Lockdowns and an increasing number of COVID-19 cases made it challenging for Nigeria’s small retailers and distributors to get essential supplies, despite high demand. Many store owners could not travel to the markets that provided their stock. To add to the complexity, many of the markets they relied on were closed.

TradeDepot, a Nigerian company founded to simplify and digitize micro retail distribution, used its digital solution to swiftly bridge the supply chain gap. The company partnered with the government of Lagos State to distribute essential products like food and detergent to designated markets during the nationwide lockdown. Instead of having to navigate a fragmented network of distributors and wholesalers, retailers and distributors were able to use their phones to connect directly to leading consumer goods companies through TradeDepot’s ShopTopUp platform.

“We played the role of an anchor, helping over 40,000 micro retailers to stay in business during the lockdown while ensuring that consumers have access to the goods they need,” said Onyekachi Izukanne, co-founder and CEO of TradeDepot.

Helping neighborhood stores stay in business is vital to the economic well-being of Nigeria’s urban and rural areas. About 90 percent of Nigeria’s retail sector is informal: micro- and small-scale retailers depend on the daily wages from this work.

For Blessing Chibueze, one of millions of women in Nigeria who run small retail businesses to help provide for their families, TradeDepot offered a lifeline. “They made it much easier for me to stock my store without leaving my location,” she said. “They would supply me at least once a week, and sometimes two or three times in a week. There was no need for me to go to the market, and their prices are good.”

IFC and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), which supports women entrepreneurs in emerging markets, have invested in TradeDepot. We-Fi financing is intended to help the company build stronger women-led small and medium enterprise retailer and distributor networks.

TradeDepot supplies tens of thousands of small-scale retailers in Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa with hundreds of products. About 80 percent of the informal retailers on its platform are women. The company plans on expanding to about nine countries and 21 cities across Africa by 2023.