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Nigeria’s TradeDepot piloting in 2 African cities as it plans a retail revolution

Nigerian B2B e-commerce startup TradeDepot is conducting pilots in two cities outside of Nigeria as it works to streamline Africa’s informal retail sector.

Founded in 2016, TradeDepot is an end-to-end distribution platform that aims to connect the world’s top consumer goods companies directly to African retailers. With a network of over 40,000 micro retailers across Nigeria, the startup plans to build the largest retail distribution network in Africa.

The startup works with global distributors and manufacturers like Nestlé, Unilever, GB Foods and Danone to make household supplies more accessible and affordable for the informal urban retail networks it operates in.

The funds would be used to drive the startup’s expansion into more Nigerian cities, which involves building out a retailer network and then ensuring inventory, as well as putting logistics in place. TradeDepot is also starting to build a pan-African presence.

“We are running pilots in a couple of cities outside Nigeria, and we will also be doubling down on our presence, to evolve from pilot stage to more extensive operations,” TradeDepot CEO, Onyekachi Izukanne said.

He declined to reveal where exactly these pilot sites are, but they are in separate corners of the continent, and speak to TradeDepot’s wider plans to become a dominant player in a less fragmented African retail ecosystem.

He said TradeDepot would require additional rounds of financing to reach its goals, but that would all become clearer as the startup grows.

TradeDepot CEO, Onyekachi Izukanne
“The general picture is one in which five years from now informal retail on the continent will become less of a fragmented blackhole for the typical supplier and become something that is easier to access by plugging into one or two key dominant platforms,” he said.

The company sees huge opportunities in tackling the predominantly offline informal market across Africa.

“In so far as informal retail goes, the opportunity is massive. But as far as tech goes, it is probably not what you would call the most sexy space, for various reasons. There are fragmented supply chains, and these are people you can’t easily reach through social media. But the market is huge, and we believe that successfully extending the power of e-commerce to this space solves real and urgent problems and ultimately benefits all persons involved,” said Izukanne.

Building out a network of 40,000 Nigerian micro-retailers takes some doing, and Izukanne had some advice to startups looking to achieve similar scale.

“It is important for growth to be sustainable. It is important to not just focus on how you reach these stores very quickly, but how you reach them with a value proposition that makes them click with you. Loyalty is a very scarce commodity in this segment,” he said.