Africa 118: empowering small businesses in Ethiopia to be discovered online

Innovation Fund Winner

Enhancing an innovative MSME Digital Presence Pack (DPP) in Ethiopia to add value for small businesses

Why this program?

  • Less than 10% of Ethiopian MSMEs have a digital presence, well below the country's 41% mobile penetration and 19% internet penetration rates. 
  • This puts Ethiopian MSEs at a significant competitive disadvantage, particularly as they try to access global markets.

Program overview

In 2021, Africa 118 launched an innovative MSME Digital Presence Pack (DPP) in Ethiopia with UK Aid and GSMA support. This included; a high-quality digital presence on Google Maps: geolocation, contact information, opening hours, a simple one-page website, eCommerce Mobile Payment Integration, monthly business analytics reports and digital skills training. Almost 2k MSMEs were enrolled, over 14k leads generated and $830k of income was made by these firms. Through this program, Africa 118 now wants to introduce enhanced DPP features that will add value and accelerate its adoption in Ethiopia. This includes:

  1. Social Media Integration: The Digital Presence Pack currently only provides MSMEs visibility on Google platforms. Since over 20% of Internet users in Ethiopia are active on social media (6.35M Facebook Users in 2022) and the high usage of messaging applications such as Telegram and WhatsApp, ensuring MSMEs have accurate information on these platforms is critical to reach the maximum number of customers. New features include Business Listing on Facebook Local, WhatsApp, Telegram and a Customer Dashboard to synchronize business data, respond to customer requests and reviews, and monitor business data and customer insights.
  2. Launching a bundled offer with a Mobile Operator: Africa 118 has initiated positive initial discussions with a mobile operator in Ethiopia to bundle DPP with a mobile data package specifically targeting MSMEs. This bundle will provide MSMEs with an affordable bundle which combines internet connectivity with a digital presence.
  3. Launching the most comprehensive MSME Market Intelligence Database in Ethiopia: Africa 118 has built the most complete MSME database in Ethiopia. Leveraging the resources from the Strive Community Innovation Fund, Africa 118 proposes to expand this database from 300K to over 2M MSMEs (over 80% market coverage) and ensure these MSMEs are made visible to potential resource providers (e.g. telcos, fintechs, and development agencies)

About Africa 118

Africa 118 is a leading technology company providing digital marketing services for Small and Medium Enterprises in Africa. Acting as their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Africa 118 helps African SMEs get discovered.

With over 4500 customers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana, Africa 118 is the fastest growing digital marketing provider in East Africa. The company has also compiled the most complete and accurate African business database with over 5 million business listings.

As a featured Google Partner, Africa 118 has supported over 1 million businesses in Africa with a Google Business Profile to help enhance their digital visibility.

The Strive Innovation grant will help us to both enhance our Digital Presence Pack by providing MSEs with visibility on the most popular social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram. We will also use the funding from the grant to launch a bundled offer with a mobile operator and scale up our reach.

Ezana Raswork

Founder and Managing Director, Africa 118

Implementation partners

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