The ‘brain drain’ has come to have a strong attachment to abandonment, but in a continent with an enticingly growing economy and such a strong sense of community, it seems that Africa is in fact about to benefit in the greatest way from the exploration of its diaspora. Bertha Mleke is a PHD candidate at Zhejiang University in China and whilst being located in one of the biggest tech-ecosystems in the world, she saw this as an opportunity to develop an e-commerce business operating not only in her home country of Tanzania but in the neighbouring states of Uganda and Kenya as well.
Bertha holds a Masters degree in Swahili, is studying a PhD in Comparative Education, and although she had a business background in manufacturing and selling spices back in Tanzania, the world of e-commerce and IT was fairly new to her when she first moved to China. She used this as an opportunity to network and learn, teaming up with fellow Tanzanian and Masters candidate in Computer Science, Costantine Paschal, who then built the entire interface of the platform.
Together, they set out to capitalize on the advantage of location, resources, technology and an understanding of African needs to create a unique e-commerce platform that aims to provide quality, affordable and customized shopping services for the East African community.
Unlike any platform in existence today, the entire BeroGenge online shopping platform is in the local language of Swahili and uses an integrated mobile payment system to make it accessible and easy for buyers to make payment. In emerging economies dealing mostly in cash, establishing a cross border payment system has posed a huge challenge to online shopping platforms in the past. Through BeroGenge, not only are global goods easily available to order and sell in a language that is understandable for the local majority, the mobile phone payment system is also operational in all the three countries. With the issues of accessibility through language and payment systems resolved, Bertha expresses bigger plans in future to incorporate Blockchain technology payment systems, Firstly, to expand to more African countries and secondly, as a means to also get African products to the rest of the world.
The BeroGenge platform was launched officially in December 2018 and has grown a huge market in East Africa with orders ranging from low income private sellers and retail business to large scale wholesalers. Its innovation has already received recognition through awards and investment winning the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition for Overseas Students in Zhejiang Province and the Priority Guidance Project Award. With the help and backing of their University, they have also secured two investors which is an encouraging step in enabling the entrepreneurs to bring solutions back to the African economy.
When asked what are the values that underpin why she does business, she answers: ‘Majority of my customers are women’ – speaking of the hundreds of local women she has mobilized into Whatsapp groups. ‘Now they can order and sell goods and are empowered to move from a physical market and expand to online participation’.
Less than two years since her move, Bertha has impacted hundreds of lives starting from a vision that she perhaps had to leave the continent to see and execute more clearly: perspective, innovation, exposure and entrepreneurship are all aspects collectively contributing to the African economic patrimony.
To hear the rest of Bertha Mleke’s story, insights and journey, click on the link for the full podcast. To get in contact and find out more on BeroGenge visit www.berogenge.com.