Lack of efficient connections is one of the most difficult challenges experienced by regional economies in Africa. In Nigeria, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product, and they employ more than 80 percent of the workforce; however, their financial output pales in comparison to industrialized nations. One of the problems in this regard is that many African SMEs are not able to venture beyond their immediate local markets.
A micro business that sharpens knives, scissors and blades in Lagos will likely derive all of its business from one or two neighborhoods. This sharpening enterprise may grow along with the demographics of the community, but sticking to this limited market may not be sustainable in the long run, and it will only provide a small contribution to GDP. This is a business that could greatly benefit from expanding to other areas of Lagos and even to other states such as Accra and Rivers; this is an important aspect of vision presented by VConnect.
Deepankar Rustagi, co-founder and CEO of VConnect, believes that SMEs are like seeds that can grow and bloom for the benefit of the African economy. In 2017, VConnect was nominated to the AppsAfrica.com Mobile Commerce Award; this smartphone app allows SMEs in Nigeria to offer their goods and services to consumers and other SMEs. VConnect users simply enter their needs on the app interface to receive up to five quotes from SMEs that can meet their needs; in this fashion, users can compare prices and offers, and in some cases will also enjoy a guarantee.
One of the goals of VConnect is to allow business owners to specialize instead of trying to become jacks of all trades and masters of none; this is a problem that often occurs in Nigeria when business is slow, and it undermines consumer trust. With VConnect acting as a network, a wedding planner does not have to try her inexperienced hand at catering if she is not making sales; instead, she can contact a caterer and establish a new partnership. Payments are handled within the network by means of MasterCard, Visa and Verve; furthermore, VConnect also offers transportation of goods and other logistics via third-party services.
Nigeria is one of many African countries with record rates of smartphone adoption; this makes it an ideal market for networks such as VConnect. The icing on the cake is that business discovery networks promote economic expansion for SMEs, which translates into a more robust middle class. With SMEs already contributing significantly to GDP and employment, it only makes sense to empower them with more sensible solutions such as those that are already being provided by VConnect.