Category Archives: Mama Biashara

Applying the Systems Test to the Regional Informal Economic System

By | December 13, 2021

If the informal economic system, as seen in east Africa, is a system, and there are social practices at both the rural end of the interconnections and flows that comprise the functioning of the system, then taking a systems approach to food security would facilitate not only the increase in stocks i.e. the yield of… Read More »

One year anniversary of experimenting with design and innovation tools for vegetable vendors in Nairobi’s slums

By | July 7, 2021

Felix Omondi, our lead innovation facilitator, reminds me today that its the one year anniversary of the first participatory design workshop held with mama mbogas in Mathare, one of Nairobi’s informal settlements. Categorized by us as the “tomato group” of B2C (business to consumer) vegetable vendors (mama mboga in colloquial swahili), these 8 ladies were… Read More »

Contextualizing design of remote interventions for local food systems resilience strategies in literature

By | May 26, 2021

I began my academic explorations on this blog a couple of months ago with a post on the power of sensemaking to transform the context and frame of reference, and thus provide a means for empowering one to make decisions for a decidedly unknown near future, where increased uncertainty and volatility have become the norm.… Read More »

Looking back at 2020 from Mama Mboga’s eyes: The Pandemic as Natural Disaster

By | December 4, 2020

I am moved today by my work to look back at this agonizingly long year of separations and losses and delays for peoples around the world. Uncertainty and complexity have both increased, and economic volatility has become the order of the day, regardless of the development status of the region or location. More people in… Read More »

Half a year, 2020 : The Remote Resilience and Recovery Project

By | August 8, 2020

I have umpteen drafts saved, of posts I began writing since the last published one on 29th February this year, and never finished. 2020 has outdone itself in its impact on all of human society, across our entire planet. I have been active on Twitter, where my literature reviews, in service of the pivot I… Read More »

Kenya’s informal economy clambering on to the information highway through their smartphones

By | March 9, 2019

Sometimes cliches are the only way to communicate the sheer breadth and depth of the transformation now undergoing in the informal sectors, such as trade and light manufacturing, thanks to affordable smartphones and data bundles. I began calling it digital and not online yesterday when we discovered many people didn’t recognize the word “online” in… Read More »

Africa’s Delivery On Demand Apps are Transforming the Informal Economy

By | December 10, 2018

When women in rural Rwanda can buy sanitary napkins and contraceptives, on demand, simply by pushing a few buttons on their phones, you know the digital informal economy is here to stay. And, its not just imported apps and social enterprises pushing this digital commercial activity. The “uberization” of the African informal economy is well… Read More »

Rural Household Financial Management on Irregular Incomes

By | October 18, 2018

While all farms are not alike, and scale and variety and geography differs, the pattern of household financial management holds its fundamental logic across continents. As we saw previously, an experienced farmer tends to fall somewhere in between a salaried employee and an odd job labourer in their ability to predict with any reasonable degree… Read More »

Competitive Advantage & Customer Relationships: Lessons from Market Mummies of Ghana

By | August 29, 2018

How would you differentiate yourself in this informal retail market? Ghanaian market research guru Gerry van Dyke took a closer look at the market ‘mummies’ – Mama Biashara, as we call her – and their consumer marketing techniques in the “non-label environment”. His findings form an excellent foundation for understanding marketing and customer relationships in… Read More »

How informal financial services can lower the barriers to formal financial inclusion

By | March 9, 2018

Around 2 and a half years ago, I was on a short visit to Abidjan, the capital of Cote D’Ivoire as a guest of the African Development Bank. They were holding an innovation weekend for young women and men in the Francophone West African region who were interested in becoming entrepreneurs. David O. Capo Chichi,… Read More »