Micro –retailers Shaping the Digital Marketplace


  • Growth in online presence by micro-retailers presents a golden opportunity for players in the digital economy
  • Online presence allows micro-retailers to scale without the need to invest in physical structures
  • The forum emerged from the Smart Duka initiative which begun in 2015


Micro-retailers with an online presence offer a promising channel to distribute digital products and services, say industry pundits.

Presentations at the Fifth Micro-Retail Stakeholder Forum, which was hosted by international nonprofit TechnoServe, found that micro-retailers are increasingly using online platforms to access credit, suppliers and sell goods, which presents a new avenue for players in the digital economy to distribute other products such as insurance and airtime.

“There is a great opportunity to earn income from digital innovations that provide micro-retailers to launch additional businesses to sell financial products and services such as airtime and pay bills earning extra income,” said Alice Waweru, the entrepreneurship portfolio lead at TechnoServe.

Other opportunities presented at this year’s Forum whose theme is “Spotlighting opportunities in the continuously evolving Micro-Retail sector” are in e-commerce, research, and lending.

“Digital financial providers have leveraged on digital innovations to reach out to micro retailers and offer mobile based loans whose credit score ratings are dependent on number and amount of transactions. This has accorded many micro retailers an opportunity to access credit which they otherwise wouldn’t access due to the informal nature of businesses,” she added.

The forum emerged from the Smart Duka initiative, a program that seeks to support micro-retailers and improve shops’ financial returns and growth. Since 2015, TechnoServe has worked with over 50,000 Micro Retailers located in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire to improve their business management skills and provide links to finance and markets.

The Mastercard Foundation, Citi Foundation, elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization and Moody’s Foundation are other partners in the programme.

Additionally, TechnoServe found that technology in addition to formalization played a critical part in increasing the viability of micro-retailers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Micro-retailers that were formalized and used digital products were able to better access finance, technology, and supply chains which increased their sustainability.

A TechnoServe study found that while 41 percent of micro-retailers that used these linkages in addition to capacity building done by the organisation saw a drop in revenues, this is lower than the 93 percent drop a similar study conducted by the World Bank had found.

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