BrownSense founder Mzuzukile Soni speaks at the launch of BrownSense.Africa. Photo: Supplied
BrownSense founder Mzuzukile Soni speaks at the launch of BrownSense.Africa. Photo: Supplied

BrownSense launches e-commerce platform to boost trade among black businesses

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Nov 20, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - BrownSense has launched an e-commerce and procurement platform aimed at giving local black-owned businesses access to markets beyond South Africa.

The pan-African marketplace where black business operators and consumers go to support each other says it wants to put “buying black” at the centre of economic development agenda.

Speaking at the official launch of BrownSense.Africa on Thursday night in Johannesburg, BrownSense founder Mzuzukile Soni punted collaborations as the most important factor for black businesses to support each other.

Soni said it was time that black-owned enterprises started taking space in the value-chain of their businesses, and the easiest way to do that was to work in concert.

“The biggest thing from BrownSense’s perspective in terms of what creates traction has always been collaborations that make sense. This is what it will take for us to move forward,” Soni said.

BrownSense, which started as a Facebook page in 2016 with more than 197 000 members now, has collaborated with a Sandton-based, black-women owned tech company, ICT Works, to develop this online market space.

Businesses wishing to trade their products on BrownSense.Africa will only pay R320 vendor membership fee per month, and an annual R200 annual vetting fee.

Currently, BrownSense.Africa has goods ranging from craft beers, African herbal teas, pickled food and health products, all made in South Africa by black-owned companies.

The platform has partnered with other industry players, including Consumer Good Council of South Africa (CGCSA) and the Ecommerce Forum South Africa (EFSA) to ensure the credibility of the products.

BrownSense.Africa is also a member of the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGCSO), giving it access to lobbying for causes that are important to black businesses.

BrownSense.Africa chief executive Keitumetse Diseko said they wanted to boost intra-African trade penetration which remains historically low due to exports African countries.

Diseko said BrownSense.Africa was providing end-to-end solutions through its local tech-enabled warehousing partners, logistics, packaging network, and payment solutions.

“In building the BrownSense.Africa platform, we sought to provide entrepreneurs at all levels with the tools and ecosystem to enable them to scale their business through access to diverse markets domestically, and through the facilitation of trade across the continent,” she said.

e-commerce penetration on the continent is also estimated to be a very low 1 percent of the total retail market due to a lack of infrastructure, traditionally expensive intra-African travel costs and expensive data costs.

ICT Works co-owner Maggy Sibiya said BrownSense.Africa was run on America’s tech giant Amazon’s cloud technology, which is the same platform that also runs Netflix.

“We have taken all the excellence of all that we know about technology to make sure that we build a platform that does not run out of space,” Sibiya said.


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