Mama Mbogas feed Nairobi local, fresh food ordered with a SokoText SMS

SokoText is an SMS based system that allows grocery stall owners in Nairobi’s slums to pre-order their products directly from local farmers. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou.

In the slums of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi nearly all fresh products are sold in little kiosks run by women vendors known as “Mama Mbogas”, of which there are over 80,000 in this city alone.


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Mathare, for example, is the second biggest slum in the city, housing over 500,000 people. As the city market is far from the settlement, Mama Mbogas have to wake up as early as 4 in the morning and drive for 3 hours to get the daily stock of fresh products they need to sell in their kiosks. This is a waste of time and money: 10% of daily revenue is spent on transport alone.


Also, the quality of the products they buy isn’t the highest as before reaching the city market these go through many people’s hands.



SokoText offers a solution. Through a simple text message Mama Mbogas can pre-order fresh products directly from local farmers.


There are four steps in the process. Every evening, Mama Mbogas message the SokoText team telling them what fresh products they need the following day. SokoText then aggregates all the individual requests, turning them into one large order. With that, the team visits local farmers around Nairobi to buy the fresh produce directly. They then bring it back to collection centres in the neighbourhoods where Mama Mbogas are based.


By 9 in the morning, Mama Mbogas can pay for and collect their orders at the local collection centres located 5 to 10 minutes walk away, saving time and money compared to buying products from the city market.


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So far, SokoText works with 65 Mama Mbogas who order fresh products on a daily basis, as well as 18 local farmers. Large orders mean they’re able to buy in bulk straight from the farmers. Given that all products are transported together the transportation costs are very low. This gives them a margin of around 30%, which is spent on sustaining operations.


In the future, SokoText wants to partner with micro credit organisations to help Mama Mbogas grow their businesses. It also wants to introduce innovative products to Nairobi’s residents, such as water purifiers and solar lamps, through the wide network of Mama Mbogas.


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Relying on the vast and capillary diffusion of mobile phones in Africa, referred to as the continent’s mobile revolution, SokoText facilitates the work of Nairobi’s local vendors. Yet another project demonstrating that Africa is a continent of innovation: let’s spread the word through #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, the hashtag created by young Africans to celebrate the continent’s creativity.

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