AfricaLive: Please tell readers a bit about the DNA of GEM Industrial, and your motivation for starting the enterprise?
George Madjitey Jr: GEM Industrial was formed three years ago in Accra to start commercial unmanned aerial systems, more commonly known as drone technology, to collect geospatial data. We sought to create value in the agriculture sector with all the changes that plague the sector. Issues of crop diagnostics, mapping and surveying as well as land security issues were all issues that were of interest to us. We found that the technology we were using, along with our complimentary software would be of value to the market. The first two years were focused on the needs and challenges of our customers by addressing the knowledge gap through education. We are now focused on scaling our business.
AfricaLive: As you educate your customers and expand your business, what partnerships are you looking to attract?
George Madjitey Jr: Since inception, we have had a customer-centric business model, and we realise now that we need to double up on our customer focus. We have developed a customer-facing tool and operational management system in regards to our technology. We are doing this to engage the customer more aggressively and also allow for easier access to our services. Historically, most agri-businesses have been heavily invested and focused on the competition instead of what the customer wants. A transition from competition focused business models to customer-focused business models has to be made by all agribusiness players in Ghana.
We are taking the lead with our front-facing tool, and I believe our model will help us infiltrate new markets quickly. Our customer base is primarily small-holder farmers, and we often engage them by talking to cooperatives, where the farmers have come together and expressed interest in the services we offer. Apart from smallholder farmers, we also cater to some commercial clients. Our main customer base is the small farmers though, because they are the ones in most need of the system we have built. Our system is built to engage anyone with access to a network, from a T9 user to a smartphone owner.
AfricaLive: Do you train farmers on what should be done so that they can execute the project themselves, or are you directly involved in their farming practises?
George Madjitey Jr: We’ve positioned ourselves to provide services directly when it comes to extrapolating the data we have attained. In some cases, farmers have people on their staff that can interpret the data. In case they don’t have such resources, we are always ready to do that for them. The bulk of our services are executed directly by us, and we provide value by producing much-needed reports and methodologies that help increase yields.
AfricaLive: What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
George Madjitey Jr: Considering we spent the first two years establishing our foundation, we want to now focus on scaling our operations across Ghana. We want to bring onboard new pilots and station them across the country. Our project will mean new job opportunities, knowledge transference to locals and growth for agri-stakeholders. The system we are building will benefit not only this company and country but the entire continent. Through some of our early supporters such as the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), we have been able to provide services to a larger pool of operators who can use our technology to scale up their operations.
AfricaLive: What do you consider to be the primary opportunities and threats facing your sector?
George Madjitey Jr: The opportunities are largely predicated on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. Ghana is in a unique position and is heavily invested in the AfCFTA agreement. Our country is also surrounded by neighbours who are in relatively weaker economic positions than we are. Increased intra-African trade will benefit both our neighbours and us. With Ghana being where the secretariat will be headquartered, we have to take advantage of the opportunities the agreement will bring. We must also focus on our engagements with other nations and see what we can offer them in terms of agriculture and other exports. Ghana now has the opportunity to master the intra-African market and use that as a springboard to better overseas engagements.
AfricaLive: Ghana faces a significant long term challenge from the twin pressures of a growing youth population and increased workplace automation brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution. In short – you must create 10 million new jobs over the coming years to avoid mass youth unemployment and possible social unrest. What steps do you believe need to be taken to empower Ghana’s private sector to succeed in driving economic growth and job creation on this scale?
George Madjitey Jr: There has to be a concerted effort to uplift the private sector. Private sector players must look at themselves and ask what value they’re bringing and how they seek to improve. We must interrogate ourselves whether we are in the private sector or public sector, and seek to know if we are adding value or just gaining profits and resting on our laurels.
AfricaLive: What do you think could be done to de-risk Africa in the eyes of investors?
George Madjitey Jr: Ghana has taken huge strides in bridging the gap between what the outside world thinks of the continent and what continent is. The “Year of Return” was a huge stepping stone that led to a lot of interest. Such campaigns are good, but we can do more by ensuring transparency. If we assure investors that our systems are transparent, they can come in and put in capital without worry. Transparency is not just about promoting the good but also discussing the bad and what we can do to fix it.
AfricaLive: If you were to bring together Ghana’s leaders from government, higher education, and business to a roundtable meeting held at your HQ, what main issue would you urge them to unite around for the good of the economy & country?
George Madjitey Jr: They have to make deliberate efforts to listen to the youth. Our youth are intelligent and eager to create value; they just need an outlet that can help them empower themselves. The older generation and the public sector have been closed-minded as far as what the youth can offer. At a time when the youth are more interconnected than ever, there has to be space for their ideas and how they see the world.
AfricaLive: Having spent time in the United States as well as Ghana, what do you think Ghanaian businesses can learn from American ones and vice-versa?
George Madjitey Jr: The Ghanaian business community and society as a whole can learn that there is value in supporting the youth. America and the rest of the west have done well at uplifting, nurturing and supporting its youth. As far as what American businesses can learn from Ghana, it is innovation in areas like mobile money. Mobile money has become part of everyday life in Ghana while similar innovations like Apple pay are yet to take off on the same level. The west would do well not to ignore simple genius innovations that come out of Africa.
AfricaLive: What is the main message you would like to communicate to international readers and investors regarding your company and regarding Ghana?
George Madjitey Jr: Africa is in an interesting position considering the natural resources we have despite all our problems. It is important to share our challenges with the west and compare notes on what has worked and what hasn’t. I envision that we will have a larger population of young people with a passion for technology. Our dream is to have a situation where the people don’t have to leave the rural areas to come to the city and have access to certain services.