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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
Reliable mobile money, courier services
boost e-commerce in rural Kenya

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- When she saw a handbag at a popular online shopping site, Mercy Ambale, a resident of Kakamega in western Kenya, decided to buy it because it was going for an irresistible price.

Her first thought was to buy the handbag, then ask her sister who lives in Nairobi where the online mall delivers for free to receive it on her behalf and then she sends it to her via courier.

A chat with her sister and the sales representative of the online mall, however, saw her pay for the item via mobile money and it was delivered to her in Kakamega in two days via courier.

“I bought the bag over a month ago at 20 U.S. dollars and paid 2.5 dollars for the courier services. This is the best price I have ever gotten for such a bag because in Kakamega, it goes for nearly twice the price in shops,” she said on Thursday.

Since then, Ambale has bought several other items that include shoes, a smart phone and juice mixer, further influencing her three friends, two in the town and one further away in Busia to embrace e-commerce.

The four are among residents in rural parts of the East African nation, who have embraced e-commerce, thanks to faster internet access via smart phones, mobile money and a growth in reliable courier services.

The rural residents, both individuals and traders, are buying all manner of items through e-commerce.

From beauty products, apparels, shoes, electronics like computers and TVs to building materials like iron sheets and doors, e-commerce is gaining traction in rural Kenya.

“I was on leave the other day and travelled to the rural area where I am building a house for my mother. I ordered iron sheets from a company in Nairobi through their website, paid and they were delivered to me in three days. I could not believe it,” said journalist Vincent Chacha, who hails from Migori but works in the capital Nairobi.

A visit at a courier company in Nairobi indicated that the companies are doing booming business ferrying cargo to rural areas.

Dozens of items wrapped in gunny bags and boxes labelled with the names of recipients and the destination towns waited to be loaded into buses at Easy Coach offices on Thursday morning, with the buses plying the western route. It was the same case at Modern Coast, which plies to the Coast.

Some of the cargo is bought through online shopping malls that include Kilimall, run by Chinese investors, and Jumia, while others from shops in Nairobi but payment made via mobile money.

“I send up to five computers, including laptops, via courier services to upcountry towns mainly in western Kenya, where I have customers. They pay via mobile money, I pack and send to them,” said Gilbert Wandera, who runs a computer store in Nairobi.

A recent survey by Jumia showed that at least 47 percent of traffic on their site originates from rural areas while urban traffic stands at 53 percent. Rural areas account for 45 percent of deliveries.

Between April and June, courier outlets in Kenya increased to 1,027 from 997, a growth of 3 percent, the latest report from Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) showed.

CA attributed this to the licensing of new courier operators during the quarter as business boomed.

Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solution in Nairobi, noted that boom in e-commerce in rural Kenya has been fast-tracked by widespread use of smart phones, which enable people to access the online sites.

“Mobile money and courier services have then helped to facilitate the transactions, and due to their reliability, e-commerce has boomed,” he said.

Growth in the sector is, however, being dampened by fraudsters, who are increasingly targeting shoppers.

The criminals entice unsuspecting buyers through deals, and once they receive payment, they vanish. Therefore the CA warned Kenyans last month. 

           

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