ImpactAlpha, November 20 – Follow the women… to catalyze an economic recovery and unlock trillions in new consumer spending power.
Tech-enabled startups are expanding options for overlooked and hard-to-reach consumers and helping informal entrepreneurs find new sources of income and pathways into the formal economy. In South Africa, Wukina is an Avon-style distributor of hair products for rural women, by rural women, who act as digital sales agents.
“I love hair. As a Black female, I, my friends, my family, we all spend a lot of money on our hair,” Wukina’s Maureen Sibanda tells ImpactAlpha. “For too long, the profit for female products has gone to people outside the country, and honestly, it’s mostly men.”
Since early this year, Sibanda has been working with small business investor Secha Capital to build a network of more than 800 agents, or members, “a community of women who really need extra income and a trusted brand,” Sibanda says.
Wukina is part of a new tech startup wave that is digitizing the informal economy and micro and small businesses (see, “Post-pivots, African tech startups are peddling pandemic resilience“). Nigeria’s Paystack, recently acquired by Stripe, has helped more than 60,000 micro- and small-businesses accept digital payments and leverage Africa’s rapid adoption of mobile money. Trade Depot, also in Nigeria, gives informal shops access to global distributors; Sokowatch offers similar services to Kenyan kiosk owners.
Wukina is one of the newest and earliest-stage investments in Secha’s portfolio of South African small businesses, 80% of which are women-led.
“Just focusing on market inefficiencies has inadvertently resulted in investing in women-owned businesses,” says Secha’s Kuhle Mnisi.
Wukina, she adds “brings to South Africa income in a different form—a form that allows women to be able to make money in a way that suits them best, and to use the resources around them.”