAD Africa is a flagship service of SAYeTECH that is aimed at designing working drawings for the manufacture of agricultural machinery and implements to boost agricultural mechanisation and reduce the cost of food production in Ghana and Africa at large. We provide fabricators with drawings, assembly videos, training as well as patterns/templates for easier marking in manufacturing.
“Our software in development comprises the manufacturing drawings, assembly videos, and patterns to facilitate practical teaching across technical schools in Africa. The software will facilitate hands-on training with over 100 agri-machinery designs for technical students. We also provide general computer-aided design services to companies and other manufacturing institutions,” the team stated.
“Our machines are low-cost comparatively, but offer you that required reliability; once you have our machine you consistently get the output you need. Also, our machines use less fuel and their engines are robust and strong,” said Sales and Business Development Associate, Boampong Akwasi Opoku.
On how farmers can access their products, Gifty Ama Opoku – who is also a Sales and Business Development Associate – explained that aside from a farmer buying a thresher for their own use, SAYeTECH offers threshing services to farmers who cannot buy their own – adding that currently their outfit is even giving up to 10% discount on ST 6000 Gen II Multi-Crop threshers from now to March 7, 2022.
SAYeTECH has won several awards: including Winner of American Society of Mechanical Engineers Innovation Showcase 2019; Impulse Accelerator 2020; AB Afrikpreneur Awards 2019; The OpEx Prize 2021; 2nd Prize Enpact Covid Support to Entrepreneurs Global Pitch; and Start-up of the Year by Ghana start-up awards 2021; and also won the Israeli Green Innovation Competition 2020.
SAYeTECH envisages contributing to agriculture-led industrialisation and markets by creating one million jobs, reducing poverty by 50 percent among end-users, and ensuring food security in the countries where they work by 2030.
Speaking about challenges faced, Akwasi said one challenge the firm has is manufacturing capacity to meet demands of the market.
“We do not have a large manufacturing capacity to get the threshers on demand done, and we are currently raising funds to expand our manufacturing capacity to produce more for the market.
“Another challenge is finding the right talents. Getting the talents here in Ghana is challenging, but we are still on it and trying to offer internships to groom the youths to take up responsibility,” he said.
The team also faces material sourcing challenges, since materials on the markets are expensive – a situation affecting production.
How government must support
The team believes government must walk the talk of its intention to support entrepreneurship by making policy frameworks that make operating businesses a little more favourable – just like other country’s do to support businesses.
Advice for prospective entrepreneurs
When asked what advice they have for the teeming youth, Akwasi cited SAYeTECH’s ‘You Have It’ concept. He explained that they believe every youth have a potential; and that with hard work, taking up responsibility and being innovative, they can do whatever they set their minds on.
“We believe in the African youth, and encourage the African youth to look within themselves and commit to hard work, discipline and mentorship; and with gradual progress and work, they will succeed because we have what it takes to succeed.”
For Ama, the youth should start looking at themselves as the solution they need for the change they expect and anticipate. She said: “We are always in the habit of expecting another person to solve our problems for us in our community, forgetting that we can also be that somebody to solve the problem. So, my advice to every young person out there is to believe in yourself, for you are the solution to the change you want”.
Website – www.sayetech.io