Student entrepreneurs set to launch app to help street vendors

[Author: Keshia Africa, Weekend Argus]

The article “Young techies set to impact township economies” by Keshia Africa was published in the Weekend Argus of 2 July 2021:

Three young tech entrepreneurs in Cape Town combined their talents for a virtual hackathon and won R25 000 cash for their proposed app.

Tech non-profit organisation Silicon Cape and the US embassy hosted the hackathon this past weekend to find digital solutions that assist in accelerating inclusive economic growth for township businesses.

Esihle Vellem, 24, Vuyani Ndlovu, 23 and Lunga Hamilton Momoza, 22, are students from Stellenbosch University who began their agritech e-commerce start-up, Basket, in September 2020.

Basket aims to find technical solutions to real-life problems faced within agriculture. Vellem and Ndlovu are engineering students, and Momoza is studying economics.

The three young entrepreneurs entered the hackathon as Team Basket and walked away with the first place title for their online application proposal. They aim to create an application that will help street vendors and spaza shops buy fresh produce from small scale farmers.

The idea for the app was birthed from all three founders having been exposed to the realities of street vendors while growing up in townships themselves.

Momoza said: “We saw that they face struggles like a lack of access to financial credit, accurate stock management system, crime risks and logistical challenges due to lack of transport.

Vellem said: “With this model, we address issues like running out of stock and having to close down the stand or buy from fellow vendors at a higher price, lack of quality control and the absence of an online stock management system to track orders.

Vellem added: “They benefit from pre-negotiated discounts, produce that is delivered with a quality assurance guarantee, and the ability to make bi-weekly purchases with safe delivery assurance.”

The three students decided to enter the hackathon to gain social capital that will help establish their start-up.

“Winning this hackathon was part of our strategy to get one step closer to our goal of launching the app,” Momoza said.

The Basket app will connect informal traders with wholesalers and farmers. Momoza said: “We’ve identified that many street vendors do not have many stock management systems and little to no options for suppliers.”

He added: “Basket wants to open up the market and allow them to have a pool of supply options to choose from.

The Basket app will have an easy to use interface that will allow users to select their chosen language. App users will be able to create a profile that allows them to operate as a seller, buyer or deliverer of fresh produce.

Once they place an order, buyers can decide if they want their produce delivered or collected, and the seller will start preparing the order. Payments can be made in-app or using a QR code provided.

In addition to this, the app will allow buyers to see buying patterns of other buyers, to allow them to navigate what is in demand.

The Stellenbosch University students plan to use the prize money to create the app and launch it by the end of August.

  • Photo (supplied): Hackathon winner Team Basket will use the prize money to launch its app.  From left to right are Electrical and Electronic engineering students Esihle Vellem and Vuyani Ndlovu, and economics student Lunga Hamilton Momoza of Team Basket.