The Bright Network inclusive distribution model started in Ethiopia in January 2017 and involves assessing barriers to cost-effective rural product penetration, whilst also understanding community buying patterns. To date, over 600 women are participating as micro-entrepreneurs in three communities, offering mixed baskets of household products. The project has recruited business coaches to train and support these women and monitor their sales performance. The project has already increased micro-entrepreneur net-earnings by an average of $25 per month.
The project will develop and test four social impact innovations to customise further the model for the Ethiopian market:
- diversifying the sales products through strategic partnerships
- optimising skills development
- using digital tools to improve route-to-market transparency
- using innovative approaches to drive behaviour change
These innovations will be designed to accelerate cost-efficient commercial scale-up, such that the model reaches break-even point by 2019. The project aims to reach over 2,000 women micro-entrepreneurs, generating jobs and improving income opportunities in excluded Ethiopian communities within the project timeline. At full scale, Unilever aims to build a network of 5,000 women entrepreneurs reaching millions of consumers.
The Business Partnership Fund is providing a grant and technical assistance of £269,130 over 18 months in order to develop and scale an inclusive distribution model for food, home-care and hygiene products to consumers in rural Ethiopia.