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Author's profile photo Jason Lax

Rural Merchants Go Mobile

There’s has been and will continue to be lots of talk and concern over the current poor economic environment or situation.  Many of us living in more advanced economies are feeling the pinch have put off large purchases such as replacing our cars, refrigerators and perhaps doing without another pair of brand name jeans. 

What about in developing economies—especially rural locations?  These are places where a car, refrigerator or even a pair of jeans remain a distant possibility regardless if the current economic environment is bullish or bearish?  Places that are often so depressed that it doesn’t’ ever matter how the global economy is doing because they so far down the economic ladder to begin with? 

Despite the poverty, one item of modernity that even rural people in developing nations can’t seem go without is the ubiquitous mobile phone (or “cell phone.” as my Canadian compatriots call them). Even the head monk, or master, at a mountain monastery outside of Dali, Yunnan, China would send a disciple down every week into town to charge his mobile phone. 

So, what’s the connection?  Thanks to an exciting project, these humble little devices are being used to empower people with eCommerce: with a few simple tools and applications, even places as remote as rural villages in Africa can now take part in the information economy.

In this SAP TV report, see how SAP Research and C@R (Collaboration at Rural) are automating the supplying basic goods to rural stores (or Spaza Shops) via mobile phones in rural South Africa.  The poignant element of this project is that the technology and new job roles within this redesigned transaction model is paid for by the efficiencies gained. 

  • Shopkeepers no longer have to make the costly journey to stock up: a major sacrifice considering the ever rising cost of transport and the loss of a day’s worth of sales.  They also provide better service for their customer base by reducing the chances if a stockouts. 
  • A generation of technologically savvy “infopreneurs” create a market niche for themselves by obtaining better prices for combines Spaza shop orders



This technology can really make a difference to rural communities not only in Africa but throughout Latin America and Asia. 

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