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31 Oct 2014 00:00
Cross-border traders place orders via text message
Cross-border trading in Southern Africa can be tricky, with red tape hindering the free-flow of trade and transport routes not easily
Seeking to overcome these challenges, South African Suzana
Moreira launched moWoza to assist cross-border traders access goods that are
often transported into rural areas.
Her project, set up in 2012, is a combination of two words:
“mo”, the short form of mobile, and woza,
the Zulu word for “come”. The name communicates that the project uses mobile
communication in its efforts to enhance trade.
“I decided I could do something to help the many thousands
of micro-entrepreneurs from Southern Africa with moWoza,” Moreira said.
“We source basic, essential and everyday products for
micro-entrepreneurs, allowing them to place orders via text message and pre-pay
using their mobile wallets.”
Traders are able to order goods via mobile phone from moWoza,
pay for the goods electronically, and the company’s trusted taxi distribution
network delivers the consignments.
Traders are also able to negotiate bulk
The business focuses currently on traders in Mozambique and
Malawi. Its partners are a Mozambican mobile phone network as well as informal
cross-border trade associations.
Moreira said her model could be replicated throughout the
developing world where informal traders struggle to negotiate troublesome trade
routes on their own.
Her company ensures logistics are in place to grow businesses,
while ensuring rural consumers have access to goods.
“Seven out of 10 Africans still live outside urban areas.
Many live in areas so isolated that it is only through informal networks that
goods are distributed,” said Moreira.
“But the goods that are available at local informal markets
are much more expensive than in the larger cities. Access to reasonably priced
goods remains a huge problem across the region.
“More work needs to be carried out, from informing
micro-entrepreneurs of custom procedures, providing financial access, to
increasing the exposure to digital business alternatives.”
Moreira wants moWoza to improve conditions for cross-border
Through the network, she has created opportunities for
Mozambican and Malawian informal cross-border traders to voice their opinions.
These results will enable the World Bank to work at a regional government level
to improve cross-border trade for micro-entrepreneurs.
“We have also facilitated workshops with governments, where
informal micro-entrepreneurs discussed the positives and negatives of trade
Moreira said research from the World Bank shows that 43% of
trade in sub-Saharan Africa occurs via informal, inefficient, corrupt supply
chains. Traders also have to travel for days to source affordable food and
other essential products.
“In the short-term, small businesses and the community
benefit from informal trade, but over the long term relying on inefficient supply
chains is preventing socio-economic progress,” she said.
The three informal trade organisations she works with in
Mozambique and Malawi have at least 250 000 trade members.
“I am about to launch a campaign to inform traders about the
correct importation tariffs and duties, using text messages to inform them,
since that is how we connect with them,” she said.
The initiative intends to raise awareness of trade-related
issues and procedures that informal cross-border traders and custom officials
need to follow.
“In Africa, the informal sector is huge and more people
should be redesigning systems to deliver convenience to this demographic,” she
“We offer a cost-efficient alternative to long and costly
journeys, stopping back-door payments to corrupt custom officials and
expediting delivery of goods while providing affordable, quality
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