Discussion with Nafy Diagne, founder of Awalebiz
Founded in 2014 by Nafy Diagne, Awalebiz is a “Multi-Vendor E-Commerce Marketplace dedicated to Africa's creativity”, marketing a variety of uniquely African products from vendors across 14 countries.
The original motivation behind Awalabiz was to offer small African producers an online channel to sell their products within Africa, taking all the headaches away from them in payments, logistics and marketing. In exchange for a commission on sales, Awalebiz handles payments on the platform, channelling received funds through bank transfer to correspondents in partner countries. These partners are also responsible for negotiating and managing transport arrangements in each of the markets. In this way, small vendors who may be excluded from other e-commerce platforms can entrust the e-commerce operations to Awalebiz. And because it is a “multi vendor” store – it means that each of the producers has their own “shop” within the platform – giving them autonomy on product selection and positioning.
Nafy was able to bring nearly twenty years experience as an IT engineer to her project – having worked for large multinational ICT firms including Capgemini, Ericsson and Atos across Europe and Africa. This undoubtedly enable the founder to understand “world class” IT implementations and seek to offer this standard to even the smallest African firms.
EcomConnect: “Why is e-Commerce important to Africa? What is the opportunity for African businesses?”
Nafy Diagne: “E-Commerce is important for Africa as it allows the digitalization of traditional trade and thus the inclusion of Africa in globalization world.
For African entrepreneurs, E-Commerce is an opportunity to develop their businesses by accessing customers who are not only in their neighborhood but also who are worldwide.
Agriculture transformed products and the craft industry have a role to play in the development of the continent. However Africa's production is struggling to compete with a global market flooded with low-cost products and gain a foothold on the Internet and ICT products and services. E-Commerce presents a great opportunity for a local vendor to internationalize and integrate into the global economy. Successful E-Commerce can accelerate the development of trade in Africa, offer opportunities to youth and spur growth in higher value added activities and in turn create better jobs”
EcomConnect: “Are you satisfied with where you are today with Awalebiz?”
Nafy Diagne: “I am very pleased with Awalebiz today. We started the platform 5 years ago and have validated a concept of a continental cross border platform that gathers vendors from different African countries to allow them to sell their product at local, regional and international level.
We received 1st prize of women digital entrepreneurship awarded by Telecom operator Orange in Senegal.
The Senegalese Government, through DER fund (Délégation à l'Entreprenariat Rapide), has also invested in our business and the funding was used to develop further the platform Awalebiz and also to release the mobile application which is available in Apple Store and Google Play.
I started the business to solve problems I observed all over the continent with entrepreneurs, vendors, creators and craftsmen who struggle to sell their quality products. Today our platform has hundreds of vendors in 14 African countries and we have processed orders from all over the world.
Although we are satisfied of where we are today, there is still a lot to do to enroll more vendors and to better market the platform. The market potential is huge. We are looking to raise funds to grow the business.”
EcomConnect: What do you see as the barriers for growing e-commerce in Africa?
Nafy Diagne: “Shipping costs are extraordinarily expensive and the service often very poor in Africa. It’s no surprise that many African e-commerce sites find it easier to trade with Europe and the US than with other African countries. This situation needs to change: work needs to be prioritised to ease the traffic of small parcels across borders. Competition among transporters needs to be encouraged, and their operation in African regions facilitated.
In the African business community we are excited by the potential of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement – and we hope this will quickly bring solutions to the very practical issues that small businesses face at African borders.”
Check out the platform here: https://www.awalebiz.com/en/