With its vast plains, fertile land and many rural communities that – by necessity – must strive to largely be self sufficient, Africa has a long tradition of making livelihoods in agriculture and tending livestock. In Southern Africa, cattle farms have enjoyed periods of great success, and also spells of distressing setbacks.
Even though the quality of Zimbabwean beef is well renowned, the act of selling their product isn’t always straightforward for farmers. In 2018, more than 50,000 cows died of a tick-borne disease that spread through Zimbabwe that year. Disease not only decimated herds of cattle, but also eroded trust in product quality.
Furthermore, it severely impacted the incomes of smallholder farmers. Importers needed transparency, but the lack of a traceability system has meant Zimbabwean farmers were unable to export beef to lucrative markets in Europe and the Middle East. This vastly reduced export earnings from beef, which are important to the country’s economy.
Though the details might differ from industry to industry, and from one location to another, the challenge is broadly the same in many markets. Greater complexity and a lack of visibility across modern supply chains makes it increasingly challenging for companies to reduce costly inefficiencies. The supply chain ecosystem, notably for B2B payments, suffers as disparate legacy systems don’t link with largely manual inputs, which leads to costly human error, disputes, long reconciliation times and low trust. Clarity is limited. In research by EY, only 6% of global companies were confident they have supply chain visibility.
Blockchain builds back trust
But now, blockchain technology is brightening the outlook and fertilising the realm of possibility. It’s bringing new hope, exciting prospects, and better visibility to both farmers and the wider supply chain. Regular health checks and vaccinations – and secure tamperproof records of medical dipping events – would go a long way in building back credibility and fostering renewed trust among importers, as well as boosting the confidence of Zimbabwe’s smallholder farmers.
And this is exactly what the Mastercard Provenance Solution does: enable farmers to prove the extent of their efforts, the origin of their cattle, and the integrity of their health records, while also offering access to a mechanism that reduces the risk for buyers.
By leveraging the power of blockchain, this innovative solution is delivering real-time traceability that bridges the gap between data silos, allowing for decisions to be made based on a shared, immutable record that drives trust
and accountability between supply chain parties.
Building trust in industries is essential for a functioning and reliable value chain. Seamless supply chain transparency can help convey authenticity, expand inclusion, share sustainability practices and improve back-office efficiencies.
A first for the region
In a first for the Middle East and Africa, the Mastercard Provenance Solution made its debut in Zimbabwe, when E Livestock Global launched a first-of-its-kind application in 2021, powered by Mastercard’s innovative blockchain technology solution.
It has transformed the landscape, bringing end-to-end visibility to the cattle supply chain in a way that also addresses pain points, enhances convenience, and simplifies commercial deals.
With the E-Livestock Global solution, commercial farmers and dipping officers tag each head of cattle with a unique, ultra-high frequency RFID tag – as mandated by the Ministry of Agriculture – and register it and its owner onto the solution. Each time the animal gets dipped, vaccinated or receives medical treatment, the tag is scanned to record the event onto the traceability system.
Leveraging Mastercard’s award-winning Provenance solution, E-Livestock Global records these events to maintain a secure and tamper-proof trail of each animal’s history. This, in turn, supports the entire supply chain with trusted, transparent and verifiable data.
The results are far-reaching, driving end-to-end visibility, reduced costs and scalable efficiencies across supply chains throughout the product journey, and enabling inclusion of all players, whatever their size.
For farmers, it provides an irrefutable record that proves ownership, supports sales, and enables exports. It also gives them the opportunity to access credit facilities and obtain a loan, using their cattle as collateral. This is a major benefit for smallholder farmers especially, who often face difficulties in securing financing to scale or diversify farming operations, in lieu of documentation that can prove ownership and management.
For buyers, it enables smarter buying decisions, efficient management of their operations, seamless B2B transactions, and the ability to guarantee product quality to their customers. In a growing and competitive global marketplace, being able to count on this peace of mind and effective quality control, are great advantages.
For countries, it offers an opportunity to tap into the power of digital transformation to drive forward citizen wellbeing and economic recovery, which has taken on renewed importance since the COVID-19 pandemic. In Zimbabwe’s case, it will not only enable the country to regain access to its lucrative beef export market, but also position it well for diversification and applications in other industries.
Because the Mastercard Provenance Solution is both industry and data agnostic, it can bring transparency and traceability to food systems of many different kinds.
Mastercard has already integrated its blockchain provenance solution with other companies, subsequently enhancing the food supply chains for Australian avocados, Californian shrimp, and commodities like coffee and grains in the Americas. It doesn’t stop there. Just think of the prospects for cosmetics, electronics and freight, among others. Retailers certainly are. As a result of COVID-19, roughly six in 10 retail respondents are planning to increase investments in digitisation of their supply chains for enhanced visibility.
Moving forward on multiple rails
By applying its capabilities to the field of provenance and enabling seamless multi-rail B2B payments, Mastercard continues to show the diversity, scope, scale and potential of how it’s enabling commerce through multiple rails.
Cards are just one way of how this technology company connects people and businesses to the benefits of the digital economy. It is through technology, innovation and partnership, that Mastercard is accelerating financial inclusion, contributing to the development of a thriving world beyond cash, and doing well by doing good.
The next frontier
With every new use case, more possibilities come to the fore. For every country that adopts an exciting digital solution that adds value to multiple stakeholders, another country grows in confidence as it prepares to embrace the possibilities of digitisation and technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For Africa especially, this kind of momentum has the potential to positively transform both agriculture and inclusive economic growth.
Awards have followed too, the latest being Digital Banker Africa’s Best Blockchain Solution award. But the true measure of success for the Mastercard Provenance Solution, is how it empowers real people in real communities to pursue a better, more prosperous life. In this respect, the smallholder farmers who have shared their experiences and progress, are the ultimate stars. This is innovating for good. And innovating for impact.
As for blockchain, the sky’s the limit. A firm believer in the transformative power of blockchain technology, Mastercard continues to explore its applications across the entire business ecosystem, while staying true to its mission to expand financial inclusion and boost global prosperity.