Technology company Sokowatch has launched an initiative to aid essential food and goods supplies to Kenyans most affected by the pandemic. The e-voucher deal boosts both households and local shops in urban slums by sustaining their economic activities.
Working with entities such as the Uweza Foundation in Kibera and World Hope in Kawangware, the company uses its network of shop owners and technology systems to distribute e-vouchers to needy families in informal settlements.
Under the deal, families receive SMS e-vouchers to redeem at a nearby shop supplied by Sokowatch. Once the goods are collected, the transaction is confirmed via the Sokowatch app and the shopkeeper is instantly credited for goods issued.
Sokowatch Chief Executive for Kenya Angela Nzioki said the deal enables informal shops to technically “sell” to the end-user, without money moving. “We have been doing an average of Sh1,500 per week to most of the families. We have sent about 1,000 e-vouchers so far. The majority of the beneficiaries are in Kibera and Kawangware. In the past week, we have headed more towards the Nairobi East region including Dandora,” she observed.
The scheme eliminates logistical challenges that face relief efforts while providing shops with a way to increase sales and maintain revenue through and after the crisis.
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Shops taking part in the scheme have seen average weekly sales volume increase 54 per cent, with the e-voucher programme receiving acceptance, at 94 per cent.
Through Sokowatch’s operations across the nine largest cities in East Africa, an estimated 1.5 million vulnerable families and 14,000 local shops could be provided with direct assistance digitally.
The firm is eyeing long-term business after the pandemic. “We want to do it full time, because even post-Covid, there will always be vulnerable communities, and non-governmental organisations and funders feeding families," she said.
"This is a more innovative and more sustainable way to ensure families that need the support get fed while maintaining the economic activities of the shops."
Launched in 2016, Sokowatch enables informal retailers to order products at any time via SMS or mobile app, and receive free same-day delivery to their store.
This makes it easier for shopkeepers to source goods. It also helps manufacturers ensure products are consistently available to consumers. In Africa’s cities alone, there are more than 10 million informal shops selling over Sh18 trillion worth of goods annually.