Developing African Retailers

Posted: June 14, 2016
Developing African Retailers

Thriving small businesses are the backbone of local communities and economies.

In 2014, a group of people from our team in South Africa traveled to Latin America to find out more about our small retailer support program known as ‘4e Camino al Progreso' (Path to Progress).

Two years on, a ‘'made in Africa'' Retailer Development Program has just completed its first full year of full implementation in 13 countries in Africa.

The program was inspired by how 4e has helped small shopkeepers to improve the sustainability of their businesses, the quality of life for their families, and to contribute to improving the development of their communities.

It was developed for the African market based on research that gave us insights into customers and tested with pilots in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland to prove the concept, content and processes.

The initiative focuses on the small, ‘mom and pop' stores that have the widest consumer reach within our distribution network and are a crucial element of our value chain. Over the years these stores have played a critical role in helping hundreds of thousands of families escape poverty. It's common in Africa to hear ‘rags to riches' stories from leaders in politics, healthcare and business who owe their education to the proceeds of their family's retail outlet.

But small retailers often lack the basic skills and knowledge to manage and grow their businesses effectively, leaving them at greater risk from economic or legislative shocks. Conversations with retailers had consistently thrown up requests for us to help in this area, and the successful implementation of just such a scheme in Latin America provided the catalyst to make it happen.

The African program incorporates many of the learnings from its ground-breaking 4e cousin. It offers classroom-based training sessions to help small shopkeepers develop their business and retailing skills, with internal responsibility for organizing and running them shared between our sales and distribution, human resources and corporate affairs teams.

As each country has its unique sales operating model, the hub and local sales and distribution teams have shaped the final training material and delivery mode for each country to ensure it is well aligned to the sales strategy and model.

The training modules are:

  • Managing personal finances which focuses on a retailer's management of their own finances, including business finances and financial statements.
  • Basic business skills which focuses on equipping retailers with general business management skills and practices.
  • Running my beer business which is designed to enable retailers to successfully manage a beer outlet, as well as providing an insight into our processes and operating systems.
  • Responsible retailing and environmental awareness which advocates self-regulation as a responsible retailer, as well as building awareness of regulatory and environmental issues.

To embed the learnings and provide in trade support, a mentorship program is planned as a follow up to the four day classroom training. Retailers will receive three mentorship support visits within a six month period. Mentorship has initially been piloted in South Africa – in partnership with accountants KPMG – with a view to a wider rollout.

By the end of the program's first year, the cross-Africa target for retailer training had been surpassed by 24.4%, with more than 9,000 retailers having participated in classroom sessions. The ultimate target is for the program to have reached over 70,000 retailers by 2020.

Feedback from participating retailers has been highly positive. They believe this training will allow them not only to grow their outlets and profits, but also to ensure long-term sustainability through being better able to compete with the ‘formal' trade in terms of offerings and consumer appeal as well as managing their business and personal finances.


A version of this story first appeared on SABMiller.com on 14 June 2016

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