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Shop in SA whilst you’re in Zim: Enter Zimbo Shopper

For a country with an almost US$4 Billion deficit (basically we import a whole lot more than we export) chances are higher that we are buying imported goods when we go to Avondale and/or Sam Levy’s Flea markets.Often times these goods are brought in from China, Tanzania or South Africa.

The traders that import goods risk tooth and nail to board buses to go to these regional destinations and buy items that they hope people back home will be interested in purchasing (with the odd trader first sourcing customers and taking orders, few being given a deposit for the goods) and have to endure treacherous roads and ZIMRA officials!

Unsurprisingly, there have been a number who have lost their lives on these trips, with some even getting stranded because of running out of cash (God bless our MPs!) These foreign trips are not for the faint hearted and how many times do you want to go through such lengths to just go and buy a Television or laptop in South Africa?

I’m sure like me, you too have asked an associate who may be travelling across the Limpopo to “just get me something” and save on travel, accommodation and food expenses (in exchange for giving them a “little something” in exchange.

So what do you do when you want something but there is no one travelling? Worse still when you don’t have a friend or relative in SA who can go buy you the goods and put it on a bus to Zimbabwe? Or if there are no “runners” that you know and trust that frequent that route? Well, you get in touch with Zimbo Shopper of course!

Zimbo Shopper is a Facebook page that was founded by Justin Masiwe a South Africa based Zimbabwean who was tired of Zimbabweans being ripped off by unscrupulous traders who would buy you cheaper alternatives (usually grey products), remove the price tag and try and pass it to you as an original.

Having already bought goods for friends and family for the past 8 years, he finally decided on February 3, 2014 to use the experience that he’d gained from going shopping for them (I need to teach my wife how to do this) to open it up and start doing it for anyone.

The service works thus; you visit a host of South African websites and search for the product that you would like to buy. Once you find it, you either inbox them (he’s now recruited a team) on Facebook or you can even send a WhatsApp message with the link to the product. If they product can’t be found online, Zimbo Shopper goes further to shop in-store and find the product for you.

Once the product has been sourced, a quote is then given, that includes their “shopping fee” (10%), transport (based on how bulky the product is) and customs duty for the Zimbabwean taxman. You then make a deposit into a local FBC bank account and send them confirmation of deposit. The purchase is made and your goods are then given to a bus driver who brings it through with “all” your receipts. Simple.

So what difference does Zimbo Shopper bring to the table that 10ngah, ZIMALL and Zimbogini don’t?

Firstly, with the amount of users that are now accessing Facebook and WhatsApp bundles at a fixed rate, they have a Facebook page that is constantly updated advising customers of promotions that are taking place at places like Game, Makro, Zando and even Hi-Fi Corporation. These popular retail outlets usually have weekly specials on electronic goods running from Thursdays to Sunday.

Secondly, there is a clear pricing mechanism from the onset. I know how much the goods are going for in South Africa, what my service fees will be and when I will get the goods. As we are new to online shopping in Zimbabwe, this transparent means of doing business is a sigh of relief for many.

Then there is the saving for the customer that is being offered. Their overheads are lower (no transport – well at least not cross border, no accommodation in lodges, etc) and they charge a nominal service fee of 10%. Factoring in the “shipping” and duty, your goods still land here at prices well below what other shops (errr emm, hello Barbours, Edgars, Greatermans and Meikles) are offering them for.


Obviously with every new service there are teething problems and there are a few changes/adjustments to the service that I would recommend to Zimbo Shopper:

  1. As goods that are being bought are for export, it would be great if my order can be VAT refunded. SA (and a lot of first world countries for that matter) refund foreigners that buy goods that will not be consumed in their country. Last time I checked it was 14%. This should lower the cost of my goods. (Point to note however, is I’m not sure whether the driver will be able to declare these items as his own and claim the VAT refund– why shouldn’t he? Anyone with knowledge on this?)
  2. Create an App!!! Instead of me having to go to all those websites (some I might not even know exist) just consolidate all of the items, especially the deals, specials and promotions into one app where I can find what I’m looking for. This should make it easier for customers to find what they’ll be looking for.
  3. Allow me to track my order. Once I have paid for it, afford me the ability to track the purchase on the app. We’re still new at this eCommerce thing but peace of mind and knowing that I haven’t been duped or scammed means a lot for the business.
  4. Add better payment methods. Just having FBC as an option limits the user friendliness of the service. Banking halls are a stress. Queues, cut off times and a limited branch network make it a dread. Add EcoCash, Telecash and OneWallet (for whoever uses it) Better yet, why not integrate with Pay4App or PayNow to process their payments. PayPal might work too, seeing that South Africans can receive payments.
  5. Offer a credit facility. I know Zimbabwe is going through a rough time (with predictions that we might have to cancel Christmas) and this is wishing, but if not why not? If they can strike deals local banks or lending houses, where the end user here will take out a loan and be able to buy these goods could add to the uptake of the service.

I have used Zimbo Shopper before and count as one of their satisfied customers. Have you? What was your experience? How can they improve their service? Will you consider using their service, if not why?

You can find the Zimbo Shopper Facebook page here.

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20 thoughts on “Shop in SA whilst you’re in Zim: Enter Zimbo Shopper

  1. Great write up William, you presented their case so well I thought it was your product (? strokes beard)

    Definitely using their service soon

    1. LOL. Thanks for the read Sam, no affiliation to them (at the moment – and no, I’m not pitching for a job)…

      Would be interesting to find out how you view the service. Do write back once you’ve used the service and give us all feedback

    1. Thank you, glad to know that you enjoyed it.

      Would you think that this service will be a hit in Zimbabwe? Does it meet any needs that you may have? How will such a service best help you?

      1. Definitely, I have shopped at before from Zimbabwe which provides free shipping to Harare but the clearing process was a nightmare took me 5 hours!

        1. WOW!!! 5 hours. Really deterrent. Interesting to note that they ship to Zimbabwe. Besides the clearing headache, any other challenges? Import duty? Taxes?

          What all did you buy? Clothes? Shoes? Would you do it again?

  2. one area that still needs working on is convincing customers that their orders wont be lost in transit or that they wont be scammed. and how long will that order reach the final consumer. Zimbabwe is still in the early stages of e-commerce adoption and people need to be made aware that these business transactions are safe and reliable.

    1. Hi there “Tasicious”,

      Thanks for reading.

      From my personal experiences, when I had one of my orders “misplaced” the team at Zimbo Shopper offered me a refund and/or a replacement of my order. The order was eventually found, so they didn’t have to replace anything, but they seemed to be genuine.

      Yes, in the long run the TRUST factor will play a pivotal role to this service.

      Interesting to note however, is that people here are now buying cars in the thousands of dollars range and from people who they have never seen or don’t have physical offices in Zimbabwe. Has the trust factor diminished or are people opening up to online purchases? Or would we agree that companies like beForward (the car selling website) have done well to build their brand reputation?

      1. How many gullible customers who have deposit their hard earned money into fake Beforward Western Union accounts only to find out tomorrow morning that they have been deceived?

        1. Yes, you’re true. They need to work on their PR and let people know who the REAL Zimbo Shopper is as they could be an opportunity for imposters (this hasn’t yet happened, not writing it off either).

          However, I feel it’s more to do with educating our local market on how to exercise due diligence when buying stuff online. No?

  3. Zimbo Shopper should be watchful for phishing attacks, I mean criminals can create a fake copy of the site and try to lure the customers to their FBC account. Frankly speaking I don’t trust such service until I meet Justin Masiwe and do some background security check.

    1. Thanks for the read and sharing your thoughts Khal, interesting that you’d want to meet Justin and wanting to do a background check before using the service.

      Would be interesting to know if you’d do the same with eBay, Amazon, Facebook or even if you did it with WhatsApp when you started using their service?

      What would be great is a credibility checker, perhaps what these guys are trying to do:

      However, the best that can happen for now is to check with people who have used the service before, maybe do a small order to try them out and then make your analysis from there.

      But to say that you’d want to meet the founder, is that not far fetched?

  4. The beauty of this service/product is that it wasn’t developed by technical people, hence the usefulness. I say that tongue in cheek. Sometimes I think we as techies love creating apps more than solving an actual real world problem. Good luck to you Justin Masiwe. Keep it simple.

  5. Looks like a good offering, but their business model at present doesn’t seem long term as they are using a site they don’t own, hopefully their website will be up soon as this will definitely create more trust with clients.
    I see more competition coming in this online shopping industry I would like to see if they manage to fight it and gain market share.

  6. I am just wondering if that facility is still there as I bumped into this article today.However, I think its a noble idea considering that when you buy locally, the prices are just too exorbitant(recently I had to send somebody to buy a bed from SA for only 350 bucs compared to 700 bucs locally).The issue of VAT has to be addressed too considering that one may have to pay duty and also VAT here locally.
    Also the issue of payment method has to be simple, I do not see myself going to queue at FBC to deposit cash, I think Ecocash or telecash might be better and hopefully all those `small fees` wont make the product more expensive.
    This facility is better for durables like fridges, TVs beds etc, not grocery, I can still buy my grocery from OK or TM at reasonable prices

    1. Just to add on that I think for them to use facebook is a noble idea, considering the cost and also with facebook they can reach wider market but only for short term.
      When they get more established, they need to have an established website which they need to build their brand around it because seriously I do not take those facebook pages seriously

  7. Kicking up an old story here. It occurred to me that if these goods are for export and he is not issuing a VAT refund, who is getting the refund?

  8. This is a convincing article I must say…I am still a bit doubtful though because this is just too good to be true lol.

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