Wholesale and retail trade is the most significant sector for small and micro enterprises in Kenya. The sector offers a critical source of employment for thousands of Kenyans, especially women, and contributes significantly to household livelihoods and resilience. However, the sector is rich with opportunities to improve efficiencies in value chains and address key challenges faced by traders including limited access to credit, liquidity challenges, poor record keeping and stock management.
Many of these challenges can be addressed through innovative digital platforms and solutions. To explore this, FSD Kenya, in partnership with a private digital retail trading platform, initiated a study to identify the potential barriers to the participation of traders on a digital retail trading platform, and the opportunities that may arise from it. The study focused specifically on women and youth retail traders as trade is recognised as one of the key sub-sectors of the Kenyan economy that allows unemployed women and youth to earn a living. Furthermore, the study focused on grocery retail traders operating out of formal / permanent premises to eliminate businesses that would have major infrastructure challenges to using a digital platform (e.g. no physical premises to operate a computer system from or no access to electricity).
The research found that even among a somewhat homogeneous market – grocery retail traders operating out of formal premises – there are significant differences in terms of the business owners’ motivation for starting their business, their operations, usage of technology and strategies for growth – all factors that play a role in driving uptake of digital retail platforms. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative research findings, the study provides a detailed look at the different segments of grocery retail traders and highlights the opportunities and challenges for digital retail solutions to provide value for these small* business owners.