Bookkeeping app for street traders in Tanzania

Mobile phones today are an integral part of our lives, and the number of subscribers is increasing every year in Tanzania and Africa in general. The affordability and accessibility of mobile devices has reduced the digital divide, creating opportunities for the technologies to have a transformative influence over socio-economic challenges. Mobile phones create an opportunity to transform the informal sector by greater and deeper access to information and resources that are important for business development and prosperity. The informal sector includes all activities which are not officially registered, regulated or taxed by the government, but which are not illegal. The most visible type of informal economic activity is street trading. Despite the importance of mobile phones usage, there are few research studies on designing and developing mobile applications contextualized to street trades’ ecology.

A new mobile application to facilitate bookkeeping among street traders in Tanzania was recently introduced in a doctoral thesis presented by Nasibu Mramba, MSc, at the University of Eastern Finland.

The study explored daily business activities and strategies of street traders. The main challenge among others identified was poor record-keeping of daily transactions. To overcome this challenge, the study developed a mobile application. The bookkeeping app is important because most street traders do not keep records of their daily business transactions. 

“The academic interest in street trade comes from its importance to the livelihood of poor people who may be constrained by weak business skills, financial problems, legal problems, and poor working environments,” Mramba says.

“The app was designed by using a participatory approach, and it takes the social-economic characteristic of street traders, such as language and usability, into consideration,” Mramba explains.

The bookkeeping app makes it possible for street traders to keep track of their daily business transactions, such as sales, purchases and business expenses. Through the application, street traders can monitor their profits and losses (at daily, weekly and monthly levels), cash and inventory flows, suggestive selling prices, and overall business performance.  Having these business records, a street trader can access formal financing offered by financial institutions, make business decisions and access government supportive services. Furthermore, this makes it easy for a street trader to formalize his or her business.

 The doctoral thesis by Nasibu Rajabu Mramba, MSc, entitled Mobile Technology for Street Traders in Tanzania, is available for download at http://epublications.uef.fi/pub/urn_isbn_978-952-61-2832-0/urn_isbn_978-952-61-2832-0.pdf

For further information, please contact:

Nasibu Rajabu Mramba, tel. +255713241836, email: nasibumramba@yahoo.com