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Retail startup Wasoko expands into Southern African market

The company is investing US$1millon in its first year of operation Zambia – which will be used a hub for regional expansion

Lusaka, Zambia | THE INDEPENDENT | Kenya’s B2B retail and e-commerce company, Wasoko, has expanded into the Southern African market, with Zambia as the first investment destination.

The company plans to invest more than US$1 million in its first year of operation in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, to support local businesses and communities to access essential goods with ease. The company plans to use Lusaka as a hub to boost its regional expansions.

“As we drive ahead with the next phase of our growth journey, it’s vital that the operating environments of our future markets are conducive to our ambitions and Zambia provides exactly this,” said Daniel Yu, Founder and Global CEO at Wasoko.

“With high smartphone usage and a pro-business government administration keen on expanding the country’s digital economy, Zambia is an ideal environment to launch our model and strongly aligns with our current core markets, both in terms of similar regulatory practices and a supplier base which is intertwined with East Africa.”

He added: “With this in mind, we’re confident that our new launch will not only play a huge role in accelerating our existing progress across the continent, but also significantly strengthen the purchasing power of everyday citizens in Zambia and enhance their livelihoods in the process.”

In addition to its latest expansion, Wasoko, formally known as Sokowatch, will also be doubling its service radius across all of its existing locations in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, where it has amassed a huge network of over 200,000 informal retailers and delivered more than 5mn orders to-date.

This new development marks the latest milestone for the company, which raised a $125mn Series B round – the largest venture financing round ever raised for a non-fintech startup in Africa – in March 2022 and was assessed by the Financial Times as Africa’s Fastest Growing Company last year.

Since launching in 2016, Wasoko has pioneered the development of innovative technology to address the supply chain inefficiencies faced by millions of local shop owners in Africa’s informal retail sector.

Currently, the industry across Africa is worth over $600bn while in Zambia specifically over 70% of households purchase their food from informal retailers.

But despite its importance, the sector still remains highly fragmented and inefficient with local shops facing a number of major challenges including frequent stockouts, limited access to capital, and difficulty receiving goods from suppliers.

Through Wasoko’s mobile app, shop owners can purchase goods from manufacturers and distributors at competitive prices based on supply and demand as well as receive real-time tracking data on sales, business insights and market trends.

The platform has also built an end-to-end logistics process across areas including procurement, distribution, financing and technology, enabling Wasoko to deliver best-in-class fulfilment and merchant engagement rates.

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