Zimbabwe’s Thumeza plots SADC expansion by providing transporters with access to working capital

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Zimbabwe’s Thumeza, which provides small-scale transporters with immediately accessible working capital, is planning on expanding across the SADC region after impressive early growth and the validation of being accepted into two major accelerator programmes.

Founded in April 2018 by Gugulethu Siso, Thumeza started life as a peer-to-peer last mile service provider, with a vision of being the logistics backbone for e-commerce. Since then, however, it has pivoted to become a primarily B2B freight-centric platform. 

“We have learned valuable lessons along the way with one element remaining the same – our ability to relate to small scale transporters,” Siso said. “This has led us to where we are today. By using operational data collected from on- and off-platform activities, we connect the transporters to financiers and service providers. This ensures they can confidently meet the demand for loads to be moved by both contract and spot cargo clients as well as other operational needs.”

Siso has a strong track record, having previously co-founded and exited a VC funded startup in Namibia providing B2B services for retailers such as Pick n Pay Namibia, Shoprite Checkers Namibia, and Woolworths, to name just a few. She has built a strong team around her at Thumeza, but admits the startup was unprepared for the cash flow ramifications when the first lockdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.

“We had a large invoice stuck with a major client for an unprecedented amount of time. This meant that as a startup then primarily focused on coordinating the movement of goods for enterprises by small scale transporters. We could not afford to accept any other loads that were post-paid as well as meet other short term obligations,” Siso said. 

“After reaching out to banks, we quickly realised that the financing option was out of our reach as we didn’t have collateral, leaving family and friends as the only source of financing. As “the new normal” unfolded, it became apparent that partner transporters who were moving goods on our behalf were in the same boat, as they were heavily dependent upon internal operational funds as a source of financing.” 

After research and a prototype run to test its assumption was successful, Thumeza decided to focus the bulk of its attention on providing a solution to inaccessible working capital facilities for small scale transporters.

“We have had overwhelming interest from our target users, with signups growing by 12 per cent week-on-week. This has provided us with other potential add-on services to complement our core offering as we grow,” said Siso.

Revenue-funded with assistance from soft loans from family and friends wherever needed, Thumeza has provided services for large enterprises such as TM Pick’n’Pay Zimbabwe and SPAR, which Siso said had “proven our mettle” as a B2B-targeted business. It also has strong accelerator backing, having taken part in last year’s Google for Startups Africa Accelerator and being a participant in this year’s Startupbootcamp AfriTech programme. Currently testing in Zimbabwe, it has wider plans.

“Our immediate goals are to expand across the SADC region to take advantage of traffic going through Kazungula as well as the active transporter demographic within those key markets,” said Siso.

Thumeza has a revenue model based on collecting a commission for facilitating every transaction on its platform. 

“We are post-revenue having generated revenue at every stage of our business models,” said Siso.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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