Nigerian informal retailers turn tech-savvy to stock up amid pandemic

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LAGOS/ABUJA (Reuters) – When the coronavirus outbreak forced shops to close in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, kiosk store owner Funmilayo Akinola weighed up her safety against the need to make a living.

After deciding that she couldn’t afford to stop working, she faced the challenge of replenishing her stock as the pandemic has made it harder for informal traders to buy wholesale goods due to safety measures disrupting supply chains.

The answer lay in a logistics firm that provides an online marketplace where manufacturers and retailers connect.

Lagos-based Trade Depot delivered goods that she bought using the company’s app.

“(Without Trade Depot) I would have just locked up my shop, because my husband will not allow me to go inside the market to go and be hustling for goods,” said Akinola.

She now uses her phone to order stock delivered by vans or tuk tuks to her narrow kiosk in the frenetic Lagos district of Mushin, where she sits surrounded by stacked-up goods, ranging from drinks and tinned food to detergent.

Demand was particularly high during the month-long lockdown in Lagos that ended in early May, said Akinola.

Trade Depot’s chief executive officer, Onyekachi Izukanne, said the company – which operates in six of Nigeria’s 36 states and was launched in 2017 – saw a 300% increase in gross revenue in the year to September, compared with the same period in 2019.

Ikenna Nwosu, a logistics consultant, said the pandemic had prompted a broader process of “digitization” that forced people to shop online. This has opened new supply chain networks and created employment opportunities as companies hire more workers to distribute goods, he said.

“Its creating new revenue streams. That is just scratching the surface of digitization,” he said.

Reporting by Nneka Chile in Lagos

How tech-savvy farmers are harnessing big data to tend the fields of the future

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In the old days, farmers kept track of their crops’ vital stats in logbooks and on whiteboards — but in the new days, that’s just not going to cut it.



a plane flying in the air: Drones can help apple growers survey their orchards to gauge their health. (Innov8 Ag Photo)


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Drones can help apple growers survey their orchards to gauge their health. (Innov8 Ag Photo)

“Shun analog,” said Steve Mantle, the founder and CEO of Innov8 Ag Solutions, a farm management venture that’s headquartered in Walla Walla, Wash. “Digital first. If a grower is still putting things in logbooks, they have to shift to it.”

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Mantle and other experts and entrepreneurs surveyed the state of agricultural tech today during Washington State University’s Digital Agriculture Summit — and it’s clear that the field is in a state of flux.

The panelists gave a shout-out to technologies ranging from sensor-equipped drones and 5G connectivity to robotic harvesters and artificial intelligence. But at the same time, some in the virtual audience complained about not being able to get even a 4G signal down on the farm.

Much more needs to be done to bring the agricultural data revolution to full fruition, said Kurt Steck, managing general partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab, based in Bellevue, Wash.

“Most of the networks are consumer-oriented and very urban-dense,” Steck said. “We’re building a testbed so that we can start to build the right applications and show operators that there is a business case potentially here, because of the amounts of data that can add value to farmers and growing operations. But we have to prove that business model out to the operators. They don’t see it inherently.”

Innov8 Ag is one of the pioneers for that business model: This summer, it worked with the 5G Open Innovation Lab’s other partners on a pilot project in the Tri-Cities area to