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Removing Obstacles to Trade for Small Business Owners | by Adedayo Oluwafemi

Sadly, a kaleidoscopic glance at African markets shows that many businesses are groaning under the burden of challenges that include inefficient or inadequate systems…



Removing Obstacles to Trade for Small Business Owners

Recently, the World Bank’s International Development Association convened the Africa Summit in Dakar, Senegal with over 7 African heads of government in attendance to discuss the roadmap for success in achieving developmental goals on the continent, building a better future for all people and accelerating economic transformation across Africa.

This is clearly a step in the right direction given the imperative of a robust and resilient recovery for Africa. For this to happen, a critical success factor would be ability the ability of African nations to facilitate local and international trade.

Several studies, going far back into the 16th century, have shown that trade enhances economic growth and welfare, as well as its centricity to ending global poverty.

Classical economic theorist, Adam Smith had even posited that trade as a vent for surplus production and a means of widening the market. And when you look at markets across Nigeria and Africa by extension, SMEs provide an estimated 80 percent of jobs, thus cementing their role as an important driver of economic growth.

Facilitating trade and removing encumbrances across value chains for small and big players coupled with the potentials of integration with the global economy has been touted as a poverty reduction and economic development strategy for nations.

The importance of making trade easy cannot be overemphasized because it basically reduces the cost and unpredictability of transactions and increase opportunities for SMEs and other players in the digital economy.

Furthermore, it stands to reason that when businesses are able to trade easier, faster and in more cost-effective ways as well as being able to move goods from one point to the other without stress, the benefits that accrue are numerous – sparking competitiveness, productivity, innovation and growth.

Sadly, a kaleidoscopic glance at African markets shows that many businesses are groaning under the burden of challenges that include inefficient or inadequate systems of distribution for products and services – order fulfillment, using the industry term; poor access to financing options; and a complicated business and regulatory environment that discourages new investments.

We’d look at the supply chain hurdle, given that it is a huge cog in the trade facilitation wheel, and how it can be scaled to help small businesses thrive and grow to the next level.

The steady growth and importance of the digital economy notwithstanding, infrastructural and logistics challenges still constitute an important impediment to SMEs’ participation in trade.


Because SMEs trade smaller ticket sizes, their fixed trade costs, including logistics and distribution costs, often take up a large share of the unit cost of their goods, at times eating into their margins.

So, what’s the way out of this obstacle? Find a third-party fulfillment partner to take that stress off your business, so that you can focus on improving efficiency, marketing and big picture thinking.

Mrs. Aji, a young mother of 2 who runs a small business of making ginger granules had struggled with keeping a full-time job, tending to her family and being inundated with more orders than she could handle.

“Before I engaged Sendy, it was a herculean task fulfilling my clients’ orders and making them happy. In fact, our productions levels were down by 20% and customer experience was poor owing to the fragmented way goods were moved. However, as a business that builds and manages fulfillment infrastructure for sellers like me, Sendy has been a game changer, helping me to streamline operational issues and empowering me to focus on making more sales while they pick, pack, deliver & manage all our returns. As such, I have seen a huge improvement in the trajectory of my business,” she said.

Sendy’s dispatch riders
Sendy’s dispatch riders

Clearly, it is in the best interest of business owners and government to create an auspicious and favourable business climate imbued with efficient infrastructure that can transform economies by improving connectivity and boosting competitiveness.

The cost of not making it easier to trade – limited market access, poor growth and sales numbers for businesses while consumers grapple with high prices, limited choice, and slow delivery time is too steep.

It’s time to bolster economic growth and reduce poverty by removing the obstacles to easy trade.

*Adedayo Oluwafemi is a Lagos-based SME consultant and growth hacker.

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