Company Takes Pulse of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Consumers

Company Takes Pulse of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Consumers
Leaders: Rwazi was founded by Eric Sewankambo, left, and Joseph Rutakangwa. The company provides data on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated population of more than 1 billion people and a gross domestic product of nearly $2 trillion. Data on consumer habits and demands there can be difficult for outside markets to access, as most retail transactions are conducted in cash.

Rwazi Inc., a Santa Monica-based market intelligence company, seeks to help international companies understand emerging trends among African consumers and recently raised $4 million in a seed funding round led by Bonfire Ventures, with backing from Newfund Capital and Alumni Ventures. Founded in 2021 by Joseph Rutakangwa and Eric Sewankambo, Rwazi also provides data insights on consumers in South Asia and Latin America.

“More than 90% of retail transactions in sub-Saharan Africa’s $2 trillion economy are cash-based, which has historically made it hard for big brands to understand more than a billion African consumers,” Rutakangwa said in a statement. “We’ve turned that problem into an opportunity.”

Rutakangwa said the reason that the retail economy in the region is so cash-reliant is not a structural issue, but is rooted in a cultural distrust in banks and mobile payments. In addition, many retailers won’t accept digital or card transactions.

The startup’s data is crowdsourced through its app, where local consumers (called mappers) log their own purchases. Rwazi said it has more than 50,000 active mappers across Africa. Logged transactions are verified by measures including time stamps and GPS tracking. Customers can view data on Rwazi’s web platform.

Mappers are paid for each verified submission, with most earning an average of $55 per month if they make regular contributions.

“Our approach was, ‘let’s roll out this app that has utility value to the consumer and also generates passive income for the consumer,’” Rutakangwa said. “(Companies) use the data to build products and pricing and messaging and so forth, but also … to target emerging consumers and understand them correctly.”

Companies can subscribe to Rwazi to access its transaction data, which is where it gets most of its revenue. Its customers include Fortune 500 companies and consulting firms. It’s currently working to increase its mappers in South Asia and Latin America.

“We’re bullish on Rwazi’s ability to execute on a logistically challenging operation in a vast market,” Bonfire Ventures principal Jennifer Richard said in a statement.

With this new funding, Rwazi plans to expand its team, advance its software and increase the number of languages supported to better accommodate international companies. The company plans to add 100 languages, including Arabic, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and Swahili. Rutakangwa said Rwazi has already hired new engineers and wants to expand its product offerings to deliver automated insights and recommendations for its subscribers.

No posts to display