How Identity empowers prosperity for micro-retailers

There’s a good reason solving poverty is a top priority for socially minded organizations. Providing people with opportunities to prosper has a ripple effect on other injustices. When struggling communities have more access to financial resources, they can better counter issues with education, infrastructure, nutrition, and shelter at both a grassroots and systemic level. Assisting even one person in launching a thriving business can bring significant benefits to their local community, from new employment opportunities to growth in goods and services.

That’s why TechnoServe, a global nonprofit organization, uses the private sector’s potential to empower people and their communities. The size of TechnoServe’s challenge cannot be underestimated. Around 700 million people — 10% of the global population — still struggle with poverty. TechnoServe tackles poverty-related problems with business solutions in nearly 30 countries worldwide. And through Okta for Good’s Innovation Lab, the organization is exploring how a scalable Identity solution can help.

Understanding the role of micro-retailers

One of the best ways to alleviate poverty through business opportunities is by supporting the world’s micro-retailers. These exist throughout emerging nations, supplying much-needed goods to underserved communities. They’re particularly vital in areas across Sub-Saharan Africa, where they’re responsible for up to 90% of employment. It’s estimated that micro-retailers move up to $11 trillion in products annually, and TechnoServe has supported more than 8,000 of these businesses.

Margaret Wanjiru

TechnoServe is a global nonprofit organization that uses private-sector solutions to combat poverty.

Nowhere is this more evident than Kenya, where a type of micro-retailer known as a “duka” — which means “shop” in Swahili — accounts for the vast majority of retail sales. Around 95% of Kenyan people rely on dukas for their daily shopping, and these stores are the primary retail outlet for many people who can’t access larger shops. In Nairobi alone, more than 80% of consumer products are sold in dukas.

Empowering duka owners with better business tools and practices can significantly benefit the communities around them. Approximately 70% of Kenyan duka owners are women and 60% are young people, while 86% have secondary or tertiary education. These shop owners are educated young people keen to reinvest in their communities, so increasing their prosperity and business acumen can positively impact Kenya as a whole.

Addressing duka owners’ digital challenges

Despite this potential, Kenyan duka owners typically lack access to digital solutions that could help them build and grow their businesses. For instance, one study found duka owners are interested in business training, but only 15% have received it. As a result, most miss out on the opportunity to build vital skills like recordkeeping, inventory management, merchandising, promotion, and customer service.

Alice Waweru

Okta is contributing to TechnoServe’s work on Duka One-Click, an app ecosystem that centralizes access to business tools and training for vital but under-resourced micro-retailers in Kenya.

TechnoServe is addressing these challenges with its Smart Duka initiative, which aims to provide duka owners with the business skills they need to enhance their network and supply chain. This is the focus of the organization’s work within the Innovation Lab, with an app ecosystem called Duka One-Click that offers centralized access to the apps they need to securely grow their business. 

The process begins with educating technology vendors about the concept of micro-retailers to help them understand the value proposition. Since TechnoServe joined the Innovation Lab, 39 app vendors have joined the project and another 17 partners have made initial commitments. These partners provide apps for a range of services including communication, eCommerce, finance, insurance, health, point-of-sale systems, supply chain, and training.

Adopting an Identity approach

Apps can deliver significant change for small businesses in emerging communities. New technologies can transform business capabilities, financial management, and supply chain logistics, while providing new insights into business strategies and best practices. For example, holistic and centralized business apps are vital in TechnoServe’s mission to educate and empower duka owners and entrepreneurs. 

This is where Okta’s Identity-based solutions come in. For example:

  • Single Sign-On (SSO): SSO helps TechnoServe create a streamlined and consolidated dashboard of critical apps, ensuring secure access and removing login frustrations. SSO is a new concept for many African software companies, and their first attempt at integrating the technology is often through Okta. 
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA introduces an additional layer of security to help micro-retailers protect themselves and their customers from the business risks of security breaches.
  • Lifecycle Management (LCM): LCM allows for automated onboarding and offboarding of users. It also helps to establish a business ecosystem in which dukas can more effectively and seamlessly collaborate with partners, vendors, and suppliers.

Innovating to end poverty

These Identity-based solutions are a crucial part of TechnoServe’s mission to give people in low-income communities the opportunity to prosper. A cloud-based identity solution will allow them to scale their program, and moving forward, the micro-retailer platform will continue to expand, mature, and evolve, helping TechnoServe change the lives of even more small business owners and their communities worldwide.

See TechnoServe’s progress with the Innovation Lab by the numbers.

Discover how Okta’s Innovation Lab is helping companies like TechnoServe fight poverty and other critical global issues with innovative technology solutions.