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Exploring the impact of technology on Africa’s informal retail sector: Three key trends to watch in 2023

In recent years, technology has played a significant role in addressing these challenges and empowering local SMEs to unlock their full potential. In this article, Tridiv Vasavada, Chief Technology Officer at Wasoko, Africa’s largest B2B e-commerce network, explores three key trends to look out for across Africa’s $850bn informal retail sector in 2023.

1. Smartphones as a New Normal for Informal Retailers

The adoption of smartphones and mobile apps have been on the rise in Africa’s informal retail sector over the last decade. In 2022, we saw this trend reach a new level of maturity with unprecedented adoption levels, particularly in Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Tanzania. In 2023, we can expect this trend to continue and potentially expand into other cities and rural areas. The affordability of devices remains a challenge, but there is a growing interest from governments, NGOs, and telecom operators in providing subsidised access to smartphones for the informal retail sector.

2. Emergence of Market Leaders

Traditionally, informal retailers in Africa have been operating within limited constraints, often offering a limited range of essential goods in smaller quantities to accommodate the size of their stores. However, with the growing availability of credit from fintech platforms, we can expect to see more retailers expanding their businesses, resulting in the emergence of market leaders similar to more mature markets such as India and Vietnam.

3. Evolution of Logistics Networks

In conclusion, Africa’s informal retail sector has the potential to grow significantly with the help of technology. The adoption of smartphones, the emergence of market leaders, and the evolution of logistics networks are key trends that will shape the future of the sector in 2023.

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