Wasoko, the African e-commerce company that utilizes innovative technology to transform the informal retail supply chain, has unveiled its expansion into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), building upon its existing e-commerce hub in neighboring Rwanda. This development marks the startup’s second country expansion this year, following the launch of operations in Zambia in May 2023, and is part of its ongoing mission to drive robust growth for local businesses across the African continent.
Wasoko’s market expansion into the DRC specifically targets small businesses in Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province. This expansion has been made possible through access to special cross-border trade zones, with the support of the Rwandan government, as part of its broader commitment to fostering regional economic integration. With this initiative, Wasoko joins a select group of businesses facilitating cross-border commerce, which aims to integrate the DRC into the East African Community as its newest member country while simultaneously promoting economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development across the region.
Since its initial expansion into Rwanda in 2019, Wasoko has witnessed a remarkable surge in revenues, soaring from $2 million in its first year of operation to $48 million in 2022. Presently, the platform serves over 5,000 informal retailers in Rwanda alone. Given its success in Rwanda, Wasoko is optimistic about leveraging its existing infrastructure to drive growth for small businesses in neighboring DRC.
Daniel Yu, Founder and Global CEO at Wasoko, stated, “As one of Africa’s largest countries, the DRC presents a substantial market opportunity for Wasoko. Despite a rapidly growing population of nearly 100 million people with increasing purchasing power, the country’s significant infrastructural challenges have placed substantial limitations on its e-commerce sector, thereby presenting a vastly untapped opportunity.”
“However, through our cross-border logistical capabilities, established platform, and extensive product range, we strongly believe we’re well-positioned to fully unlock this potential and ultimately become the market leader in the DRC’s B2B e-commerce space. As we move ahead, we look forward to building crucial relationships with local, on-the-ground stakeholders and tailoring our traditional customer-centric approach to align with the unique needs of the Congolese population.”
Following Wasoko’s expansion into the DRC, the company has outlined plans to replicate this model in other regions across Africa. This initiative is in line with its long-term vision to strengthen its Pan-African presence and empower local businesses while connecting African consumers with a diverse range of products and services.
Philip Lucky, Acting Chief Investment Officer at Rwanda Development Board, expressed, “The Government of Rwanda is pleased with Wasoko’s expansion into the DRC. It joins Rwanda’s success stories of its proof-of-concept strategy, which allows investors to set up and test their solutions in Rwanda before scaling to the region. We remain committed to improving Rwanda’s ICT & Innovation eco-system in order to enable investors and startups to thrive.”
Since its inception in 2016, Wasoko has been at the forefront of pioneering innovative technology to address supply chain inefficiencies faced by millions of local shop owners in Africa’s informal retail sector. With a current presence across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia, the company has established a vast network of over 220,000 informal retailers and has successfully delivered more than 5 million orders to date. Wasoko’s expansion into the DRC signifies the latest milestone for the company, which secured a record-breaking $125 million in a Series B funding round in March 2022, marking the largest venture financing round ever raised for a non-fintech startup in Africa. Additionally, it was recognized by the Financial Times as Africa’s Fastest Growing Company in the previous year.
Through the Wasoko mobile app, shop owners can conveniently purchase goods from manufacturers and distributors at competitive prices based on supply and demand. Furthermore, they receive real-time tracking data on sales, valuable business insights, and market trends. The platform has also meticulously constructed an end-to-end logistics process encompassing procurement, distribution, financing, and technology, allowing Wasoko to consistently deliver best-in-class fulfillment and maintain high merchant engagement rates.