It’s encouraging to see the number of startups and innovators around the continent that are gaining traction with their projects and businesses that are addressing some of the problems we face on the continent. One such example is the work being done by TradeDepot, which is headquartered in Nigeria, in formalizing and digitizing Africa’s informal retail sector.

Put simply, TradeDepot is a B2B e-commerce platform for consumer goods. However, it's important to note that this is B2B not in the well-known sense but for small informal retailers. By informal retailers, we are referring to typically family-owned retailers that mostly operate offline, don't have clearly defined processes, and generally have poor data collection capabilities relating to their operations.

Of course, TradeDepot are not the only ones tackling this sector, recently we heard of the launch of the Tafari App in South Africa looking to address the same market. However, with TradeDepot, what caught my attention is the intentional effort to digitize the supply chain.

Although this map by the International Telecommunications Union is from 2015, the situation hasn't changed drastically since. Africa remains the most affected by the "digital divide." There's still a lot of work to be done to bring more people online across Africa. We have witnessed and observed this during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the lack of Internet connectivity has affected many people's livelihoods and children's education.

It goes beyond digitizing the informal retail sector's supply chain but just broadly digitizing Africa. As we speak, many policy decisions across the continent are being made with minimal data, in some cases using models (data wizardry) far removed from reality whereas by just investing in data collection, it would be much easier to make decisions and have a clearer picture (and rely less on "forecasting magic").

Imagine if every African country ran a population census regularly. Take it further, imagine if every country reported quarterly accurate numbers on those who are unemployed. This would not only benefit decision-makers but the population at large as well because we would know if the promises made by those who are elected are actually happening or not.

More importantly, digitizing Africa would help us be prepared to take advantage of the digital technologies that are already upon us to improve lives, whether it be in business or for individual use. It's time we took responsibility for digitizing every sector in Africa instead of waiting for others to fly in and do this for us (only to cry later that they took advantage of us).

Formalizing and digitizing Africa's informal retail sector

Most African countries have a retail supply chain sector that is informal and fragmented. Many companies have tried to tackle this market by introducing e-commerce business models that have worked in North America and Europe but they fast learn that the conditions on the ground in Africa are very different. What makes this retail supply chain problem even more complex to solve is that each country is different and requires local understanding and adaptation of processes and business models. Having said that, there are many common things among African countries and cities when it comes to the retail sector, and TradeDepot is taking advantage of this and digitizing the sector. [Podcast]

Newly completed National Data Center at Kenya's Konza Technopolis

Kenya has announced the completion of the first phase of the National Data Center at the Konza Technopolis. Both government agencies and the private sector have welcomed the new facility. The news of a data center is a great step towards building a digitally resilient Kenya. [Article]

How to protect your data online

It's interesting to note that South Africa with its Protection Of Personal Information Act is ahead of the USA when it comes to privacy and data protection laws. Rob Shavell, CEO of Abine, an American company that specializes in various solutions for personal data protection, joins the latest episode of the Tech Legal Matters podcast to discuss the legal and security risks associated with the data that online platforms collect about us. [Podcast]

Top 50 Finalists for the Africa's Business Heroes competition by the Jack Ma Foundation

The 50 finalists for the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative “Africa’s Business Heroes” competition were selected from over 22,000 applications all over Africa, representing 21 African countries, half are female. The top 50 finalists were selected from a pool of over 22,000 applications received from all 54 African nations. [Press Release]

Russian hackers are apparently attempting to steal COVID-19 vaccine information

A Russian cyberespionage group that hacked into the USA's election networks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine information from researchers. The group is apparently the same one that had gotten inside the USA's Democratic National Committee networks prior to the 2016 election. [Article]

Quote of the day

It is important that we prioritize digitizing Africa. As we speak, many policy decisions across the continent are being made with minimal data. (Tweet this)

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