moWoza does the running for traders

Photo courtesy moWoza

Photo courtesy moWoza

I

nformal trading in the region is not easy — travelling over long distances and across borders to source goods is time-consuming, costly and often dangerous. Yet hundreds of thousands of people in Africa rely on the risks of an informal supply chain to eke out a living and feed their families.

MoWoza, a user-friendly mobile commerce service, has changed that. Enabling small traders to order and pay for their inventories using a simple app via mobile phone, moWoza has changed the lives of hard-working entrepreneurial street traders, many of whom are women.

Once ordered, the goods are delivered via a network of taxi drivers, making the long trips across the border into South Africa to source goods unnecessary.

The brainchild of Suzana Moreira, moWoza is based in Maputo, and operates in Mozambique and Malawi. The name moWoza derives from mo, the hip name for mobile, and the Zulu word woza, which means “come fast”. The thinking behind the concept is that the service does the running for its customers.

Moreira estimates the concept has impacted 1 500 entrepreneurs directly, with 72% of those being women. “Across Africa women are the drivers of enterprise, probably because they need to support their families,” says Moreira.

In 2016 moWoza launched Mabiz, which delivers capacity-building workshops in marketplaces, teaching essential business and related literacy skills to informal traders, and teaches them how to use the app. The sessions also promote social security registrations.

Mabiz works with the Maputo Municipality and the Institute for the Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises, a government entity that promotes and funds small, medium and micro enterprises.

More than 1 350 training sessions have been held in marketplaces since July 2016. Mabiz has also trained 19 business graduates to mentor traders on how to maintain accounting records.

Moreira says Mozambique has a very dynamic informal retail sector consisting predominantly of micro and small enterprises. For most of the informal retailers who participating in the Mabiz capacity building sessions, it is their first introduction to business concepts.

“Our main goal is to make the capacity-building sessions very interactive and engaging, so the retailers share the day’s lessons with their husbands, children and friends. We want to motivate these retailers to look at their business activities from a different perspective, to make them believe that they too have the potential to become formal, medium-sized enterprises,” says Moreira.

“From our perspective as the designers and implementers of the project, a surprising observation has been the amount of intergenerational learning we are seeing, with most participants sharing the lessons with their children, who in turn are assisting their mothers with the digital component of our lessons.”

Mowoza also has partnerships with Mozambique’s largest informal labour association AEIMO

(Associação da Economia Informal de Moçambique); the largest commercial bank in Mozambique, BIC; and the University of Eduardo Mondlane entrepreneurship department.

Mowoza and Mabiz received donor financing for the pilot phases, but Moreira plans for Mabiz to run as a self-funded project within three years. 

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