moWoza, enabling women entrepreneurs through mobile solutions

Seed Africa Symposium Series 2014
Sub-Saharan Africa
23. Sep 2014

Informal traders, mostly women, in Africa often have to travel long distances and cross borders to source the products they sell. Suzana Moreira and her team at moWoza aim to make the lives of these women a lot easier and more profitable by sourcing their products for them with the click of a button. This is the story of MoWoza. 

What is the core value proposition of your business? 

We work with informal small and micro-entrepreneurs, who are predominantly ladies, in Mozambique who have to travel across the border to different countries to buy their merchandise at a cheap rate and then return to Mozambique to sell it. We are developing a platform where these ladies will no longer have to travel long distances to buy their products (mostly non-perishable food items), they can place their orders through us and we will source the products for them. This will free up their time and allow them to have a simpler life. We’re doing this by giving them a mobile platform where they can view and order the products they want.

What inspired you to start MoWoza?

I have travelled extensively across Africa and every time I crossed a border I noticed women struggling to get their goods from one country to another. This didn’t just happen once but I found it in almost every country I went to. This gave me the idea of trying to do something for these women and using a mobile platform made perfect sense since most people now have a mobile phone.

How is your business progressing?

We are currently piloting our service. We are testing the application with our customers and getting them to place orders. Our next step will be to implement a payment mechanism that is easy to use.

Tell us about your beneficiaries and the feedback you have received from them.

The majority of informal cross border traders in Africa are women. In Mozambique, as many as 80% of cross border traders are women and that is why they are our main beneficiaries. They are usually aged between 23 and 44 years old and in most cases they are the main bread winner in the family. Many of them are experienced entrepreneurs who have had to fend for themselves and their families from a very young age. We find that women talk about things that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem for men. The feedback we have received is that women don’t want to travel with money and that having extra time to spend with their children is very important. We have taken all of this on board as we tailor our service.

What challenges have you faced as you look to implement your initiative?

We are aware that many of the women we want to reach are semi-literate and can’t necessary navigate their way around the internet or a smartphone. This is why we are developing an application that can work on feature phones and that is as user friendly as possible. Our main challenge, though, has been around building trust. If people can’t physically see something they find it very difficult to understand. We’re basically asking people to hand over their money without immediately receiving the product and this is not a concept that sits comfortably with low-income consumers. We have found that changing the mindset is a matter of time and patience. We have to make sure our initial customers are happy so that they then talk to their friends about our reliable service.