Profit-making idea: Converting street hawkers into powerful marketing activators

Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital Abidjan.

Profit-making idea is a series of short posts, each with a piece of information that we think you might find useful: for investment, for growing your company or to start a new business. Read our previous posts here.

How we made it in Africa asked Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons, founder and president of mPedigree, to identify one untapped business opportunity in Africa. Here was his response.

“Someone has to build a solution that turns hawkers into a far more productive activation force for businesses. Such a solution shall blend micro-incentives, biometrics, peer-to-peer meshes and similar tools to create a much more generalised agency platform, than is the case with the various [multi-level marketing] schemes milling about in urban Africa.

“Make no mistake about it, a lot of African business models simply can’t scale without boots on the ground. Building large teams of door-to-door activators is tough, expensive and … frustrating. Few companies can pay well, leading to shirking and general effort-avoidance.

“The best way out is for companies to share the costs and risks by using an organically formed network of micro-entrepreneurs hardened by experience and relatively skilled in customer interfacing. Converting the teeming hawkers on the streets of Accra, Nairobi and Lagos into powerful brigades of marketing activators can seriously disrupt many industries, [including] banking, private health/education, hospitality, insurance [and so forth] that are currently struggling for their next infusion of animal spirits.”