Self Help Africa subsidiaries

Self Help Africa's social enterprise subsidiary TruTrade supports farmers to unlock profitable new markets where they can sell their produce. Partner Africa provides a range of consultancy, ethical auditing and business advisory services that strengthen businesses along a range of agri-business and manufacturing value chains.

Partner Africa

the Pandemic hits African businesses

The Covid-19 pandemic  had a profound and  disrupting effect on  business across the  globe, and the African  continent was no exception. 

In response to the pandemic, Self Help Africa’s social enterprise subsidiary  Partner Africa, in collaboration with  digital insight agency &Wider, conducted an extensive study of the real  impact of the pandemic for companies  and their workers. In collaboration  with retail and industry partners, and  working with six multinational brands,  suppliers in agriculture, floriculture,  textiles and waste management were  surveyed to produce a detailed analysis  of the impact of Covid-19 on business  operations and employees. 

Using &Wider’s automated mobile  calls service and other data sources,  the report ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on  Suppliers and their Workers in Africa’  sourced information from nearly 7,500  workers and close to 300 managers at  businesses from Morocco, Egypt and  Ethiopia to Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe,  Ghana and South Africa between June  and December 2020. 

The survey found that the pandemic  had put new strains on business  practices and cash flows. Suppliers  suffered price hikes for raw materials, experienced late payments, reduced  purchases and cancelled orders. Trans port and air freight costs increased and  costs rose from a host of new activities  and requirements including additional  transportation and social distancing -  both for employees travelling to work  and in the workplace. 

New pressures impacted on work ers too, with a large proportion of  respondents reporting that their terms  of employment, salaries and holiday  entitlements had changed, while late  payment of wages and lay-offs also  occurred across different sectors during  the pandemic. Many workers said  that they were working harder while  household income had declined. The  pandemic had created significant strain  on workers both in terms of financial  and food security, and in workplace  pressures and workload, the report  noted. 

Half of all businesses reported lower  production levels, both as a result of  increasing costs, shortages of stock,  job losses, logistical delays and inflated prices. 

Most suppliers had adapted well to  new hygiene requirements, however,  and businesses reported relative ease  in affording and securing personal  protective equipment (PPE) for workers. Most of those surveyed were not  forced to close their businesses due to  outbreaks of Covid-19. Neither had they  suffered extensive absenteeism during  the pandemic. 

The report noted that Covid-19 brought  about rapid change in business operations, and in some instances accelerated pre-pandemic trend forecasts,  including the importance of embedding  human rights due diligence frameworks  within new ways of working.  

Businesses should ensure that their  Covid-19 responses link up to existing  due diligence policies and processes;  including grievance mechanisms,  whistle blowing channels and worker  representative structures the report  concluded.

Many workers said that they were working harder
while household income had declined


Using digital platforms to pay farmers meant that TruTrade was well positioned when Covid-19 restricted conventional market interactions.

While the pandemic caused widespread disruption to agri-business in both Uganda and Kenya, TruTrade’s two primary markets, its mobile trading and payment platforms still supported thousands of smallholder farmers to access new markets and earn an income from their produce during the year. 

Nonetheless, it was still an extremely challenging year. Interruptions to supply chains and changing consumer spending habits, hit TruTrade’s business model, growth targets and profitability. 

Talking to TruTrade’s farmers 

To learn more and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by farmers, an insight into impact survey was carried out late in 2020 amongst over 250 TruTrade client farmers in Kenya. 

It found that while most respondents remained deeply concerned by coronavirus, farmers were still hopeful and optimistic for the immediate future. 62% of those surveyed reported being ‘very confident’ and a further 34% ‘slightly confident’ that they would fare well over the coming months.

The survey also highlighted the value of TruTrade for farmers, in providing a unique service in an under-served market. Indeed, 85% of farmers who were surveyed said that they were accessing markets through TruTrade’s digital platforms for the very first time. 

40% of farmers reported that their lives had ‘very much improved’ as a result of selling with TruTrade, 45% said that there had been substantial increases to their incomes, while a further 43% said that there had been a moderate increase in what they had earned. 

In the midst of the pandemic, the survey also highlighted opportunities for TruTrade to help, with farmers identifying how the service could assist in providing access to inputs, cash and access to markets, as well as information on crop buyers and prices. 

In 2021, TruTrade aims to scale-up its sourcing capacity, deepen community reach, improve impact at the farm gate, and strengthen its operation to ensure its long-term commercial viability. 

40% of farmers reported that their lives had improved very much as a result of selling with TruTrade