Marketforce is Building the Operating System for African Retail

Marketforce is Building the Operating System for African Retail
July 22, 2021 Oreoluwa Aremo
MarketForce-Cofounders

The retail market in Africa is highly fragmented. Within the 15 million independent retail stores, about 90% of transactions take place informally.

Looking at a typical retail product journey reveals one of the industry’s biggest challenges: the ecosystem is a black box. Firms positioned at one point in the value chain have little visibility over what happens in other parts.

The Problem: No data or visibility

Manufacturers do not see or understand the activities of the retailers that sell their products, and they cannot optimise their production, distribution, or sales strategies. Small retailers are even more in the dark: they only have proximate information about supplies, pricing, or demand. And because they are often small and informal, they lack purchasing power and access to credit, working capital constraints that inhibit their growth. Stuck at the end of the retail value chain, they end up paying high prices and enjoying small margins.

Informal and fragmented, the African retail market struggles to grow.

Yet, it is a significant part of African economies. Already valued at $500 billion (a likely underestimation, due to the market’s informality), more than Africa’s economy (Nigeria: GDP of $450 billion), and the continent’s leading employer outside agriculture, retail can fuel African development by increasing productivity, output, and employment.

Typically, a product will move from the manufacturer (e.g. a large FMCG company like Nestle) to distributors and wholesalers. Depending on the complexity of the distribution value chain, the product could pass through a series of intermediaries and sales agents before reaching retailers. By the time the product reaches the retailer, the manufacturer has lost visibility.

So, Nestle has no information on how the product is performing in different segments, the effect of promotions, or which products complement each other. As a result, the manufacturer has little market information to inform growth strategies; this means they face lost potential revenue and declines in market share as competitors swoop in to fill the gaps in supply. At best, they stagnate; at worst, they lose market share.

Meanwhile, a corner store retailer will likely first engage a Nestle product through field or sales agents that purchase small amounts from wholesalers to distribute to retailers. Although they have the information manufacturers need, the two groups are too far apart. Moreover, even when sales activity is recorded, it is often done with pen and paper, making these records unreliable and difficult to transfer.

The result is a retail value chain that is blind to the behaviour of all its key stakeholders: manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and customers.

MarketForce solves this retail distribution problem in Africa by providing visibility throughout the value chain, resulting in more effective and efficient sales and distribution.

The Future: MarketForce

marketforce-logo

MarketForce is a Kenyan-based sales and distribution digitisation platform disrupting the African retail space by embedding technology as an enabler through the value chain. They leverage technology to disperse essential information to each player in the retail ecosystem, benefitting manufacturers, retailers, and sales agents.

MarketForce solves this retail distribution problem in Africa by providing visibility throughout the value chain, resulting in more effective and efficient sales and distribution.

This information empowers customers to make data-driven decisions that optimise their sales and distribution strategies, generating value through higher sales, increased customer loyalty, and higher profits.

How MarkertForce Works

MarketForce achieves this through two complementary business units: an enterprise software business and a B2B e-commerce wholesale marketplace.

The enterprise software as a solution is a platform that allows FMCG manufacturers, distributors, and financial services providers to manage their field sales activities by giving them real-time sales data and analytics.

Company field agents use MarketForce’s proprietary mobile app to record their sales activities as they happen, replacing pen and paper. This data is aggregated in real-time and presented on a dashboard, allowing companies (e.g. manufacturers and wholesalers) to monitor and analyse distribution channels across different regions and glean insights into buying which products, how much, and when.

MarketForce uses technology to transform an analogue sales and distribution process into a digital sales, distribution, and analytics system. As MarketForce owns the technology, they can cost-effectively scale across markets.

MarketForce’s second business segment more directly targets retailers.

RejaReja is Marketforce’s B2B e-commerce marketplace that connects retailers to nearby suppliers. Corner shops can browse a catalogue containing thousands of products from local suppliers, compare prices and promotions, order inventory, and receive delivery within hours.

Picture Amazon, but for retailers.

With an e-commerce solution like RejaReja, MarketForce has achieved product-market fit. SMEs dominate Africa’s retail market with faint digital footprints. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, SMEs forsake opportunities for greater productivity and profitability by not engaging in e-business like e-commerce. The use of ICT offers opportunities to scale more easily and attain higher profit margins.

MarketForce is essentially helping African-based retailers and suppliers leverage technology as an enabler to their business and industries. MarketForce has created a product that provides data to address each pain point in the cycle, creating visibility in the market and opening up more possibilities for growth in the ecosystem, from sales strategy to fulfilment.

The Team

marketforce-founders-mutethia-mesongo

Mutethia (Tesh) Mbaabu, co-founder and CEO, has both product and commercial expertise. He has start-up experience in Africa, having founded Cloud9xp (now merged with a Kenyan travel and tours company), an online marketplace and booking service for travel and leisure experiences. Tesh will use his expertise in business development, growth, and partnerships to scale MarketForce.

Mesongo Sibuti, co-founder and CTO, designs, develops, and scales tech-enabled platforms, focusing on B2B services, last-mile distribution, and data science. He brings substantial FMCG experience to the team, having led sales force automation implementation at PZ Cussons. Mesongo will directly apply his expertise to develop Marketforce’s technology stack.

The MarketForce team also consists of dedicated experts leading the finance, sales, product, distribution, and HR teams. In addition, as MarketForce expands regionally, they onboard Country Managers to focus on operations, sales, and marketing in each country. Today, MarketForce is present in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

At Future Africa, we are excited to be a part of Marketforce’s journey as it transforms the future of retail across Africa. We welcome Tesh, Mesongo and the Marketforce team to the Future Africa community.

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