What is the social problem they are targeting?
While he was searching for a way to sell social innovation goods in the disadvantaged
neighbourhoods of Cape Town, Arnaud realized on the field the significance and inefficiency of the informal market in those areas.
Indeed, to address Cape Town’s food insecurity, we must be aware of the importance of the informal food sector in the city that “originally emerged to counter the inequalities enforced by apartheid”. The 2008 African Food Security Urban Network
baseline survey of Cape Town analysed by Battersby, showed that the informal food sector is an important mean to access food. There are currently around 130 000 informal grocery stores that are called “spaza shops” spread around South Africa, and they generate 3-billion-rand worth of turnover.
This sector is growing faster than the formal retail: they grow 7% per year, compared to 4% for the formal retail. The spaza shops are mostly owned by marginalised people – in Cape Town there is an important community of Somali refugees that own these shops – who sell in average to 350 low- income clients. However, the above-mentioned spaza shops are extremely inefficient because they have a lack of access to affordable stock.
What solution do they provide?
In this manner Arnaud saw an opportunity in 2017 to switch his social innovation goods’ business into Shopit in order to address this social need.
“Shopit is a mobile app that allows the Spaza shops owners to compare prices of the stock at the different wholesalers around them, order all their stocks directly from their phones and get it delivered to their doorstep.” (Arnaud, founder of Shopit)
The Shopit team communicate all the specials of the wholesalers through their Facebook and Whatsapp groups to the spaza shop owners and by this mean they save them time and around 10% of the cost of their stock.
What are their current and potential social impacts?
Battersby argues that “urban food insecurity is a manifestation of market failures in the
formal and informal food markets, and of the persistent disconnect between these two sectors or the urban food system.”. In fact, the informal and the formal sectors are connected and some times rely on one another, and this link exists at all stages of the food system.
Shopit, as we can understand, creates a sustainable link between the informal retail and the formal one and that is why we can argue that he is contributing to improve the urban food insecurity: by rectifying the market failures in the formal and informal food markets; by improving the profits and livelihoods of the spaza shop owners; and in the future by contributing to reduce the spaza shop prices and providing them with social innovation goods that will increase the low-income household’s quality of living.
One of the spaza shop owners that use Shopit
Furthermore, no institution is in charge of monitoring the Capetonian food system as there is no food governance mandate. Therefore, “data is not uniformly recorded or readily available” to implement a food system governance and solutions, and to control the private stakeholders. Even if Shopit is a private initiative and there is an urgent necessity to a public collection of data, Shopit have a network of 2 000 sources and collects data through the app. This data is therefore interesting in two ways: first, Shopit also proposes to assist companies to get access to the informal markets allowing a better connection between the informal and the formal retail; second, it could also be interesting for government stakeholders in order to implement suitable policies in the food system.