To create a transparent and traceable value chain of the cassava crop in Zambia, Anheuser-Busch InBev partnered with BanQu to provide a blockchain solution.
Anheuser-Busch InBev launched a brand of beer in 2015, through the subsidiary Zambian Breweries, that uses cassava instead of barley as the primary crop for making the beverage.
Cassava is an important staple crop in Zambia, as well as in many parts of Africa. Despite its popularity in dishes, the cassava market in Zambia is mainly composed of small farmers, who live marginally above subsistence. AB InBev’s project soon hit an obstacle when the local context revealed not only a lack of record-keeping among the farmers but also a low rate of access to banking.
Blockchain and beer, a game-changer?
To tackle that problem and turn business processes more efficient and trustworthy, they decided to roll out a blockchain solution. In 2018, the global brewer partnered with BanQu, a Minneapolis-based blockchain platform that connects underbanked people in the developing world to global supply chains.
The partnership tackles the fact that Zambian farmers in rural areas may not have access to banks, but the majority have access to the internet through mobile phones.
Via the BanQu platform, Zambian Breweries can track the cassava throughout its supply chain, identifying which farm the crop originated from. But it doesn’t stop there. BanQu’s mission involves the creation of economic opportunities for people around the world, and for those living at the tail end of supply chains that are economically disconnected.
Enabling rural farmers to access the supply chain and banking services
Seen as the “first blockchain economic identity technology solution”, BanQu is enabling smallholder farmers to be part of the value chain, and “monitor sales of their barley, sorghum and cassava crops.” As a result, they can obtain economic empowerment.
Upon delivery of the product, the farmers can receive payments digitally almost immediately. According to AB Inbev, the project benefited over 2,000 smallholder cassava farmers in Zambia. These farmers now have access to a range of information that’s available via text messages, such as sales price, volume sold and payment records.
Also with such records, these farmers can access banking services and potentially form a verifiable economic identity. BanQu co-founder and CEO Ashish Gadnis noted that there are nearly 2.7 billion people with no access to banking services, and that’s a dilemma the company seeks to solve.
“By providing auditable financial records, which are bankable, (it allows) more people to participate in the global economy.”
The next steps
Sameer Jooma, AB InBev’s Africa Director of Innovation and Analytics, commented on how BanQu is leveraging an immutable platform to connect farmers to the global supply chain.
“What BanQu has done, as the world’s first company to offer this solution, is to take this [blockchain] technology and expand it beyond cryptocurrency. After all, what is being moved is information, because even money can be distilled down to data now.”
With the partnership, BanQu was expected to grow into new markets, and after the successful roll-out of the pilot project in Zambia, they expanded to Uganda and India. Maisie Devine, Global Director for the 100+ Accelerator at AB InBev, commented on the project:
“Over the last year, we have implemented the BanQu platform with over 4,000 of our direct farmers in Zambia, Uganda and India. Through this work, we are helping to create a digital ledger of farmers’ transactions that will create an economic identity and enable access to financial services.”
AB InBev first invested in the partnership with BanQu through ZX Ventures, the company’s global growth and innovation group. The next steps include expanding to Brazil.
“Successive roll-outs in Uganda and India have since ensued, making Brazil the fourth market where BanQu will assist AB InBev in reaching the 2025 sustainability goals.”