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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.

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18 Comments

  1. January 14, 2010 at 11:10 am — Reply

    This is a great list comprising of ecommerce sites in Kenya. With the relevant ease of setting up a site as compared to opening a physical shop will attract more players to ecommerce.
    Please visit my ecommerce to sample some of the goodies I gotta offer. http://www.fabguru.com/.
    Thank you.

  2. January 14, 2010 at 11:23 am — Reply

    One more thing to add is that my site has incorporated pesapal that makes it easy and secure for online shoppers who are worried about their identities and safety when buying online.

  3. January 14, 2010 at 11:53 am — Reply

    Great article Mr kemibaro.
    Its true 2010 will be a turning point in how ,when and where Kenyans will do their shopping.
    But in your article you forget to mention http://www.onlineduka.com a kenyan shopping website which was even recently featured in the Financial times of London.
    This company plans to provide a local solutions to enable every single Kenyan business to go online.
    Watch this space!

  4. John Mwangi
    January 14, 2010 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    The E-commerce setup in Kenya is interesting partly because we have to write the rules of E-commerce using mobile wallet. For our E-commerce sites to be successful I’m of the view that we have to have local banks issue merchant accounts to online traders allowing them to receive online transanctions. I’m thinking of a setup that works as follows:-
    Authentication
    1.Client decides to purchase online and inputs Mpesa/Zap information.
    2. Processing service routes mpesa information to relevant telecom company ie Safcom,Zain, Yu for authentication.
    3.Processing service sends response to merchant site which then accepts or rejects purchase.

    Payment
    1. Merchant company requests settlement from processing service.
    2. Processing service invoices appropriate telecom company
    3. Telecom company transfers money to merchant company’s bank and processing company gets it’s agreed processing fee.

    This has the advantage of being identical to a traditional online payment solution and so clients outside Africa can still use credit card information.

  5. January 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm — Reply

    Those e-commerce sites look top-class. High PR, well distributed through out the site, not too much flashy stuff(good for our expensive, semi-broadband connections). The one that is bogus is that Kalahari.co.ke. Typical foreign investors trying to penetrate the Kenyan market by simply copy-pasting their business models on to Kenyan ground. Now that Kalahari.co.ke is so close to Kalahari.net in design, the confusion that will probably arise is that Kalahari.net, being a PR6 page with EXACTLY the same design and meta tags, will drown out the .co.ke in search results, hence low traffic, hence low business, and they pull out in the same manner all these foreign investors in Junction and Village Market do. So I’ll be looking out for that Kalahari.co.ke domain in the future. It might make me some money as a good reseller.
    .-= Mr. Majani´s last blog ..In the Name of Jesus =-.

  6. BRIAN KASAINE
    January 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm — Reply

    Way to go Kenya!The leaps and bounds in tech advances in Kenya are indeed overdue and kudos to all techies developing web based solution and expanding the hitherto unchartered waters of E-commerce in Kenya

  7. January 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    Great article. Another online payment processor worth looking at is SleekPay.

  8. J
    January 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm — Reply

    Just checked out these sites mentioned looking for somewhere i could get my wife a Valentines gift and i should say http://www.Styleconnection.co.ke is really good. A very wide variety!

  9. kevo
    January 29, 2010 at 10:29 am — Reply

    one of the sites that i love in kenya is one called http://babawatoto.com those guys do a great service to us in the diaspora. I am suprised you did not mention it!

    kevin -Boston MA

  10. February 1, 2010 at 9:58 am — Reply

    Not only goods but also services are being sold online.

    The big news of 2010 is I&M Bank becoming licensed by Visa as an acquiring bank for online payments by credit card. Only launched 1 1/2 weeks ago it already has several takers, a seen at http://www.thekenyashop.com
    .-= Martin Muckle´s last blog ..How do I make a website? =-.

  11. Daniel
    February 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm — Reply

    Mamamikes.com, kalahari.com, enrakenya.com, are the only complete online sites in terms of wide variety of products in their respective markets, ease of check out and an automated payment system – Mpesa paybill in case of kalahari – the same used by Kenya airways – mamamikes has a decent credit card payment option and enrakenya is the only site in the country with an automated Zap and Mpesa payment solution

  12. Wambugu Collins
    March 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm — Reply

    it is so encouraging to see Kenyan entrepreneurs going online with business. I Think Kenyan ecommerce is going places! I can only imagine how it will look like 10 years from now

    Bagalicious.co.ke is really great! wow! I live in Australia I’ve seen Kenyan owned online businesses like babawatoto.com which is really big with Kenyans in the diaspora and they also have very innovative services especially for folks like me who are so far from nyumbani.

    Way to go folks!

  13. April 22, 2010 at 5:03 pm — Reply

    Hi, great article. The one site I came across that seems to offer the most comprehensive end to end solution is http://www.zeeduka.com. Check it out.

  14. moffy
    May 2, 2010 at 7:13 am — Reply

    this is very great. am one of them who is in the procces of openning my oline store.

  15. ken
    May 26, 2010 at 4:45 am — Reply

    from a diaspora perspective, http://www.babawatoto.com is the most valuable site to us out here we can do practically anything in Kenya without leaving my computer !

  16. roy
    June 10, 2011 at 3:01 am — Reply

    Well i am really worried over the slow uptake of online trade, could be the regulations in place are not watertight enough to give confidence to potential users.

  17. November 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    Local paypal account holders need to visit http://epay-kenya.com. Fantastic innovation on how to withdraw money and get paid within 24 hours. Check them out…write to them.

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