Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Innovation Hub

Hot startup of the month: Nigeria's Tech Herfrica

Article Image

Tech Herfrica was born against the backdrop of a visit to an informal trader in rural Nigeria, following a conversation on how difficult trading was and how much better it could be if digital literacy was utilized.

"In January 2023, while passing a village in Nigeria, I stopped to buy food items from a woman along the road. I was surprised that buying items worth around US$100 led the lady to burst into tears. According to her, she has never sold that much to a single customer," explained Tech Herfrica Founder Imade Bibowei-Osuobeni, in an interview with Connecting Africa.

Bibowei-Osuobeni said she was shocked because the items she bought could have cost her three times more in the city where she lived.

"So, in trying to understand the outburst and the problem, I asked her a couple of questions and I discovered that although she had a mobile phone and despite the relatively strong Internet connectivity in her village, she didn't own a smartphone – even if she owned one, she lacked the skills to use it effectively. She also had no idea about the benefits of e-commerce and how this could be a game changer for her business," Bibowei-Osuobeni continued.

Tech Herfrica's genesis

With everything in the world moving digitally, digital literacy is vital for fostering economic opportunities across the continent. However, the digital divide, plus the gender gap, especially in e-commerce, has negatively impacted rural women.

To remedy that situation, Bibowei-Osuobeni created Tech Herfrica which facilitates trade using WhatsApp from Tech Herfrica's end and text messages on the trader's end.

"In a couple of weeks, we had facilitated millions of naira in trade for her, helping her boost her income. With this new income level, she was able to purchase a smartphone," she said.

Bibowei-Osuobeni said after that experience, the company refined its whole approach to be holistic, covering key elements of digital and financial inclusion, birthing Tech Herfrica and HerLocal Market.

"Tech Herfrica is a social impact organization that is striving to ensure that rural women acquire digital and financial literacy, have access to smartphones, access to financial services and digital resources that they need to trade online, to improve their income by at least 50%," the Tech Herfrica founder explained.

Tech Herfrica facilitates trade using WhatsApp from its end and text messages from the trader's end. It is also striving to ensure that rural women acquire digital and financial literacy, and have access to smartphones.   (Source: Tech Herfrica)
Tech Herfrica facilitates trade using WhatsApp from its end and text messages from the trader's end. It is also striving to ensure that rural women acquire digital and financial literacy, and have access to smartphones.
(Source: Tech Herfrica)

A key part of Tech Herfica's work is its e-commerce solution, HerLocal Market, which connects rural female farmers and traders to buyers outside their local communities.

She added that with the solution, wholesale and retail buyers get access to food items at the best prices, while rural women earn competitive prices for their products.

"Although we are in the beta testing phase of the e-commerce web applications, sales are being facilitated using WhatsApp and social media," she continued.

In addition, Tech Herfrica conducts digital and financial literacy training in local languages, and the courses have been digitized in languages like Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and pidgin English, which are pre-installed on the women's mobile devices.

The company has trained more than 500 women across the West African country.

"That supports our physical approach to training, ensuring that it reinforces their digital and financial skills, learning how to use smartphone voice features, applications like WhatsApp business and Facebook groups, banking applications, and keeping simple business records," she explained.

In a short time, Tech Herfrica was selected from more than 300 organizations to participate in the Chat for Women's Livelihood (CWL) Accelerator, led by with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Guided by the team at, the 18-month CWL Accelerator will enable Tech Herfica to design and develop an impactful chat service on WhatsApp that will enhance online trading for target beneficiaries," she explained.

Nigerian regulatory pitfalls

Bibowei-Osuobeni explained that because the women the company was helping lived in abject poverty, she could not envisage a situation where they could afford to pay to acquire digital and financial skills or even a smartphone.

"However, with the e-commerce solution came the need for those women to earn income, to keep the impact sustainable and facilitate trade, considering the capital-intensive nature of e-commerce," she said.

"We needed to register HerLocal Market as a business and find a way to put governance around it so that we could have investors work with us to build the model," she explained.

She said that was a bit challenging because currently in Nigeria, there is no classification for registration as a social enterprise.

"It's either a company is for profit or a not for profit; although we have resolved this dynamic, it was a challenge for us initially," she explained.

She highlighted that Nigeria's regulatory environment is not particularly friendly to e-commerce businesses, particularly small startups with limited resources. Furthermore, she believes compliance with complex regulatory requirements requires significant time, effort and investment.

Funding and expansion plans

According to Bibowei-Osuobeni, Tech Herfrica is currently funded by partners, sponsors and donors.

"On the other hand, HerLocal Market we have been bootstrapping since inception and currently manage operations through income generated from commission on sales," she said.

She said the company has been speaking to other investors and believes negotiations are at an advanced stage.

Tech Herfrica aspires to improve the digital and financial literacy of 10 million women and girls by 2030.

Want to know more? Sign up to get the weekly Connecting Africa newsletter direct to your inbox.

"It looks like a huge stretch, but we are actively working toward our goals. Moreover, HerLocal Market services five states in Nigeria and we plan to consolidate our presence in the states we currently serve, expand to new states, and significantly improve our customer base," she continued.

"We want to continue targeting more wholesale buyers and onboard more rural farmers and traders on our platform. With our current work with, there is some light at the end of the tunnel," she concluded.

Related posts:

*Top image is of Tech Herfrica staff members with some of the rural women they have been helping. (Source: Tech Herfrica.)

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Four agritech startups to watch in 2024

Connecting Africa has compiled a list of four agritech startups that are making a difference in the communities they serve.


Paymentology looks to strengthen its African roots

Global issuer-processor Paymentology's CEO Jeff Parker spoke to Connecting Africa about the company's African roots and aspirations to work with more banks, fintechs and enterprises both on the continent and globally.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Africa Tech Perspectives


Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.


The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2024

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in February 2024 in the Middle East and Africa included 5G launches in Senegal and 5G trials in Egypt as well as Kenya's first 5G MVNO. Airtel also launched a new wholesale connectivity business while MTN and Huawei are planning a joint Innovation Technology Lab in South Africa – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: January 2024

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in January 2024 in the Middle East and Africa included a $200 million fintech deal between MTN and Mastercard as well as 5G network trials by Telecom Egypt – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up
Tag id test-002