Malawians in diaspora set up an online shopping platform

By Duncan Mlanjira

Three Malawians in diaspora and one in Malawi have set up an online shopping platform named WergoMarket, aimed at assisting people to directly buy products from shops instead of sending cash to their relations — transactions that earn unnecessary processing charges.

One of the founders, Stephen Mmodzi — who is with the Malawi Mission in Geneva — said WergoMarket also offers mobile money services through TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money.

In setting up the online selling and buying platform, Mmodzi said they looked at what the world is offering at present on a global and regional perspective; what are the successes and challenges and asked themselves why can’t it work in Malawi.

They looked at Malawi’s situation i.e the address system, internet penetration, usage and pointers on what is viable and its gaps.

“Being outside Malawi, we noticed and experienced challenges with sending upkeep money to relations catering for household necessities,” said Mmodzi, a holder of Master of Science Global Marketing obtained at University of Liverpool in UK.

“There are challenges with sending a low amount of money when your disposable income is less. For example US$10 in Malawi can go a long way to alleviate someone’s financial status.

“So we agreed to ensure that Malawians should not be left behind, and when it comes to internet or e-commerce, it appears it’s done at urban level.

Stephen Mmodzi

“Our wish is to make sure that those in the remotest should benefit and in that way Malawi’s GDP will grow,” he said.

The other founders are Marumbo Chunda (Master Degree in International Management-University of Bolton); Joseph Mtenje Mmodzi (Master of Science Information System-University of Huddersfield and a lady Walinase Chunda (Master of Science Money Banking and Finance-University of Lancaster).

Two of the founders, Marumbo and Walinase Chunda are based in England, Mmodzi in Geneva while Mtenje Mmodzi is in Lilongwe.

“We all grew up in Malawi and moved on due to career progression. For myself, I have worked in Malawi with the airline industry — South African Airways and Air Malawi before my posting to Geneva.

Walinase Chunda

“WergoMarket, a subsidiary of Small World — an already existing tracking company — was formed in March this year and officially launched in June, after a few false starts due to lots of challenges such as being away and also the landscape in Malawi.”

They encourage Malawians both local and in diaspora, to send their goods anywhere in Malawi to revitalise the local economy.

“At the same time, local producers who never thought of selling beyond their phone are now visible across the globe.

This is inline with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, which is the eradication of extreme poverty.

“With Wergomarket, some traders and craft makers have the potential to sell further and make money as the market broadens and access is provided for them without much effort on their side.

“SDG Goal 8 tackles decent work because trading creates jobs and if more Malawians and others embrace WergoMarket, they should take cognizance that they are creating decent jobs and thereby increasing economic growth.

“When WergoMarket shall start exporting it shall translate into more opportunities for communities and as they trade more, it shall have economic trickle-down effect.”

Coronavirus alert

He added that the online shopping platform touches on SDG 10 because WergoMarket is bridging the gap where its clients or partners are not rural or town folks.

“We don’t discriminate our clients but allow the under-represented a chance to be heard and participate in global economy.”

He said they engage sellers of goods through calling, visiting their shops, word of mouth and social media connections and are also looking at increasing adoption through commercial advertising.

WergoMarket also has a business deal with NASFAM and several supermarkets in Malawi have signed up.

Coronavirus alert

“Every day we are loading — we have over 10,000 products and hundreds of sellers and still loading.”

He also said their mode of business is in line with African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) — a free trade area which, as of 2018, includes 28 countries.

“It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations whose main objectives are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union,” he said.

Coronavirus alert