Founded by Mrs Uju Uzo-Ojinnaka, an ex banker and a contractor in the construction sector, Traders of Africa, (TOFA), a pan-African online platform connecting commodity producers to buyers has raised undisclosed angel funding to start operations in Nigeria, Kenya and several other key markets in a move to boost intra-African trade and with the world.
According to Mrs Uju, the founder, TOFA’s market is Africa and just as Alibaba has been for the world, promoting global e-commerce especially for SMEs in China, TOFA aims to promote intra-Africa eCommerce and boost the continent’s trade with the world as mobile broadband grows on the continent.
“We are Pan African from day one, we seek to foster and enable intra African purchases and exports from Africa. According to the UN, The continental African economy has a GDP of $2.8 trillion but Africans have a habit of buying exotic stuff,” she said adding that TOFA aims to encourage them to buy African made goods.
Mrs Uju aims to remind users that African made goods are exotic and buyers shouldn’t believe otherwise. A good number of the “exotic” goods in question originate or have there inputs coming from Africa. The continent only need to increase its capabilities and showcase what is obtainable in each region or locality and users shouldn’t travel all the way overseas to buy what people overseas come to buy in Africa.
The African Economic Outlook 2017, a flagship report of the African Development Bank released in Ahmedabad, India, show that trade between African countries has the greatest potential for building sustainable economic development and integration. The report adds that trade among African countries expanded from 10% in 2000 to about 16% in 2014, reflecting the continent’s recent economic upturns. The report also added that Africa’s GDP and its internal trade expanded fourfold over the past two decades suggesting that that intra-African trade is more resilient than exchanges with other regions of the world.
Intra-African trade allows resource-rich countries to obtain supplies from countries with more advanced agricultural productivity while countries with more advanced manufacturing sectors hold a potential for growth if they can access the larger African market.
With over 6,000 merchants signed up, TOFA stands chance to improve connections between and within African countries as transportation and communication infrastructure is less developed between African countries compared to the world.
TOFA is not the first ecommerce platform to launch in Africa but it’s clearly the first intra-Africa platform promoting made in Africa goods-especially farm produces. The firm is yet to update TechMoran on how it aims to solve logistical, forex and border transfer or custom challenges but with a dedicated team in its key markets anything can be solved.
Uju says TOFA was inspired by the present export and trade figures especially in non-oil commodities, the ease of doing business in its key markets in Africa, the ease of entry and the general acceptability of TOFA’s business model due to the growing number of internet savvy citizens across the continent.