Sokowatch, an SMS-powered e-commerce platform enabling informal retailers to order or receive free same-day delivery to their store, has launched an e-voucher scheme to distribute essential food and goods to vulnerable families impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic free of charge.
Sokowatch, working with partners Uweza Foundation and World Hope in Nairobi, is using its network of over 15,000 shop owners and unique technology systems to distribute e-vouchers to families in informal settlements.
According to Daniel Yu, Global CEO of Sokowatch, “Our tech-enabled platform makes it possible for local shops to continue to serve communities without the costly inefficiencies that often come with relief efforts, giving shops a way to increase sales and maintain revenue through and after the crisis”.
Families receive SMS e-vouchers to redeem at a nearby shop supplied by Sokowatch and once the goods are collected, the transaction is confirmed via the Sokowatch app and the shopkeeper is instantly credited for goods issued.
Sokowatch said it has already deployed over 1,000 e-vouchers to vulnerable families, in Kawangware and Kibera informal settlements of Nairobi with over 90 percent of vouchers redeemed within 48 hours.
The firm says 100 percent of redemptions have so far been spent on essential goods such as maize flour, rice, wheat flour, cooking oil, beans, sugar, toilet paper, and sanitary pads
Through Sokowatch’s operations across the 9 largest cities in East Africa, an estimated 1.5M vulnerable families and 15,000 local shops could be provided with direct assistance digitally, eliminating the many logistical challenges that usually face relief efforts, while providing shops with a way to increase sales and maintain revenue through and after the crisis.
The ongoing pandemic presents a significant challenge for the informal economy, which accounts for 80 percent of employment and 90 percent of consumer purchases in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lockdown measures and the wider impact of the pandemic on the economy also means that many low income families, as well as the local shops they rely on, are at risk of not being able to access the food and goods they need.
In February, Sokowatch raised $14 million in Series A funding for expansion. The $14 million Series A was led by Quona Capital, with the participation of Amplo, Breyer Capital, Vertex Ventures, Timon Capital and existing investor 4DX Ventures for working-capital, data-analytics and to launch into new markets.
In March 2019, Morocco-based Outlierz Ventures made five investments in fast-growing tech-enabled companies across five different markets. The startups included Morocco’s WaystoCap, Kenya’s Sokowatch, UK’s Asoko Insight, France’s TousFacteurs, and Egypt’s MaxAB.,
The startups received investment tickets range between $50k and $500k in Seed stage and Pre-Series A companies. Earlier the firm had raised $2 million seed investment led by 4DX Ventures with participation from Village Global, Lynett Capital, Golden Palm Investments, and Outlierz Ventures and from Chandaria Industries.