Zimbabwe’s Figjam – creating supply chain visibility in informal trade

In African markets, supply chain visibility remains a big challenge. A CIPS survey highlighted that 65% of South African companies lack supply chain visibility — even in Africa’s most sophisticated retail market. 

One can define visibility as the process where customers know exactly the location of a product in the supply chain, or when an action takes place — such as making a sales order.

In the consumer packaged goods industry, Africa’s fragmented retail market and poor connectivity provide challenges. The technology infrastructure is sometimes limited and often paper coexists with technology — leaving organisations in the dark. 

However, increased internet penetration and cheaper smartphone technology are changing the business landscape. Where in the past it was often too expensive to provide a salesman with a smartphone and internet connectivity in the traditional trade, a growing number of companies are using smartphones for sales automation. 

Smartphone apps can provide real-time visibility, including tracking orders and shipping products. Phone cameras can capture sales execution standards and determine visible share of inventory.  This can create visibility in even the smallest retail outlet in Africa.

Zimbabwe-based Figjam is one company looking to improve supply chain connectivity in Africa. The startup’s Android app automates sales tasks and provides management teams with real-time order and inventory information. The app captures photos, allowing management to measure merchandising standards and promotion activities across the retail landscape. 

Co-founded by David Boaler and Winston Taylor, FigJam allows managers to discard the old pen and paper methods — creating visibility within Africa’s fragmented retail market. Management receives real-time data from sales teams — helping them to make better business decisions based on data. 

The on-the-go data collection takes the guesswork out of the operation — preventing out of stocks and enabling management to identify outlets which need service adjustments. The app plays an important part in managing logistics activities and ensuring on-time deliveries.

Figjam also provides offline functionality, as it operates across Zimbabwe and has to navigate poor and unreliable internet connectivity. The startup is working with some of Zimbabwe’s biggest fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCG) and distributors, and has expanded to Zambia, Kenya and South Africa. 

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