Informal business in the retail sector in East Africa is estimated to represent between 70% and 80% of sales in the region. As a result, small-scale farmers have found themselves marginalised by the distribution sector and its new practices, and very poor households (for example, slum dwellers) are often paying more per unit for basic products than wealthier households (World Bank).
Moreover, supply chain issues remain a massive challenge. Transporting products to market can involve road and railway difficulties and governance issues that can prevent goods crossing international boundaries. Nevertheless, the EAC has huge potential: it has fast-evolving dynamics including rapid population growth, increasing urbanisation, macroeconomic stability and growth potential. It is increasing foreign and regional investment across sectors. Furthermore, the EAC’s regulatory advances and strong trade blocs make importing easier and enhance supply chains. Supporting TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) in maximising this potential,
Nathan managed the Logistics Innovations for Trade Challenge Fund, 2016-2018. LIFT was a $12m challenge fund designed to challenge businesses and private sector organisations from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda to develop ideas aimed at promoting innovation in the transport logistic sectors in order to reduce and foster trade across East Africa.
LIFT aimed to reduce the risk of investing in disruptive innovative technologies or improved practice; improve the efficiency of transport and logistics by catalysing innovation in the transport and logistics industry, particularly through ICT use, to boost efficiency; empower private sector and civil society organisations to advocate for the removal of regulatory barriers that restrict competition; and increase competition by enabling SMEs to compete against the cartels of large firms that currently dominate the industry.