Kenyan ecommerce is set for major growth over the next five years as mobile internet performance in the country continues to improve as a proposed national addressing system comes into existence and people become more comfortable with shopping online.
Originally in Kenya and other East African countries, ecommerce ventures tended to concentrate on more affluent customers in the travel and gift industries. Early successes were startups such as TravelStart and MamaMikes. However, the landscape in East African ecommerce is now changing, thanks to the enthusiastic adoption of person-to-person mobile payments that is now creating a solid base for the growth of ecommerce.
In 2014, according to the Kenyan government’s Communications Authority, the ecommerce market in Kenya was worth around Ksh.4.3 billion. However, now with 35.5 million internet users and internet penetration of 82.6%, Kenya is one of the East African countries best primed for an ecommerce explosion. With small and medium sized businesses being able to make use of platforms such as Facebook and Sage Online Tools, they are easily able to construct and launch modern, mobile friendly ecommerce sites that enable them to make it easy to interact with customers and give them the best customer experience.
The Kenyan and East African ecommerce market was boosted recently by the visit of Asia’s richest man and the founder of Alibaba Jack Ma. Visiting Kenya’s capital Nairobi along with some fellow Chinese billionaires that included chairman of Mengniu Dairy Niu Gensheng and real estate tycoon Huang Youlong, they were their to seek potential investments in the country with both the government and local business people.
However the highlight of the trip was the “Realizing Africa’s youth potential” conference that brought together 1,500 participants including government officials, entrepreneurs, investors, multinationals, and startups shaping the African technological ecosystem to discuss methods of using technology to drive Africa’s economic growth. UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, one of the organisers said:
“He brings to the continent a visionary approach to entrepreneurship, a thirst for learning, and a belief in a better world for young people. I have discussed with Jack Ma and others that I would like us not only to grow African enterprises but also to start raising voices that a special market access waiver for produce from Africa, particularly from small business, is needed. Effort should be made to encourage young Kenyan entrepreneurs to access the Chinese market just like the Chinese are accessing local markets. Our challenge is not finding agents to import Chinese goods, I am looking for people who are willing to sell African goods to China.”
Whilst Southeast Asia is currently seen as the ‘next frontier’ for ecommerce, it’s quickly becoming apparent that East Africa could well be the next one.