Yesterday, my company, Supermart.ng, Nigeria’s largest online supermarket and grocery delivery service, officially launched our “Proudly Nigerian” drive, with the goal of encouraging the purchase of local products by enabling customers to more easily identify local versus imported products. All locally produced products on Supermart.ng are now labeled with a “Proudly Nigerian” stamp, making it easier for customers to decide whether to spend their hard-earned Naira on local products or not.
We do not intend to force the choice; we are just making it easier for people to have access to information at the point of decision-making. We have been doing a test run over the last 2 months, and have seen a 32% increase in the proportion of local products purchased — an amazing result.
The reason we are now rolling it out fully is quite simple: we believe that for a lot of products, if customers know when they are making their purchasing decision that there is a local alternative which is good value for money, a significant percentage of customers will buy the locally-made one. Often-times, people don’t even know what is an imported product and what is a local product. We think this information needs to be available to customers.
So we decided to do something about it being the problem solvers that we are. We are uniquely placed to lead on this because with over 70,000 products for sale, we have the largest assortment of groceries and everyday essentials in Nigeria, having aggregated all the inventory of the leading supermarkets and local markets. So, by taking the lead on this initiative, we immediately created the largest database of inventory which is labelled as locally produced or not.
We also deliver all over Lagos, which means when customers make their purchasing decision, they need not go looking for that local product, they can buy it immediately on Supermart.ng to be delivered to them anywhere in Lagos; and finally, we are uniquely placed to do this because we are an online supermarket, which means every one, even non-customers, now has access to this information about which products are locally produced versus imported and can use it in their own way. After all, what is the essence of lighting a candle if you are going to hide it under a bucket?
What do we hope to get out of this? Well, beyond helping shoppers make informed decisions while shopping, we hope to alert people to gaps in the market — gaps that are currently being filled by imports. We, like all nations on earth, can’t be fully self-sufficient in what we consume but we can try to produce items where the raw materials can be found locally. Most often than not, the primary raw material needed is human beings — human labor, and that we have in abundance. The very nature of the Supermart.ng business makes us have unique access to retail data such as substitution and switching behavior among brands; we plan to share this data more to enable the market and entrepreneurs make smart decisions regarding what to produce locally.
We also hope to spark what is an investment in the future of us all. Supporting local farmers and manufacturers today ensures we have local farms and plants tomorrow. The importance of this for food security cannot be overstated. In Lagos this week, we have seen kilometers-long queues of cars parked by the roadside, complete with drivers sleeping in cars overnight, just to fill their tank. In some cases, it’s taken over 24 hours to fill ones tank. Imagine a couple of years from now, we are not talking about a fuel scarcity, but a food scarcity because we are not able to fund our imports of food, and food has become scarce or way too expensive. Today’s crisis will look like a joke. At it’s worst, fuel scarcity can make you frustrated but food scarcity is a different kind of beast — because a hungry man is an angry man. The time to act is now.
Finally, we hope to empower more local small and medium-sized enterprises and farmers as we pick and deliver more directly from the source. Research has shown that there is profound economic impact from buying local. Since one man’s expenditure is another man’s revenue, the more people spend locally, the more revenue local businesses generate and the more people get employed by the local businesses. These employees in turn receive salaries, which they use to patronize other local goods and services. Now if all of this revenue generation and expenditure is kept local, more revenue is implicitly generated in a virtuous cycle, and this exchange happens faster and faster as more people buy and sell. The velocity of money has effectively increased in the local community and everyone feels richer and is actually richer, even from the same initial starting point.
The wholesale and retail of groceries and everyday essentials is about 14% of the GDP of Nigeria; that’s $70Bn. I don’t know what percentage of that is imported products — let’s say it’s 15%. That’s $10Bn. Imagine $10Bn dollars worth of goods is bought and sold locally, as described above, and salaries are paid and employees spend on local goods and services etc, that will have profound positive implications with a massive multiplier effect of wealth creation for the local community — Nigeria. The alternative is to send these billions of dollars abroad. They literally fizzle right away; very few people get employed locally and revenue is generated elsewhere.
Whatever it is, we are looking at a couple of billions of dollars that can be passed through this virtuous cycle of local buying and selling if we substitute with Nigerian products (and services); thats a lot of wealth generated for a lot of people; so even if it is for selfish reasons, it behooves us to buy “Proudly Nigerian”.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Raphael Afaedor’s Medium page. Raphael is a co-founder/CEO of Supermart.ng, Nigeria’s largest online supermarket and grocery delivery service.