moWoza: A Mobile Shopping Solution For African Migrant Workers

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Written by Steven J. Smith

The inspiration for Suzana Moreira’s mobile gateway access company moWoza came when she witnessed people living in rural communities struggling to access goods.

She wondered how supply chains might extend into far-flung South African villages where most distributors preferred not to do business.

This is how moWoza was born: mo for mobile, and woza, a Zulu word that means come.

“Seven out of 10 Africans still live outside of urban areas, where it is difficult to find work and access goods,” Moreira said. “Many decide to move to different cities and countries to find work, while continuing to support their families from the new city.”

Those workers, she added, attempt to send goods back to their families on a regular basis, but poorly functioning postal services, decayed infrastructure, long and difficult journeys, and safety concerns often result in those goods never reaching their destination. In addition, those families often find the products available at informal markets are sold at steeper prices than in the larger cities. Access to reasonably priced goods remains a huge problem across the African continent.

“We want to give our customers a service that is convenient for them, that is formal, and that they know where their money is going to,” Moreira said. “moWoza is a three-step process. First, a migrant worker places an order directly through his mobile phone. If he does not have a mobile phone, he can go through a moWoza agent.”

As soon as the order has been placed for a nominal fee, text messages are sent to the worker’s family living across the border, as well as a merchant located near the family. A family member can then go pick up the goods.

Moreira, originally from Johannesburg, said moWoza is not her first startup company.

“I have always had an entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit,” she said. “I have volunteered at two developmental foundations — IC Volunteers and Global Humanitarian Forum — and I have also attempted two business ventures (Ole Property and Assissi28) in the past. Each venture has enabled me to acquire skills in a number of areas, such as in managing cash flow and developing partnerships. The skills gained from these give me the confidence to build and lead moWoza.”

Moreira said her company could fill an urgent need for as many as 16 million migrants based in Southern, East, and West Africa by providing an easy-to-use mobile shopping solution.

“Our customers are saving up to half a week’s wages when they use our service to send goods back to their family members,” she said. “I see a better world where technology can bridge some of the gaps that are currently found if one lives in a village. You can even say it will be a highway into these rural villages.”