A social enterprise supporting small-scale fishing communities with data, traceability and market platforms in Africa
Project Lead: ABALOBI
Financial Support: Received mentoring, training and financial support from the second cycle of the Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge (ORIC), which was financially supported by the UK Government’s Blue Planet Fund and Swiss Re Foundation
Location: South Africa based, operating in 12 countries across the globe
ABALOBI employs 40 people, half of whom reside in fisher communities. It is based in South Africa, where it has the lion’s share of its operations, with smaller projects in the Seychelles and operations in 10 other countries. Through a combination of technology, skills development and co-design, fishers who use the ABALOBI Marketplace can divert a portion of their income into a savings account as set percentages of their catch revenue, building a fund for key boat or household expenses, and other essential needs during their off season.
Small scale fishers in Africa, as in the global South in general, find it hard to access finance or build financial management skills. They are in a very real sense financially excluded. Their cash position fluctuates with the seasons and how much they catch as well as with customer payment terms. They are unable to access savings, loans, credit and insurance products. This leads to coastal communities living precariously, often hand-to-mouth, often also in debt to loan sharks, and with reduced resilience to external shocks.
To solve this challenge ABALOBI runs a platform for small scale fishers through a technical application that can be used on smart phones. It gives them access to financial services, including savings accounts, and exposure and experience in financial management.
The App also has a full suite of tools that combine e-commerce with logistics, deliveries and digital payment gateway integrations as well as marketing, data services, training and community development. This creates an enabling environment for a transition to fully reported fisheries, fisheries rebuilding and conservation.
Scalability and Next Steps
ABALOBI currently deploys its platform in South Africa and the Seychelles. It works through partners and a replication model in its other jurisdictions across the world. Its 2026 vision, “Marking the next stage in its growth”, envisions itself becoming a global catalyst of fisher-driven technology, small-scale fisheries markets and financial services provider. Each deployment reaches profitability within a few years, and, after that, it contributes to the scaling of the global programme.
ORRAA is supporting ABALOBI to further improve its bundled financial services offering, improve sign-up and support as more and more fishers are onboarded. This will scale the savings mechanism currently in pilot to all participating fishers. ORRAA team members are also advising ABALOBI on its strategy to scale in Southern Africa and globally.
ORIC 2023 was launched on the 16 January 2023. Supported by the Swiss Re Foundation, United States Department of State and United Kingdom’s Blue Planet Fund, this third wave of the Innovation Challenge will build ORRAA’s cohort of locally led grassroots finance innovations further and grow the community of sustainable blue entrepreneurs even further.