Kenya’s Wasoko Expands into the DRC to transform the informal retail supply chain


Wasoko, formerly Sokowatch, the informal retail supply chain startup has expanded into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a move to drive robust growth for local businesses across Africa.  

Wasoko has expanded its market coverage to serve small businesses in Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province facilitated through access to special cross-border trade zones with the support of the Rwandan government.

According to Daniel Yu, Founder and Global CEO at Wasoko, “As one of Africa’s largest countries, the DRC presents a substantial market opportunity for Wasoko. Despite a rapidly growing population of nearly 100mn people with increasing purchasing power, the country’s significant infrastructural challenges have placed huge limitations on its e-commerce sector, which presents a vastly untapped opportunity.” 

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. With an existing presence across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, it has amassed a huge network of over 220,000 informal retailers and delivered more than 5mn orders to-date.

Wasoko’s expansion 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 its expansion into Rwanda in 2019, Wasoko’s revenues have skyrocketed from $2m its first year of business to $48mn in 2022. To-date, the platform currently serves over 5,000 informal retailers in Rwanda alone. Given its performance in Rwanda, Wasoko is equally optimistic to leverage its existing infrastructure to drive growth for small businesses in neighbouring DRC.

Following Wasoko’s expansion to the DRC, the company plans to replicate this model across other regions across Africa. This is part of its long-term vision to strengthen its Pan-African presence as well as empower local businesses and connect African consumers with a diverse range of products and services.

Its launch in Uganda so the firm unveil electric tuk tuks to its delivery fleet in Uganda, making the vehicles the first to be used commercially in East Africa. This year, it also launched in Zambia in May 2023 marking it the second such expansion.

Philip Lucky, Acting Chief Investment Officer, Rwanda Development Board, says “The Government of Rwanda is pleased with Wasoko’s expansion to the DRC. It joins Rwanda’s success stories of its proof-of-concept strategy, which allows investors to set up and test their solutions in Rwanda before scaling to the region. We remain committed to improving Rwanda’s ICT & Innovation eco-system in order to enable investors and startups to thrive.”

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.

Four years ago, Wasoko, then known as Sokowatch raised $14 million in Series A funding for expansion. The $14 million Series A, led by Quona Capital, with the participation of Amplo, Breyer Capital, Vertex Ventures, Timon Capital and existing investor 4DX Ventures, will help it to enter into new products such as working-capital, data-analytics and launch into new markets. Six years ago, it got Chandaria Industries Investment too.

Wasoko last year launched the “Wasoko Innovation Hub” in partnership with the Zanzibar government. Located in Fumba Town, Zanzibar. The Wasoko Innovation Hub is the first private-public partnership between an African tech startup and the Zanzibar government for “Silicon Zanzibar” – a new government initiative to attract and relocate tech companies from across Africa to the island.