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The story of SlimTrader’s Mobiashara mobile commerce platform begins with a journey.

During one of his frequent trips to Africa, SlimTrader’s CEO, Femi Akinde, a native of Nigeria, had a frustrating but ultimately inspiring experience. He wanted to fly from Nigeria to Ghana, but purchasing an airline ticket in Africa is never a simple transaction. He had to travel to multiple sites, including his bank—a necessity, since postal and broadband internet service on the continent is spotty at best.

Furthermore, while at these locations, Akinde was forced to wait in long lines. In other words, the journey was just the beginning. There was more work to be done…just to buy a plane ticket. While Akinde eventually completed his transaction, this time- and resource-consuming experience prompted him to think about how to eliminate the need for people to put so much into so simple a task. 

After all, Akinde not only knew his ordeal wasn’t unique; he also recognized that if the problem existed for purchasing high-cost items, it must be infinitely worse to purchase everyday goods and services. 

Everyday Experience

Indeed, in all 53 countries that comprise Africa, everyday activities—from purchasing airline tickets to filling a prescription—require long searches, long waits, and long journeys. By stifling access to otherwise available goods and service, these delays cost people and society in countless ways.

Given his background in both business and technology, Akinde knew he not only could, but, more importantly, should do something. He arrived back home in Seattle, Washington, and immediately assembled a team of like-minded and similarly experienced professionals, all of whom shared one goal: connecting people to basic goods and services.


A Mobile Solution

Although broadband internet access is only in the low teens, Africa does have a robust telecommunications network. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the telecom industry is investing some $15 billion annually. The result: more than 300 million cell phone subscribers in Africa.

Akinde and his team knew their solution lay in mobile phones. They further knew that they had to create a service that crossed socioeconomic lines; the well-off as well as the poor needed access. What capability is every phone equipped with, they thought, no matter how basic? Text messaging. 

After an intense research and refinement process, Akinde and his team emerged with MoBiashara—a mobile technology that allows consumers to search, confirm, and purchase a given retailer’s good or service using text messages. It empowers consumers while eliminating the need for face-to-face contact and all the problems it entails.
With its flagship platform MoBiashara—a neologism combining English with Swahili which literally translates as “Mo’ Businesses”—SlimTrader has evolved into a socially-conscious enterprise that provides an affordable, easy-to-use mobile commerce service in Africa.

Full Circle

What began as an eye-opening experience in trying to book a flight—and later evolved into a paradigm-shifting mobile platform—came full circle on July 14, 2010. That’s when Aero, West Africa’s leading airline, became the first customer to use SlimTrader’s MoBiashara service. Not coincidentally, it was the very airline Akinde was attempting to purchase tickets from when the idea for SlimTrader first originated.