Category Archives: Mama Biashara

Seasonality as an element of contextual planning for emerging consumer markets

Growing up as a Hindu expat in multicultural ‘West Malaysia’ of the 1970s and 80s, it was a matter of course that every festival would be a big occasion. We had Christmas in December, and Chinese New Year soon after, to be followed by Hari Raya (Eid) and Deepawali – each of them deserving of […]

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African Youth find Opportunities in Informal Sector Biashara

Biashara in Africa’s emerging economies – Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe- are at loggerheads with the state.  An ever bulging young demographic  and a failure to absorb them into the formal economy has resulted in increased biashara.  The informal sector’s low barrier to entry, appeals to the young Africans’ aspirations, like Simon Danda from Zimbabwe. Rather than […]

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Bedrock of trade

A general merchant in Karatina market, Kenya. Photo credit: Niti Bhan

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Will Cross Border Mobile Money Boost intra African Trade and Regional Integration?

Over the past 18 months, since I started tracking the spread of cross border mobile money payments across the African continent, there has been visible progress in leaps and bounds, as documented by the GSMA. In fact, back then, I’d written: Top down reportage on banking and interoperability seems to focus only on the customer’s […]

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Digital literacy plus “sharing economy” platforms can offer formal employment for African youth

Back in February of this year, I made a note on the inherent potential of Uber (and related apps) to deliver the data necessary for the informal taxi sector in Kenya to clamber onto the path to formalization. Today, I came across an article reflecting on the potential for formalization in India that quotes Nandan […]

Also posted in Assumption filter, Business Models, Cashless transactions, Ecosystem, India, Informal & Flexible, Innovation Planning, Kenya, Mobile platform, Perspective, Platforms, Prepaid Economy & Informal Sector, Strategy, Systems, Technology | Leave a comment

The Kenyan informal sector’s well-trodden paths of upward mobility

Studying the dynamics of the informal economy of a particular region in Western Kenya has been an eye opening exercise in questioning one’s own assumptions and frameworks. Other times, I noticed answers to questions I’d never even thought of asking (an outcome of holding implicit assumptions). One of these was career paths and ambitions. The […]

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Reframing the informal sector in the African consumer market: The real African middle class

This is Ruth’s shop, on the side of the highway, approximately 5km on the road to Kisumu, from Busia in western Kenya. Not quite directly part of the borderland’s economy, that trades incessantly with each other, these businesses still manage to feed off the energy of the hustle and bustle of biashara, as it flows […]

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Africa’s rise might strangle the informal trading sector in the “middle income trap”

Ruth, who was briefly introduced in a photo caption is currently facing this middle income trap. She can’t gather enough together to scale and the banks want to skim 18% of the profits of the top, usury, thy name is inclusion. Mrs Felice is facing this dilemma as her container from China will now make […]

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Emerging African women entrepreneurs #informaleconomy

At the other end of the high tech geeky startup spectrum increasingly providing a platform for African women is the informal retail and wholesale trade sector. Like their West African sisters, the women traders I met in the border market of Busia, Kenya (next door to Busia, Uganda) and its nearby environs (~ 5km radius), […]

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Infrastructure has a direct relationship to how much your rural business can scale

This is a micro-wholesaler and retailer in a staple commodity. Infrastructural constraints limit the stock she can manage at one go – seen as the sack with her name on it. This indicates that it was sourced from some distance away, as this is the matatu’s informal package tracking service. It could have come from […]

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