Ebrima Fatty: Bringing Transformation to the African Retail Sector
The 10 Most Impactful Leaders Driving Change in Business, 2022
Ebrima Fatty, tech enthusiast and the founder and CEO of Africasokoni, is firm believer in the mantra that Growth and comfort do not co-exist. He says, “To make a meaningful impact in life you must get out of your comfort zone, and the more you remain in your discomfort zone the more your comfort zone expand.”
Throughout his business career, Ebrima learned that one must first and foremost, and passionately, believe in one’s vision and ideas before others will. He opines, “You must be prepared to accept that a lot will not believe. However, it is important that you become the first “salesperson” of your ideas especially to your team, because you must have the full backing of your team to survive the journey.”
Ebrima’s responsibilities as Founder and CEO are in strategy formulation, Fund raising, building a motivated, high performing, and cohesive team, and giving general direction and guidance. He states, “We have a very solid team at AfricaSokoni, with a COO and other management team who take care of operational, product development and technology, financial management, sales and marketing, human resources, and other functions within the company.”
AfricaSokoni is an African brand with the aim of being a top e-commerce firm in every part of the continent. Through technology, the firm is assisting African manufacturers, producers, merchants, distributors, and consumers in making the shift from costly, inefficient, and stressful physical commerce to the more convenient, inexpensive, efficient, and stress-free virtual marketplace. It aims to create a continent where most trade is done digitally.
The organization assists African Businesses (B2B Merchants and Retailers) in connecting by managing and digitizing their supply chain. Consider a B2B Merchant and retailer on the other side of the nation. To replenish, for example, the retailer must go to the source of supply, incur expenses in the process, spend days locating the correct items, incur further costs in the process, and physically convey the goods back, among other things. AfricaSokoni spares the parties all of this effort by completing all of this within a digital supply chain. In addition, the team helps merchants in Africa’s informal sector migrate from selling locally to selling globally. “We expand the reach of African producers, merchants etc. beyond their locality to the rest of the world,” says Ebrima.
AfricaSokoni helps finance merchants’ activities to ensure an undisrupted supply chain and helps to bring shopping to the doorsteps of the African consumer. The company is finalizing the introduction of the “Alternative shopping” (Group, Agency, and Peer Shopping) concept for our customers to mimic the socialization aspect of shopping.
Ebrima opines, “We are headquartered in Kenya with an eye on the rest of Africa.”
Before Stepping as a Leader
Ebrima worked in the corporate world for more than a decade, starting in the audit and consulting space in one of the big four Audit brands. Then he moved into the development banking industry. Before his foray into the technology space, he was a core accounting and finance person. He says, “It was my transition from finance to the Information Technology space during my development banking career that marked the beginning of putting my long-held passion for entrepreneurship in effect.”
A Brand identified with Innovation
Ebrima states, “My entrepreneurial journey has been both challenging and rewarding so far.” Ebrima and the team’s efforts yielded fruit with AfricaSokoni winning the “Best e-commerce marketplace” award in the Kenyan eCommerce Award 2021.
AfricaSokoni’s contribution to the industry is to provide a reliable and convenient technological platform on both the supply and demand sides of the market, in order to make the retail supply chain more efficient, cost-effective, and stress-free. The organisation ensures that business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions take place in an efficient, convenient, less expensive, and stress-free environment. In doing so, the team, in collaboration with African merchants and consumers, is playing a critical role in the transition of retail from the physical to the virtual marketplace.
One of AfricaSokoni’s team’s proudest achievements is the employment of local African talent to consistently produce helpful, scalable technological solutions that bring new value to their clients and generate new customer bases. This has been one of their ways to stay ahead of the competition.
Every team or member of a team at AfricaSokoni is encouraged and supported to act on their ideas, and they are allowed to make errors as they test to identify what works and what does not. According to Ebrima, there can be no invention until there are mistakes and failures. Because every concept is essentially a hypothesis until it becomes a product (built, tested, and deployed), there should be a certain amount of tolerance for mistakes in order to foster an atmosphere where creativity thrives and exceptional products are delivered.
At AfricaSokoni, the team is motivated and breaking the boundaries of retail through continuous innovation across all its product verticals and looking at issues from different angles and through difference lenses, to discover fresh perspectives that were hitherto not considered. Ebrima opines, “It is worth mentioning that our team is made up of fully local talents, which off course translates to building capacity and employment.”
Creating Own Path for Success
Indeed, building a company and leading it to success is a difficult and risky road to traverse. It requires a very strong mental state, faith, unwavering courage, the impetuous and tenacity to take on risks; and to passionately believe and implement own vision, strategies, and plans. “It requires you to believe in yourself when no one does and believe in your vision and ideas when everyone doubts,” says Ebrima. He has always wanted to do something in his own little way to contribute to the wellbeing of humanity, and he is willing to make all the sacrifices and risks that go with such decisions.
Ebrima sees success may mean different things to different people. To him, he considers his actions, words, and ideas successful if it becomes beneficial to people. He asserts, “If someone’s life is made easier because of my actions, words, and ideas, to me that is success.”
He further adds, “In the context of what we do at AfricaSokoni, if a customer from the comfort of his/her bedroom, Office, or farm was able to shop and get the item delivered swiftly without physically moving, (and the stress associating with that) because of some form of contribution from me, that to me is success; just as I will consider a success if a retailer sitting in one end of the country is able to restock his inventory without the stress of physical mobility, because he is enabled by the convenience of a digitized supply chain, with even a small contribution from me.”
Balance in Personal and Professional Life
One of the most difficult components of Ebrima’s entrepreneurial path is balancing his personal and business lives. He claims that prior to this point in his life, he was able to keep a decent balance between his personal and professional lives. However, after venturing into entrepreneurship and embarking on the adventure of developing AfricaSokoni with his team, this has proven elusive.
Ebrima makes every effort to re-establish personal and professional life balance, particularly as it relates to his family. At AfricaSokoni, the staff stays motivated by doing things that they are passionate about and that offer value to the company’s clients, to the point that work becomes incredibly pleasant rather than punishing. The management also fosters a culture of outstanding team spirit, underscored by a high degree of politeness, reminiscent of a pleasant family situation. The team is also encouraged to experiment with and apply their ideas, as well as to make errors and be acknowledged for their efforts.
Vision for Upcoming Years
Ebrima figured retail affects all strata of the society, from the poor to the rich, old and young, the able and the disable, and across gender. There are very few things one can get into that impacts every sector of the society like trade. The team’s aim at AfricaSokni is to redefine retail in Africa by empowering the players through technology. He states, “We also take it as our mission, to empower the informal sector across Africa, because this sector has the single largest impact on individuals, families and the society. We believe that this sector is the engine for growth for Africa’s economy.”
AfricaSokoni is an African brand, and its plan is to be present in every corner of the continent, as it continues to build and innovate for and on behalf of its customers. Ebrima and his team’s goals are to build another African Unicorn out of AfricaSokoni before the end of this decade, while keeping to the company’s core values.
Be Prepared and Be Confident
Building a company is a marathon and not a sprint. Ebrima’s advice for aspiring leaders, one must be prepared to make great personal sacrifices and be prepared for a long haul to bring his or her ideas into fruition. As the African proverb goes, “He who must grow big teeth must be prepared and ready to grow big lips to cover them.” Ebrima believes that the journey can be a lonely one and requires great belief in oneself and one’s own ideas to survive it. He says, “You cannot do it all by yourself. Therefore, you must build a cohesive, high performing, and motivated team to be successful.”