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