Traders of Africa Wants to Make Sourcing African Suppliers EasyInspiring Stories of Our Owners•Aug 10, 2020• 3 min read
For years, Uju Uzo Ojinnaka split her time between a job in the Nigerian banking industry and co-chairing Beniz Group, her husband’s company which sells construction finishing products. Then Uzo Ojinnaka caught the entrepreneurship bug.
The Inspiration Behind Traders of Africa
She made the jump to the family business full-time and enrolled in the China Europe International Business School in 2016 to help take Beniz Group to the next level.
But as she worked to complete her degree, Uzo Ojinnaka discovered that Chinese importers found it difficult to access credible suppliers in Africa. This was one of several reasons why the value of exports from Africa actually dropped by 50.4% between 2012 and 2016.
“I couldn’t believe that in the whole of Africa there wasn’t a platform that would show where to buy all different kinds of products, who has it, and where to buy it,” she says. “So that same night, I secured the platform and started immediately.”
What is Traders of Africa?
Traders of Africa is a Pan-African e-commerce marketplace for products grown, produced, or manufactured across the continent. The platform connects thousands of suppliers and farmers to market opportunities, making it easier for importers and buyers to discover African manufacturers and producers.
The platform launched in September 2017 with about 9,000 suppliers. At this time, Traders of Africa has more than 16,000 suppliers from more thank a dozen African countries, including Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.
From the very beginning, Uzo Ojinnaka knew she didn’t want to hold any product, just own the technology, which has proved lucrative for her family and her merchants alike. “Our mission is to create sustainable wealth for individuals, communities, organizations, and nation states in Africa,” she says.
What Can You Find on Traders of Africa?
Merchants on the platform sell a large range of products that span categories including among others:
- agricultural produce
- leather and textiles
- construction materials
- woodworks and furniture
- food and beverage
In return, Traders of Africa provides escrow services powered by Ecobank and dedicated customer service. “We provide merchants with the platform, solutions, and support they need to grow their business and thrive,” she explains.
Solving Key Issues
This approach aims to solve two key issues in the African economy: trust and time of payment. “There used to be a great distrust between buyers and sellers, but because of the platform, we see more buyers wanting to trade with others directly, rather than going to individual suppliers,” she says.
Successes & Challenges
Last year, Traders of Africa closed the year with about $2.1 million in annual sales. This year, despite COVID, they had more than $5 million in orders during the first half of the year and project continued growth.
“Orders took longer because there was a reduced number of vessels coming to the ports, people were asking for deferred payments, so there were some disruptions during that period of March to June,” says Uzo Ojinnaka. “We are still committed to hitting our target of $10 million in sales for 2020.”
For the moment, the Traders of Africa team is focused on hitting that annual target and bringing operations to more African countries. The team is also working on translating the English-language platform into several African languages.
“What we’re doing is also formalizing the process of trade, which could help the government in planning, and create opportunities for African business and creating wealth for all the stakeholders, which are the suppliers — who are African — and the buyers, who can be African or from anywhere in the world,” she says. “That means that with what we have built, anybody can have a share of trade going on in Africa.”