How mobile apps have helped small scale traders

Wednesday March 31 2021
Apps pix

Director of SOMA Demere Kitunga sharing with stakeholders of Tapo Habari what Mobosoko & Mshikamano Hub apps can do

By Caroline Uliwa

Mobile trends and other digital innovations have always come to prominence whenever the world finds itself in an economic and social challenge.

Such was the case at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Tanzania, just like the rest of the world was plunged into an abyss of economic misfortune, affecting the livelihoods of many families.

However, it is during such times of dire need of a solution to the growing challenge that a glimpse of hope was unearthed.

At a roundtable discussion inside TGNP-Tanzania Gender Networking Program’ offices in Dar es Salaam in January, numerous feminist leaders from notable gender rights organizations in the country, who form an informal coalition called Tapo Habari, enacted its first project ‘Kestoria Kavazi’ headed by E&D Readership and Development Agency-SOMA; working with Women Fund Tanzania-WFT, Tanzania Gender Networking Program-TGNP, Msichana Initiative and ‘WaJiKi-Wanawake katika jitihada za maendeleo’.

At this roundtable meet, various stakeholders of Tapo Habari were present together with the press; where we were introduced to two smart phone apps namely Mobosoko and Mshikamano Hub. The meet was really a user training forum steered by the makers of the apps’ Faulu Solutions, an IT firm based in Dar es Salaam. For seven months since the corona pandemic hit the country last year, Kestoria Kavazi took the initiative of sourcing these two apps. With the aim of salvaging businesses for small scale traders together with providing mental health tools for marginalized groups in society particularly women.


 “You know Mobosoko means ‘mobile market’ now you don’t have to go to the market, it comes to you. This platform will really benefit those businesses from Saccos groups. Helping to shine a light on various products produced by women to a wide customer base in turn assisting them to alleviate poverty as now this is a ready shop.” Devota Likolola gave her two cents on how Mobosoko app will help even the playfield for women held businesses starting from grassroots levels in the country.

Devota has over 20 years’ experience mobilizing Vicoba (village community banks) in the country holding the position of president of Vicoba in Tanzania for over 15yrs, a former member of parliament. She was instrumental in helping to take Vicoba from the informal banking sector to the formal sector, when the central bank of Tanzania enacted the Microfinance Act of 2018.

Devota is among the stakeholders of Tapo Habari through the organization ‘Bonyokwa’; she, like others present at this roundtable meet was there to see these apps for herself and give her two cents on the same. Mobosoko is meant to bring small holder businesses and SME’s products to customers’ doorsteps in Tanzania using smart phones. Think of your vegetable vendor at the market to your butcher or the essential oils maker. Through this app they will be able to deliver their products to your doorstep starting with Dar es Salaam, the app will also work closely with local distributors like ‘boda boda’ riders to ensure timely delivery.

“This was our first job with a feminist organization, in making these apps we had to dig deeper so our interest grew on the work done by Tapo Habari. You know when you deal with women you touch men as well, when women have a better standard of living. They impact their families and society positively, so one may think we’ve provided female apps but really they’re going to impact everybody.” Moses Bunde, Director of Faulu Solutions.

What fired me up about this meet was seeing for myself how Mshikamano Hub app works. Essentially, it is a website that allows the user to access an AI (artificial intelligence) through a private chat on ‘whatsapp’. Here you get to tell ‘rafiki’ what your emergency is (so far the name rafiki looks to stick for this AI) and it then gives you a direct contact of who can help you. Say that loved one has hit you, tossed you out on the streets or you’re witnessing sure child abuse.

Tapo Habari is gathering its resources from their varied human rights experts be it government law enforcement personnel or mental health experts. Who on a volunteer basis get to be the contacts that will assist the customers of Mshikamano Hub for free. At this roundtable discussion there already was a lawyer and counselor present to assist through the Mshikamano Hub app. “For me as an activist aligned with women & children’s rights this app gives me great comfort. As for a long time being involved in raising the alarm on abuse against marginalized groups in society; when we’re following up for justice to be done. Many times I would get stuck as the infrastructure present doesn’t allow us to reach everybody. Now with Mshikamano hub it’ll be easy for anyone to report their cases which will make it easier for us to reach them and know the stats of who needs help. “Mme Janeth Mawinza shares

She added that she foresees this app making it easier for anyone even a third party to report when something is going on in a safe manner.

 For in her experience many times victims are scared to go to the police or social welfare offices fearing to make their issue public. “Now they can call from where they are and talk to a lawyer, police or counselor in confidence.” Janeth continues, she is the director of WaJiKi, her organization is currently responsible for the ‘safiri salama bila rushwa ya ngono’ campaign. Which is pooling together local transport (daladala & bodaboda) providers as well as parents in finding solutions for girls. Who find themselves with no pocket money to get to & from school safely hence becoming vulnerable to sex-tortion, WaJiKi-Safiri Salama

Speaking with the director of SOMA Mme Demere Kitunga recently, it was to learn that both apps will roll out officially in the next couple of months. Currently the project is solidifying the buyers and distributors for Mobosoko app, to ensure they secure their intended target sellers, who in majority are small scale women traders.

From this roundtable user forum a lot of feedback was shared in order to make the apps stronger in delivering their goals. So currently the team at SOMA is implementing the suggestions to ensure when the apps are officially launched to the public, they serve it well for years to come. Indeed these initiatives with the two apps can go a long way in alleviating poverty for marginalized persons in society as well as providing that first essential listening ear in confidence when one is encountering or has encountered abuse.