Zimbabwe has always been a tricky landscape for online ventures. We have seen many an entrepreneur launch an exciting platform only to see it fail. Ventures such as tengesa.com easily come to mind. Don’t get me wrong here; I am not saying we do not have success stories in Zimbabwe. I am only saying that these are few compared to our African counterparts in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. While we have a few successes such as Classifieds; these remain what they are – a drop in the ocean. Mind you these are also yet to scale significantly that they are recognised as African power houses. Whether they have the potential to become that, is a discussion of another day.
Now I am of the opinion that Zimbabwe has what it takes to become a leader in eCommerce in Africa. Below are some of the reasons why I think so.
A Tech Savvy Nation
Zimbabweans contrary to what most people think are quite tech-savvy. A lot of people buy their cars from online websites such as Be Forward, Japan Car Auto Trade. Everywhere you go in Harare, you see cars with Be Forward stickers. Now if Zimbabweans are prepared to trust websites in countries that a lot of them have never been, why wouldn’t they trust online merchants in their own country? Many people in Harare are making good use of online platforms such as Zimbabwe Classifieds and email marketing lists such as Dipleague and Bizlist. All of this just proves to me that if the right product is available at the right price and there is sufficient trust is there Zimbabweans will buy.
One of the major drawbacks to eCommerce in Africa is illiteracy and lack of a middle class with sufficient buying power. Whilst the lack of a sizable middle class will limit the ability of online businesses to scale, Zimbabwe is a little different in that over 90% of its population is literate.
An Easy and Convenient Payment System
Last week I woke up to the exciting news that Econet might be working on an Application Programming Interface, API for short, that will allow online merchants to process EcoCash payments on the web as reported here. Such a move will make buying online much, much easier and convenient. Zimbabweans are not very conversant with the use of online payment channels such as PayPal and the majority do not own Master or Visa cards so such a move will obviously auger well with the locals. This sets the ground for an eCommerce boom, as a lot of people in Zimbabwe depend on their mobile phones to access the internet and make payments.
Obviously no one knows what will happen, but my bet is that the eCommerce juggernaut is coming to Zimbabwe. The question to ask yourself is – are you prepared to take advantage of the many opportunities that eCommerce will bring? To make sure you are prepared stay tuned to this blog.
This guest post was authored by Tinashe Nyaruwanga. It was first published on his blog. Nyaruwanga is a Blogger, eCommerce and digital marketing enthusiast, part-time lecturer on internet marketing at Inspiration Academy.