A report by PriceWaterCoopers has said that women account for 41 per cent ownership of micro-businesses in Nigeria, with 23 million female entrepreneurs operating in the segment.
The United Nations Informal Sector Development and the Bank of Industry statistics stated that women constitute a higher number of Nigeria’s informal workforce found in agriculture, food and beverages, retail, textiles and cross-border trade.
World Bank’s Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, Mari Pangestu, not long ago disclosed that trade has been an engine of poverty reduction over the past 30 years and that trade can expand women’s role in the economy, as well as reduce gender gap if women are given more opportunities.
Globally, technological advancement is lifting many more women out of poverty, helping them climb up the career ladder and assume leadership roles across different spheres through acquisition of flexible career skills as well as achieving a work-life balance.
In Nigeria, for instance, B2B e-commerce platforms are emerging as a strong force for bolstering the growth of the Nigerian informal retail segment.
In response to the rising global advocacy for equal opportunity for women in the tech space, Alerzo, a business-to-business e-commerce platform has been promoting technology as a potent tool for gender parity by building technology products that alleviate the burden of informal retailers, majority of whom are women.
By expanding access to an array of tech solutions, the B2B e-commerce platform and others are enabling women operating in the largely female-dominated Nigeria’s $100 billion informal retail segment side-step limiting barriers that previously inhibited their capacity, growth and sustainability.
The significance of women was further amplified at the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) Public Forum 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, with submission that adoption of digital technology for trade was a factor for achieving economic integration and sustainable development on the continent.
The forum in particular harped on the peculiar challenges that African women encounter in relation to harnessing the potential of digital innovations, and advocated increased commitment to advancing the cause of women in the tech space.
For instance, President of Borderless Trade Network (BTN), Dr. Olori Boye-Ajayi, while stating that her organisation collaborates with various agencies to support women and make trading and businesses easier for them by leveraging technology, emphasised the need to create fair opportunities for women in trade, especially in accessing digital tools.
Some of the challenges retail and micro businesses in Nigeria face generally include access to the market to source their wares as they have to travel and transport purchased goods from distant market or wholesale depots.
Many of them move around with huge cash making them susceptible to robbery attacks and other associated dangers of road travel.
Also, lack of access to funds to expand their business, absence of book-keeping and financial advice, inadequate transport and other infrastructure to support business sustainability are part of the challenges they go through.
In addition to high operating costs, small retail businesses also struggle to cope with difficult social and economic terrain.
The many ways Alerzo enables Nigerian retailer include: the Alerzoshop app which allows retailers to conveniently order for goods and make payment via Alerzopay. For retailers who are not tech-savvy, there is an option to order via a USSD code or WhatsApp.
The delivery of the goods is done at no cost to the retailers.
By investing in over 400 vehicles and 20 warehouses over the last three years, Alerzo has provided warehousing and fulfilment solutions to suppliers, and delivered ordered goods at zero cost to thousands of retailers in difficult-to-reach locations across Nigeria.
‘‘For the past two years, we have delivered to informal retailers at no cost. With our delivery services, retailers save time, energy, and resources that they would have otherwise expended in restocking. These benefits have resulted in our retailers reducing their two to four times a week restock trips to zero,” Alerzo Group Chief Executive Officer, Adewale Opaleye, enthused.
“On our Alerzoshop retail app, we have a vast assortment available to our customers to choose from, and we offer free delivery in all the 13 states we’re currently operational. We have changed the landscape for them (retailers) through on-time delivery.’’
In an ecosystem susceptible to adulterated and substandard consumer goods, Alerzo tech solutions also assist both informal retailers and consumers in accessing authentic goods at the right price.