Local e-commerce start-ups make headway in Kenya.
Its finally starting to happen. E-commerce is coming to Kenya. It looks like 2010 will be the year we start seeing e-commerce become commonplace and highly used. Why do I say this? One only has to look at the number of local online e-commerce stores that have started to flourish to get an idea of what is to come. However, one of the major issues in realizing widespread e-commerce is that internet-based payment systems are still being established in Kenya and credit card penetration is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, it looks like the mobile phone is going to become the preferred payment platform following the massive success of Safaricom’s M-Pesa.
At this time, the largest e-commerce player in Kenya could potentially be Kalahari.co.ke. This is a site which is a spin-off of the highly popular South African online store Kalahari.net. In many ways, Kalahari.co.ke mimics its South African predecessor with the exception of the “Kenyan” localization. Kalahari.co.ke is comprehensive in that you can buy books, electronics, music, movies, toys, gifts and vouchers, all in local currency. The only caveat with Kalahari.co.ke is that it lacks online credit card payments (currently) so one has to use M-Pesa or direct bank deposits to make payments.
Another start-up player in the Kenyan e-commerce space is ElimishaOnline.com. ElimishaOnline.com bills itself as an online bookstore with a broad range of reasonably priced and high quality books. Like Kalahari.co.ke, the current payment modes not only include M-Pesa and direct bank deposits but also Zain’s Zap and cheques as well. What I quite like about ElimishaOnline.com is that they have (initially) focused on books and are therefore following the Amazon.com path which eventually expanded into other product categories but is still best known for being the leading online book retailer.
As reported in the Business Daily this week, other niche players for local e-commerce in Kenya include TotallyToto.com which is focused on childrens clothing and accessories as well as Bagalicious.co.ke which deals almost exclusively in ladies handbags, as well as other accessories. Another niche player for ladies clothing and accessories is styleconnection.co.ke. One of the oldest e-commerce sites in Kenya is MamaMikes.com which has been largely focused on the diaspora to whom it sells goods and services for friends and family in Kenya – now would be a good time for MamaMikes.com to go after the local market too.
Going forward, what will need to happen is for these web sites to expand into credit card payments as well as other modes of payment such as PesaPal which enables mobile-to-web payments seamlessly. In this manner, customers will have a much better online shopping experience and this would lead to a world-class e-commerce market for Kenya.