The rising tide

Shaun, Luiz, Augustine and Ferdi celebrating a breakthrough workshop with farmers, ONCC and IDH. (27 January 2022)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

COOKO exists purely because of the people who believe in the idea. A core metric of our success is the number of people who want to see this idea succeed. Over the last eight months, we have sent the ripples out into the world, building an ever-expanding circle of people who see real potential for change, a values-aligned purpose and are willing to support our mission. 

From the farmers in Ntui to the funders in New York, the promise of changing the cocoa industry for good has become a compelling siren call. Some have gone even further and decided to commit their energy and time towards helping us build the inner mechanics and processes for a sustainable business.

Putting the COO in COOKO

The word “COOKO” means “source” in the proto-Bantu language. We place a great value on going to the origin of a process to provide the “source-data” of the value chain. As such, it was quite a surprise when we were introduced to Shaun Nicholls in December to find out that he came from the same town as Ferdi (the co-founder and CEO).

Sharing the same “source” is quite a coincidence when you look at the profile and experience that Shaun brings to the team. If the brief for COO was “experience in traceability systems, digital transformation and African supply chains”, the gods conspired to bring Shaun into the team. 

With over 24 years of experience for such organisations as SGS, Kraft and fintech start-ups across Africa, Shaun is used to the red dust and mud of deep African roads. In particular, the work on forestry systems and traceability have given Shaun deep country knowledge in all the countries where cocoa is at risk of causing deforestation. A ready network of contacts and pragmatic, hands-on insights have shifted the conversation internally substantially.

In helping Mozambique and Madagascar digitise their export and harbour systems, Shaun developed the kind of national-level impact thinking that is evident and required in our current project for the Cameroon government.

His experience in cash and fintech management systems across Africa provides acute insight and strategic direction to our mobile payments process.

Shaun certainly puts the COO in COOKO!

Chi-Flow Officer

In December, we put the call out for someone to help us refine our strategic funding strategy and shape our complex international business and tax structure. Little did we expect that the call would resound with a women who spent her childhood holidays with Boni, Kikuyu and Maasai myths as she played amongst the coffee trees in the red dust of Kenya.

Roseline’s dissertation could have been custom written for COOKO: “A Comparative analysis: an examination of National economic policy concerns that affect operating a Multinational organization in Nigeria versus Ivory Coast.” 

This deep financial analysis on national economic systems is exactly the kind of thinking that will scale the impact of our farmer-centric solutions across West Africa and beyond. Roseline’s astute analytical intuition is matched with her humble enquiry, compassion and human insight.

Besides the deep content knowledge, we are grateful to benefit from Roseline’s experience in structuring the complex tax and accounting compliance issues related to European companies dealing with African subsidiaries. Roseline brings us on-point and navigating at the right level, having lived in and worked as a senior financial professional in Germany for the last 15 years.

As we ramp up towards our next funding round, Roseline will be a key driver in providing clarity and substance to our valuation and contribution models.

The Science Guy

In August last year, we started looking for someone described as a “day-walker” – a vampire that can walk in the sunshine, an ambidextrous technologist who gets people AND planet, hardware AND services, agronomy AND technology. 

We posted a job ad under the title “System Hacker” because we knew that COOKO needed someone who could think beyond technology to how the system engages people to create exponential value.

Never in our wildest dreams did we expect all of this tech wizardry to come packaged in a passionate Brazilian agronomist and disciple of Ernst Götsch. 

A values-led agri-tech hacker who started his IT career at 14 by hacking the school wifi routers to surf websites beyond curfew: that is the kind of system hacker that will transform the value chain we are tackling. Luiz Gustavo Shultz Senko joined the team in December as our resident Chief Science Officer. 

Hacking together GPS trackers and box closing mechanisms within the first days of working with us, Luiz is currently in the field working with our farming community to push our hypotheses to the breaking point. 

After building an AI-enabled IoT system that understands plant language, this should be an easy task for Luiz.

Beefing up Cameroon

As we are accelerating our operations in Cameroon, we have decided to bring in some extra brain and muscle power to the leadership team.

Epanty is a well-known figure in the local tech scene. As a member of the Cameroonian Blockchain Association, he is a regular speaker and advocate for digital innovation. 

His experience as the Chair of the Governance and Accountability council at Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum set Epanty on a path to deeply understand and shape the role technology can play in redefining value chains and economic prosperity for Africa.

We are proud to have him on board as co-Manager as we navigate our rapidly expanding activities and high profile government project.

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