Makoko fishing community is witnessing a rebirth in fishing business courtesy of an App that cuts off middlemen in the supply chain.
In the past, local fishermen in Makoko make good catches from the high sea, sale to middlemen, who buy from them at cheap rates and in turn sell to consumers. That is no longer the case, Makokofresh (makokofresh.com.ng), an App that connects fishermen directly to consumers is changing the entire supply chain. At the centre of this transformation is 17-year-old girl, Sharon Okpoe, who created the App that helps fishermen sale fishes directly to consumers.
In the year 2017, Girls Coding, a six-year-old initiative of Abisoye Ajayi- Akinfolarin’s Pearl Africa Foundation, brought a group of girls together to teach them computer programming and how to code. Sharon was one of the girls that participated in this training and that was where she learnt the skill that gave birth to the App known as makoko fresh. In addition, Sharon comes from a fishing background; she is the eleventh child of her parents; her father is a fisherman and mother a fishmonger. Sharon said the training was meant for her elder sister but she has to take her position because she was already involved another project: “My elder sister, Esther, was meant to go for the programme but she was a community worker with the Slum to School Initiative and she gave me the push knowing full well that I am very brilliant and would perform well at the training programme.”
“With time, I learnt how to use the computer very well and also how to build websites and that prompted me and my team to create a site known as Makoko Fresh to reduce the pain local fishermen like my father go through in selling their daily catch.”
Sharon, whose dream is to become a software engineer hopes to pursue a career at the Silicon Valley in the United States of America. However, she told our correspondent that there has been some challenges with managing the operation of the App especially as it concerns the promoters of the Girls Coding initiative. “We managed the Makoko Fresh app for sometimes and we were cut off as we do not get calls to supply fresh fish to clients,” Sharon said.
“When the website was built, the idea was for those in need of fresh fish to get in touch with Ms. Abisoye Ajaiye-Akinfolarin, who in turn would call me to get the orders ready for supply, but nothing has been coming to us as we speak and the website is still functioning but the local fishermen hardly use it.” .
Makoko community, located on the coastal stretch of Lagos State, Nigeria was reputed for slum life, violence and many vices but it has become a different place; it now has many graduates and teenagers, who have embraced hard work and academic excellence of such initiatives as girls coding.
Our correspondent, who visited Makoko said she saw some local fishermen including Sharon’s father, Chief Augustine Okpoe, using old Nokia phones that have no internet connection.
Chief Okpoe disclosed that when his daughter created the website, it brought joy to Makoko fishing community. “I had to gather all my friends and colleagues in the fishing business to come benefit after a long time of selling at loss with the problem of middle men who have been clogs in the wheel of our fishing business progress,’ Okpoe noted.
“I was very happy when the website was created and through it, we sold some of our fishes. But after a while, we stopped getting orders. We were surprised and we wondered what went wrong and all our efforts to reach the lady that came to train the girls proved abortive. Now we are back to how we use to sell our fishes; we sell some directly and give some to our wives to smoke and sell at the market.”
Okpoe explained that the website is very helpful to local fishermen as “we make a lot of profit from it and we get our money easily.” Another Fisherman, Paul Maseka Sozome said fishermen in the community and around Lagos are hopeful that the app will continue to help their sales because as it has drastically reduced the difficult way the middle men take over their business.
“Though we still battle with foreigners on our waters, we still make good catches and sale easily with the Makoko fresh website, but we hope to get more orders so we get our money directly and sell at very good prices, we are proud our own daughter created the website,” said Sozome
Our correspondent met the community leader of Makoko, Prince Adekunle Olaiya-Akinsemoyin, who stated he was proud that Makoko that was known for bad stories is now breeding educated youths who are impacting the world positively.
“Formerly, Makoko was seen as a community of only fishermen, who train their children in the trade without education, many NGOs have helped us and this is one of the good results, which is the Makoko Fresh Website,” Said Adekunle.
“We are playing our roles but government needs to do more as they should not be interested only in the political class. Presently, there is no youth in Makoko that is idle; those in leadership should come to local and riverine communities and catch them young.”
The community leader advised government to have proper data on fishing activities in Makoko and other coastal communities in Nigeria, and help domesticate the fishing laws in the country as this will go a long way to stop illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in Nigeria
In addition, the community leader of the Egun community in Makoko, Chief Steven Aji, called on the government, especially their representatives at the National Assembly, to help provide good infrastructure for fishermen in the area and the women who engage in fish smoking the local ways.
“In Makoko alone, we have over 200 fishermen going to the sea daily, once the government or any NGO can help us with cold-room and good distribution channels like that of the Makoko Fresh website, all will go well with the way we carry out our fishing business,” Aji said.
Another fisherman, Ayinde Joseph noted that though he was not opportune to use the app but added some of his friends made use of it and it helped simplified business transaction between the local fishermen and customers.
“The website helped a lot because some of my friends, who used it, testified that it was useful to them as they sit in the comfort of their homes and get orders online. There is need for the website to be promoted well and the government should also help the local fishermen who contribute majorly to the GDP of the Nigeria economy,” said Joseph.
Though in Lagos Nigeria, the app is not popular, it is anticipated that it will gain traction if the government and well-meaning Nigerians support it as fish contributes close to 1 million metric tons per year.