by Christine Lagat
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Mercy Ngungi, a
bubbly 23-year-old Kenyan youth, was initially skeptical about
the hyped magic accompanying online shopping until recently when
she discovered that its thrills, convenience and safety are
The communications graduate from a local
university is currently an avid fan of Kenya’s mushrooming
online retail firms that have reshaped shopping while striking a
powerful chord with the country’s tech-savvy youth.
During an interview with Xinhua, Ngungi confessed that her
unquenchable appetite for online shopping has shocked her
relatives and friends.
"My initial resistance to online shopping was based on myths
and misinformation but now I am a fully converted having
realized its benefits are immense," said Ngungi.
Her enthusiasm for online shopping intensified late last year
when she ordered for a Christmas dress and shoes from swanky
clothing line that delivered them at her doorstep on time.
"I could not believe my eyes when somebody from a courier
service knocked at my door to deliver the stylish dress and open
shoes I had just ordered online from a new clothing line in
town," Ngungi told Xinhua.
Early this year, Ngungi purchased a Huawei phone from
Kilimall, a thriving online retail giant owned by Chinese
investors that drew her attention last fall when the company
embarked on a publicity blitz to woo customers.
"It was during Black Friday in November last year when I
learnt about discounted prices of electronic gadgets like phones
and laptops at Kilimall.
"I saved enough to buy this slick Huawei phone and plans to
order for a laptop a few months from now," said Ngungi.
She is among a burgeoning population of young Kenyans who
have abandoned brick and mortar shopping malls thanks to the
irresistible appeal offered by their online rivals.
As Kenya’s e-commerce sector grows by leaps and bounds in
recent times, it has unleashed multiple benefits to investors
and consumers alike.
Pundits hailed supportive infrastructure, friendly
regulations and high digital literacy for the rapid growth of
online retail sector in the East Africa’s largest economy.
"There is no doubt the online retail market in this country
has a promising future given its wholesome embrace by urban
youth with disposable income," said Mike Ouma, an ICT analyst
Kenya’s leading online retail firms that include Kilimall,
OLX and Jumia are competing ferociously for a slice of the pie
in the booming industry.
Consumers have nevertheless relished this cut-throat
competition by online shopping malls since they are guaranteed
of discounted prices and quality service.
Charles Murage, a 31-year-old jazz artist and event’s
organizer, admitted his love for online shopping, which he
described as pleasurable, hassles-free and cheaper.
"Imagine slouching on the couch during the day only to click
an order for pizza which is delivered at breakneck speed.
"This is the future we all dreamt of and hope there will be
no relapse to the bygone era of enduring long queues in the
shopping malls," said Murage.
The widely-traveled youngster has for the last three years
been purchasing electronic gadgets and clothes through online
"Online retail firms have an extra-ordinary ability to
connect directly to consumers.
"They are highly adaptable and always deliver quality
service," Murage said.
Kenya has been a regional hub for investors in online retail
sector thanks to higher Internet connectivity in major cities
and rural towns.
An economic survey released by Kenya National Bureau of
Statistics (KNBS) in 2015 revealed that 54.8 percent of the
country’s population or 22.3 million people were connected to
Elsewhere, a survey conducted by America’s research firm, Pew
Research Centre ranked Kenya second after South Africa in terms
of Internet penetration in sub-Saharan Africa.
The survey revealed that four out of ten Kenyan adults had
reliable access to Internet in any given day through smart
phones, laptops or computers.
Experts agreed that investments in broadband infrastructure
that has accelerated lately alongside availability of cheaper
smart phones will fuel growth of e-commerce in Kenya.
"Rapid expansion of fiber optic alongside cheap data bundles
provided by telecommunication giants has made it easier for
Kenyans to shop online," remarked Steve Umidha, a financial