How Ethiopia’s JEMLA helps informal retailers access FMCG products - THE INFORMANTI
How Ethiopia’s JEMLA helps informal retailers access FMCG products

Ethiopia’s JEMLA is a B2B e-commerce wholesale platform that is helping informal retailers access a wide variety of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) products.

Founded in 2019, JEMLA connects dukas, kiosks or souqs with FMCGs, providing them with a dependable and cost-effective supply chain and distribution network customised to their requirements. 

In addition, the platform provides access to working capital and a range of services to help retailers expand their businesses, including data insights through the use of technology. 

“JEMLA is dedicated to improving the livelihoods of informal retailers and their families, while also assisting FMCG manufacturers and importers in reaching a larger market,” co-founder Estephanos Zewdie told Disrupt Africa. 

The company is broadening its offerings by integrating digital financial services, such as utility payments and airtime purchases, into its platform, allowing retailers to sell digital financial services (DFS) and generate additional revenue, while increasing financial inclusion among underserved communities. 

Furthermore, JEMLA – which was recently one of the four companies selected to participate in the Catalyst Jobtech Accelerator run by Mercy Corps and BFA Global – will provide its partner manufacturers and importers with access to data to help them make data-driven decisions. The startup came about after Zewdie and three friends decided they wanted to start their own business after they graduated.

“Each of us had our unique ideas we’d always wanted to work on, so we decided to pitch our concepts to one another to determine which idea we would pursue, intending to fully back whichever idea was chosen. So we met one afternoon at a cafe. After hearing each pitch, we unanimously decided to move forward with the idea of creating a tech-enabled platform that could streamline the fragmented supply chain and distribution process in Ethiopia,” he said.

And so, JEMLA was born. It immediately raised a small angel round, and has gone on to register more than 8,000 retail outlets in Addis Ababa. Zewdie said its ability to serve a wide variety of goods had contributed to its uptake in the market. 

“By providing access to a diverse range of consumer goods, JEMLA has been able to attract a large customer base. Additionally, the platform’s tailored approach to ordering has made it easy and convenient for retailers to access the goods they need. This has led to a steady increase in the number of retailers registered on the platform, as well as the number of unique customers served,” he said.

There are certainly a number of key gaps in the market the company is addressing. One is the lack of access to a reliable and cost-effective supply chain and distribution network for informal retailers in Ethiopia. 

“These retailers often face challenges in accessing a wide range of quality products at competitive prices, as well as securing working capital to grow their businesses,” Zewdie said.

Another gap that JEMLA aims to address is the limited availability of digital tools and technology solutions for these retailers, while access to finance is also a sizeable problem.

“Many of these retailers have limited access to traditional forms of finance such as bank loans and credit facilities. This can be due to a lack of collateral, a limited credit history, or the high cost of interest rates. Without access to finance, retailers may struggle to expand their businesses, purchase inventory, or invest in new technologies,” said Zewdie.

Additionally, JEMLA is exploring the use of innovative financial solutions such as Buy Now Pay Later services to help retailers overcome the challenge of limited access to credit. 

In the East African market, a number of B2B e-commerce platforms have entered the market, aiming to improve the supply chain and create a more efficient route to market for manufacturers and retailers. However, Zewdie said the startup’s biggest competition still comes from the traditional supply chain, which is characterised by numerous intermediaries such as wholesalers, hoarders, and brokers. 

“These intermediaries often work independently from one another, leading to a fragmented supply chain that can be both inefficient and costly for manufacturers and retailers. Moreover, brokers often add little value to the supply chain, yet they still charge high fees for their services, ultimately increasing prices for retailers and consumers,” he said. 

“Furthermore, the traditional supply chain, with its numerous intermediaries and lack of standardised systems, can make it difficult to track products from their origin to their final destination. Consumer goods companies often lack visibility and data on the movement of their products through the supply chain, making it difficult to make informed sales and marketing decisions. This can lead to inefficient production planning, excess inventory, and missed growth opportunities.”

With a more streamlined and data-driven supply chain, such as the one JEMLA is building, manufacturers and retailers can have greater visibility over the movement of their products, and make more informed decisions to optimise their operations and drive growth. 

So what next for the company? Being selected for the Catalyst Jobtech Accelerator programme has given it access to US$200,000 in grant funding, as well as other types of support, which Zewdie said would help JEMLA to further develop its business and expand its impact. He also said the startup was in the process of raising its seed round of funding, which it hopes to close before the end of 2023.

JEMLA is currently operating in Addis Ababa, which is the largest city in Ethiopia and serves as a major hub for FMCG companies. Zewdie said the city’s high population density and concentration of retailers made it an attractive market for JEMLA to test and refine its business model, but that the company did have expansion plans.

“JEMLA is currently in the process of expanding to other regions and secondary cities due to increasing demand. Recognising the fragmented nature of the route to market in these areas and the potential for underserved customers, JEMLA sees itself playing a crucial role in meeting these needs,” he said. 

The company is also in talks with potential partners to facilitate its expansion plans to other cities and towns in Ethiopia. The goal is to reach these underserved areas and provide them with a reliable and efficient route-to-market platform. JEMLA aims to achieve this expansion before the end of 2023.



Nyesiga Naboth is a website and App Developer based in Uganda. He is a computer Genius as claimed by his fellow counter parts. He has developed and designed various apps and websites for example a website called was launched in the evening of 2022 and it is currently one of the best blogging websites in Africa. He is available for hire and appointments via WhatsApp +256789693320

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