Uju Uzo-Ojinnaka is the founder and CEO of Traders of Africa, an online marketplace that connects African buyers and sellers of agricultural commodities.
After losing a business deal to export 20 containers of groundnut to an Indian merchant, Uju founded Traders of Africa. Despite losing the deal, she saw a business opportunity to make it easier for people to buy commodities in Africa.
She persuaded one of the faculty members at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Zurich, Switzerland, where she was a student, Dr Pedro Nueno, to invest in her business plan.
“He invested when we were about to launch the business in August 2017, and we started in September with 9,000 suppliers sourced from five African countries. The main initial goods were agricultural items,” she told howwemadeitinafrica.
When Traders of Africa first opened its doors in Nigeria, Uju and her team encountered supply chain issues. To address this issue, she established a platform for training small farmers and traders on how to increase production and trade in commercial quantities. The move was also intended to ensure that there were traders and suppliers available to feed raw materials into the platform.
“We introduce selected trainees into the academy where they are mentored on how to source products. This method has become our inroad into different countries through various partnerships,” she noted.
Today, the platform has up to 18,000 suppliers from Africa and some 485 products. According to Howwemadeitinafrica, the company has an annual revenue of $4.8 million.
Uju began Traders of Africa in Nigeria and has since expanded to other African countries such as Benin, Togo, Cameroon, and Mali. She plans to visit Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania in the near future. She began by traveling from Lagos, Nigeria, to Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ghana to hire merchant acquisition directors who would source and onboard suppliers.
Traders of Africa began as an agro-commodities trading platform but has since expanded to include fashion accessories, minerals and metals, food and beverages, beauty products, packaging, construction materials, and furniture.
Uju and her team are not resting on the success recorded so far. They want to expand into at least 10 African markets and also increase their annual revenue.
“We want to be the Alibaba of Africa…At maturity, Traders of Africa should be able to generate $20 million monthly, which is part of our growth plan.”