Guide to online shopping in Zimbabwe: the introduction

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ecommerceEver since the introduction of the multiple currency system in Zimbabwe, online shopping has become somewhat simpler. Hitherto problems like obtaining an internationally accepted Visa/ MasterCard, hyperinflation and limited internet connections had hampered the widespread adoption of e-commerce.

Despite the opening of doors brought about by this currency changeover a number of problems still persist if one is to trade online. For whatever reason a good number of Zimbabweans are still reluctant to transact online stubbornly sticking to the brick and mortar model. Some banks still have stringent requirements for their Visas/MasterCards which effectively precludes other people from obtaining them. Most Zimbabwean issued cards are not accepted on PayPal which is still one of the most popular ways of paying online. In fact on Ebay.com PayPal is almost the defacto means of payment as most vendors only accept PayPal.

This is also true about other payment methods like Payza (formerly known as Alert Pay.) Also, some vendors only ship to certain countries which of course means they do not ship to Zimbabwe whilst some simply do not accept Zimbabwean credit cards. This effectively closes some doors but there are work-arounds to some of these and other problems which we will explore in the series.

In spite of the problems mentioned, there are a number of reasons why a person might need to transact online. About a month ago my friend broke his Samsung Laptop LCD (Model NP300e7a S03ZA) we could not find the screen here in Zimbabwe or even in South Africa yet we were able to easily purchase it from laptopscreencs.com. Some products are simply not available in Zimbabwe or are hard to come by. This is true for hobbyist stuff and specialists products. In these cases, buying online is not only desirable, it might be the only way.

Due to things like economies of scale and competitive advantage, some products can be cheaper when purchased online. Take for example the case of web hosting; because of well-developed ICT infrastructure in the developed world the cost per megabit of providing broadband is significantly lower than it is in Zimbabwe and there are less power cuts. If you add the intense competition between various data centers that provide similar services the result is a considerably lower price for web hosting on the global market. What’s more, if you are unhappy with a service, turning elsewhere is a matter of clicking a button. Going forward with stating the obvious, what is true with web hosting for other products as well.

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It seems business people in Zimbabwe have failed to shake off their endemic affliction of charging extortionate prices especially on IT products. Margins of 100% are not unheard of. This is despite the fact that it has been a while now since ZIMRA* scrapped all duty on products like Laptops, Computers, Tablets and other ICT equipment. You can take advantage of this fact by making your own purchase online and having the product shipped to Zimbabwe.

Over the next couple of articles (series here) we will look at some of the problems that a current/shopper Zimbabwean might face and share solutions to these problems as well as tips. This is a very ambitious project where I have sought to cover areas that might interest the Zimbabwean online shopper and perhaps others. Contributions, discussions, criticisms, tips and questions are encouraged and welcome.

Are you one of those who obstinately stick to the brick and mortar model? If you are, tell us why. If you have met with some problems transacting online, please fill us in we/the community might have a solution. If you have a solution to a problem please feel free to share it.

* ZIMRA will still require you to pay 15% VAT.



9 Comments

  1. Duwayne Goddard says:

    The biggest huddle is really not being able to pay but getting what ever you have bought delivered to you. the charges from Fedex and DHL are so ridiculous. I recently looked at getting a part for my car that I couldn’t find in Zim or in Sa but was available in the States and it would cost me as much as 6 times the price to bring it in.
    One of the big issues I also think are our tax laws. It seems that you can get away without paying duty if you are bringing in something with when you travel and the value is within your allowed tax free amount but the same does not apply when you are using a courier.

    1. Garikai Dzoma says:

      ZIMRA’s laws and practices are so muddled up, I think even ZIMRA itself does not even know what to do in each and every situation so they just do whatever they want in each case. You are charged two different taxes for the same item but hey it’s the cost of doing business.

  2. MI5 says:

    for this to be possible, LOCAL: Econet Services (Eco-Cash) should integrate with Zim-swicth shared service (ZSS). INTERNATIONAL: We should convince Paypal to work in Zimbabwe

    1. Garikai Dzoma says:

      That’s a good idea (convincing PayPal) let me see what I can do in the next few days.

  3. Kelvin Simon says:

    Do you know how difficult it is to send money out of Zimbabwe? its almost impossible.
    Our stupid monetary policies from zim dollar era are still in play, so when the reserve bank decides to review their monetary policies things like pay pal will never work. Ecocash will never be allowed to pay for items outside zim.

    You may use the Bank transfer system but the charges are ridiculous.

    1. Garikai Dzoma says:

      So far the best way is to use a Visa/ MasterCard debit card. I agree the wire transfer charges are crazy but I really think things are getting better. During the Zimdollar era Visa/ MasterCards were nothing but glorified Zimswitch cards.

  4. takky says:

    we need to face facts Zim online shopping has not taken a step forward this add to cart app is not user friendly the best i used was http://www.basic.co.zw
    simple and efficient

  5. Joe Rugare says:

    Hey takky! The link to http://www.basic.co.zw does not seem to work. Talking about good Zimbabwean eCommerce website, I stumbled upon https://www.zimseller.com. The header says “Zimbabwe Online Marketplace”.

    It’s actually an Online Aution website for Zimbabwe, much like eBay. It’s worth having a look at.

    If you google “Zimbabwe online shopping”, you will find similar websites like, http://www.zimall.co.zw, http://www.magrosa.com, http://www.zimbiz.com/shopping, http://www.zimland.com, http://www.foodworld.co.zw, http://www.onlinefoodgrocery.com and many others.

    It goes to show that the Zimbabwe people are ready for serious online shopping but lack of good online Payment options remains a stumbling block. Having PayPal in Zimbabwe would dramatically improve ecommerce in Zimbabwe.

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