With mass urbanization set to take place, many rural farmers turn to the informal sector to sell their goods and services, opening shops and stalls in urban and peri-urban areas. In many emerging countries like Nigeria, 90% of retail transactions occur in the informal economy. Unfortunately, we know little about these merchants, since they're offline, cash-based, undocumented, and most importanty, unmapped. This is a global problem there are estimated to be more than 1 billion undocumented merchants on earth, where 90%+ of them lie in emerging economies (CityLab, 2016).
With the majority of these merchants unmapped, it means that these micro-entrepreneurs (mostly women across the African continent) and SMEs don't have a way of being discovered outside of their immediate communities or accessing micro-financing opportunities to grow their business. This is a key barrier in allowing rural communities to move across skills, industries, and regions.
POKET's solution is to generate the location/GIS data described above at scale using a form of consensus-driven crowdsourcing. Local users generate the data using an Android application and we share it with partners in Enterprise, Impact and Government. They pay POKET for generating insights, and we pass a portion of that revenue back to the user for generating the data. In this way, we are creating a new forms of work for unemployed youth, while also reinforcing and building key digital skills for rural villagers or newcomers to cities. Most importantly, mapping the informal sector provides key insights into the last mile of rural supply chains. With merchants being brought online at scale, POKET facilitates the integration of rural markets with the global economy and for the first time, makes them visible outside their immediate communities!