Here’s the latest from our ongoing project with Notore in Nigeria:

- As referenced in our last post, we’ve launched the pilot program in five rural states. With the help of a Notore executive in each state, we’ve met with the distributor and 10 of the VPs.

- We trained each group in each state on how to use our Java-app-equipped mobile devices. They’re starting to get familiar with the system. This system empowers the VPs and cuts down on costs, because, instead of maintaining a storefront and storage space for products farmers may or may not want, the VPs can now place the exact order. This not only saves them time and money; it also makes the entire supply chain more efficient.

- Our Java app allows the VPs to see in real-time what the distributor has in stock. The distributor, meanwhile, can see in real-time what the VP is ordering. If the VP’s order isn’t in stock, the system will automatically inform him. In addition, the app allows the VP to see when a distributor is making a shipment. This frees up the VP to spend more time teaching the farmers how to improve their agricultural practices. It also saves farmers lengthy, costly, time-consuming trips to local distribution areas for products that may or may not be available. In turn, it allows the farmers to increase the yield on his land.

The bottom line: We’re making good progress, and we’re hopeful we can make the lives easier of everyone up and down the supply chain. We’ll post pictures soon.

Bedah Mengo charts an increasingly common path business owners in Kenya are taking to not only supplement their incomes, but also increase foot traffic – a move that adds another revenue stream while boosting in-store sales. Here’s a typical story of a business owner in the East African nation’s capitol:

Bob Mutie, who runs a cybercafe in Komarock estate, Nairobi , is among hundreds of traders in the capital doubling up as mobile money agents.

Mutie became a money transfer agent about eight months ago after running his core business for about two-and-a-half years.

‘Cybercafe is my main trade but I thought I should expand my business and try to boost revenue by becoming a money transfer agent,’ Mutie said on Wednesday.

He recounted he applied to a leading telecommunication company to become their agent, paid the requisite deposit of about 720 U.S. dollars and he was given the approval.

‘I made a little partition in the cybercafe and put a sign outside the shop that I was offering mobile money services. This did not cost me much,’ he said.

A quick housekeeping note: We’ve been traveling, hence the blog neglect.

Now, onto the post…

A friend of ours has a saying he tells people. It’s a simple saying—a metaphor, really—and he deploys it whenever someone hears he’s from Africa—Nigeria, to be specific—and responds with some variant of the following: Oh, you must know so-and-so from [insert African nation here]. When our friend hears this, he likes to smile and explain to that person simply yet forcefully: “Africa is not a house.”

Put another way: “Africa is not a country.” And here’s the map to “prove” it. One of the more interesting things about the map: It shows how individual income levels evolved over time in various countries on the continent. Fascinating stuff.

Buried in a status report about the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) cashless initiative in Lagos is this nugget:

[CBN Governor Mallam Lamido] Sanusi said 15 mobile payment operators had been licensed in Nigeria and that as a result, 80 million mobile-owning Nigerians would benefit from financial inclusion and a cashless existence.

While there is reportedly dissatisfaction with the CBN’s overall effort to adapt an all-electronic payment system, harnessing the ever-growing number of mobile phone users in Nigeria will help ease the tension.

Ilan Oosting urges mobile money platforms to remember the important role feature phones play—a song SlimTrader has been singing since our inception:

The current scenario has solutions aimed at smartphone users, who frankly are the minority by far. Yes, there are reports that close to 50 percent or more of the mobile subscribers in countries like the United States, Singapore, Canada and Hong Kong are now using smartphones. But if you start looking at a global scale, only 12 percent of the world’s mobile subscribers use a smartphone.

Yes, folks, no matter what the latest Android, iOS or Windows Phone sales figures tell you, we still live pretty much in a feature phone world! At the rate we are going, we are leaving out almost 90 percent of mobile users, not a good start when you are trying to drive consumer adoption on something as huge and important as payments.

The world’s developing nations will be where mobile payments will make the largest impact. The lack of infrastructure, financial services and regulatory hurdles in these nations make them an ideal springboard for mobile payments. These countries also have very low smartphone penetration rates, some going far below 10 percent of the mobile subscriber base.

Oosting goes on to praise one of our mobile money partners, M-PESA, which has achieved tremendous market penetration due its innovations in the feature phone arena.

The most important ways of measuring the seismic cultural and economic shifts associated with the rapid spread of mobile technology in Africa are often incalculable. Even rogue economists and statisticians armed with adventurous research methods and fancy algorithms will have a difficult time quantifying, say, reduced stress levels of people completing a task in 10 minutes instead of 10 hours. So, when trying to impress upon skeptics the game-changing power of mobile technology on the continent, it often helps to let the numbers speak for themselves.

Enter M-PESA. One of our key mobile money partners, the Kenya-based company recently reported numbers so big even we had to do a double take. No further commentary is required. So, without further adieu, here are a few key stats from the 2011-2012 financial year:

43 percent increase in revenues

12,000 agents added for a total of 50,000 employees

15 million registered users

 For more details on M-PESA’s astonishing growth, visit here. And a hearty congrats from all of us at SlimTrader.

First, some housekeeping: After a long layoff, we’re reconstituting the blog. And we couldn’t have selected a better time. We have many exciting developments to share with you. So, please, check back here weekly for updates.

Let’s pick up where we left off. The Notore pilot program received a lot of interest from our retailers, aka, Village Promoters (VPs). You’ll recall that they are the key links in the supply chain, because the VPs deal directly with the farmers teaching them about better farming methods and about using fertilizer to increase their crop yields. Based on the feedback we received from them, and in consultation with Notore, we settled on the framework for a more efficient method to deliver the fertilizer to farmers.

While we’re still working out the details and the implementation process, here’s the gist of the revamped approach. Notore will provide Village Promoters with a mobile phone equipped with a specially designed Java application. This application will allow VPs to use their mobile phone to record a farmer’s order. It’s an important development. Previously, the VPs would have to buy fertilizer from Notore’s distributors in advance, necessitating that the VPs not only have cash and ample storage space, but also maintain a storefront.

Since transportation from the rural areas, where most farmers live, is spotty at best, trade suffered. Farmers don’t want to make an arduous, resource-consuming journey to the VPs if it isn’t guaranteed the product will be there in the quantity needed. Another problem: because the VPs were disconnected from the farmers, they were forced into a passive rather than an active role.

But our solution solves all these problems. Now, the VPs visit the farmers in person and take the orders -all with their mobile phones and our Java application. Once Notore’s distributors deliver the fertilizer, the farmers simply pick it up. As noted, this is all still in the planning phase, but we hope to launch it soon.


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