Crop insurance firm cuts risk for South African farmers

Wheat fieldA start-up using satellite imagery to substantially cut crop insurance costs for South African smallholder farmers is to receive a major boost from global social impact programme Expo Live, run by organisers of the next World Expo, Expo 2020 Dubai.

More than 90 per cent of smallholder farmers in South Africa do not carry adequate crop insurance because of prohibitive costs, leaving them badly exposed to risks of natural disaster.

Mobbisurance CEO Kudzai Kutukwa said costs were higher than necessary because traditional insurers typically bundled unnecessary coverage into packages and also required physical validation of claims.

He said: “One of the biggest risks facing farmers is adverse weather that can result in total crop loss. When a farmer loses their crop, they lose not only their potential income, but also their dignity as they slide further into poverty.

“While we cannot control the weather, we can control the effect it has on smallholder farmers who are responsible for producing 80 per cent of the food we consume.”

Mobbisurance focuses solely on the twin main threats to most farmers: flood and drought. It uses satellite imagery and weather data supplied by the South African National Space Agency to validate insurance claims instead of physically visiting sites.

The company recently launched a pilot scheme with 736 farmers.

Kutukwa continued: “Through the Expo Live grant we intend to expand the pilot to at least 5,000 farmers in South Africa, and to expand into neighbouring countries.

“The grant will also enable us to pilot a smart crop insurance platform and further reduce costs.”

Expo Live is Expo 2020 Dubai’s innovation and partnership programme and has an allocation of USD 100 million to back projects that offer creative solutions to pressing challenges that impact people’s lives or help preserve the world – or both. Organisers are looking for projects that would not reach their full potential without its support.

Launched in January 2017, Expo Live has several programmes. The flagship global Innovation Impact Grant Programme provides up to USD 100,000 per successful initiative, to be made available incrementally as the project meets ongoing conditions. Projects are also supported with business guidance and promotion, and may have the chance to showcase their work to many millions of visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Yousuf Caires, Vice President – Expo Live at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “This is a wonderful story of a readily available technology being used to address a pressing need. We hope Expo Live’s support of Mobbisurance will provide smallholder farmers with crop insurance that can act as a financial safety net.”

He continued: “Expo Live is based on a firm belief that innovation can come from anywhere to everyone. This is a major component of our redefinition of what a World Expo can and should do: tap into its convening power well before the event to enable problem-solvers around the globe to promote innovation and build partnerships that leave a lasting legacy not only in the UAE and the region but across the world.”

Mobbisurance is the second South African company to benefit from Expo Live’s Innovation Impact Grant Programme. Munch Bowls, a Cape Town-based firm that has developed an edible bowl capable of holding food, from hot soups to salads, and thus reducing waste, received a grant during the programme’s first cycle.

Expo 2020 Dubai will take place from 20 October, 2020 to 10 April, 2021 and will be the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. It will be a festival of human ingenuity that gives a glimpse into the future, guided by its three pillars: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

To date, Expo Live’s Innovation Impact Grant Programme has attracted more than 2,300 applicants from 136 countries. Following a rigorous evaluation process, which included live presentations in Dubai, 70 grantees from 44 countries have joined Expo Live’s community of Global Innovators, including these new members from the third cycle.

To stay tuned for the fourth cycle of the programme and to learn more about Expo Live and its Global Innovators, visit

To find out more about Mobbisurance, visit

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