In March 2022, I was in Kaduna for a brief meeting with members of the Amana Market community in Kaduna state. I visited with Hafsah, our CEO and two of my colleagues to have a round table discussion about some new systems we were introducing and some corrections we could make to our processes. Among the members of the communities we engaged were farmers, traders and other stakeholders.
There were so many positives from that meeting. Apart from the excitement of the farmers and traders who were present and the great platform where female farmers and business owners in Nigeria could express themselves to a female industry leader, the most exciting part of my visit was an interaction I had with a farmer named Halima. I met Halima in May of 2018, on my first official visit to Kaduna state with CoAmana. To say that things were different then would be an understatement.
As a team, we had developed the first iteration of our digital-first, technically heavy, market-exclusive product and had come not to field test but to introduce our solution to farmers and MSMEs in Kaduna state. While there was excitement at the potential, our ability to deliver the kind of product that addressed their immediate needs was hampered by our delivery methods. We had to return to the drawing board to review our entire product. We have had to return to the drawing board multiple times after this, but every time we made changes, we returned to the field to speak with members of our community. We accepted our failures, listened to them and developed simple tools that they could access and interact with.
In my time with the company, we have slowly continued to iterate and change our product and the solutions we offer. We have made the members of our community feel like part of the process by putting them at the center of our development. Even though Halima was not present for the CSA day in Abuja in 2021, she told me how excited she was about the success of the event and how she hoped to attend one in the future. When describing the event, she said, “We are happy that our company is growing and we trust that it will be better for us all.”
That interaction was one of the high points of my career because it was a testament to the kind of bond that we have formed with our community of farmers, traders and agents. The common practice is to focus on the goals of the product, but in constant iterations and repeated engagements, even through failed features, solutions and programs, the fact that we continued to work with our community made us “their people” and, in the best way possible, they became “our people” too.
I’ve worked at CoAmana for more than 4 years, and I have the honor of leading the company as its chief product officer right now. I am proud to say that our greatest asset is our strong connection with our community: the farmers, traders and agents. This community is not built on product design, execution strategy and transaction numbers; it is built on one thing; trust.
We consistently come back to them, so they can trust us. Our goal as a company is to continue to show up for our community.