Unlocking the Potential of Africa’s Neglected Livestock

The contribution of livestock to the wider rural economy in Africa remains underappreciated by all players in economic development, except those who keep animals. Livestock in Africa play many different roles in supporting families and are particularly important for the poorest families. Increasing income in urban areas is driving the demand for animal products and opening up new opportunities for poor farmers to make money.

Yet livestock keepers face huge challenges in taking advantage of these growing opportunities. They lack good technical advice, quality inputs (drugs, feeds, vaccines, etc.), and access to markets.

It is estimated that 60 percent of livestock inputs are substandard and are usually purchased from unqualified retailers.

As a result, farmers waste money, and there is widespread misuse of antibiotics and other drugs, resulting in a buildup of drug resistance, which can potentially lead to drug resistance in humans.

The challenge of poor-quality inputs is the same in crops, with farmers experiencing low seed germination rates and wasting money on adulterated fertilizers. Essentially, many manufacturers, importers, and retailers are perpetrating widespread fraud against some of Africa’s most vulnerable people.

What Africa desperately needs is a professionally driven private sector supplying quality products along with technical advice and training and operating in a well-regulated environment.

Sidai Africa is a Kenya-based company that supplies quality products through a network of branded franchise retail outlets owned by livestock professionals. It aims to be a one-stop shop supplying all the inputs and knowledge farmers need, including crop inputs, to improve the productivity and profitability of their livestock and crops. After three years, this fast-growing company has 100 outlets across Kenya delivering quality products to underserved communities in remote locations. Sidai means “good” in the Maasai language, and the company aims to become a trusted brand that farmers can rely on for quality products and knowledge.

One of the challenges Sidai faces is in Kenya’s drought-prone arid regions, where nomadic or seminomadic pastoralists keep 75 percent of the country’s livestock.

Here, a humanitarian mind-set dominates the livestock input market, with drugs and vaccines frequently being handed out on a free or subsidized basis through short-term, donor-funded government and NGO projects.

This creates dependency among the population who can afford to pay for products and undermines small local businesses, inhibiting the creation of financially sustainable livestock services.

As a result of this poorly regulated, fragmented, and risky market, few large multinational veterinary pharmaceutical companies view Africa as a market in which to invest. They need companies like Sidai that can offer a well-structured route to market for their products, delivered to all livestock keepers, including those at the bottom of the pyramid, for whom livestock can be their main route out of poverty.

Dr. Christie Peacock is the founder and executive chairman of Sidai Africa Ltd.

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