We’ve figured out payments, so what’s next for Zim e-commerce?


Last Saturday Paynow, a local e-payments integration service, hosted a developers’ day at the Hypercube Hub. The event was attended by several developers and designers with some of them eager to integrate Paynow with their online services.

Matthew Hood, the technical lead at Paynow, was pleased with the turnout at the Developer day, largely because of the impressive systems that the developers were bringing for integration. Some of the developers and designers had web based solutions and apps that had been shelved because they didn’t have a simple payments solution for their system.

Beyond the success of the developer day the event marked a huge leap for e-commerce in Zimbabwe. Two aspects whose conjoining has a huge bearing on e-commerce success, payments and system development, where brought together in one space.


Paynow, although relatively new, has not only come off as an all encompassing, simplified payments integration option. It has managed to reach out to the guys who have been directly involved in creating e-commerce platforms but needed a solution for the local online payments challenges.

Granted we have had some impressive workarounds before Paynow (solutions like Pay4App and vPayments come to mind) but the impressive move made by Paynow here is reaching out to the people who have been trying to or intend to make something out of local e-commerce opportunities.

Currently the local ecosystem is littered with startups that have been angling at e-commerce and online retailing with varying success.

While their efforts have slowly brought people to appreciate online services,  there has been no e-commerce site or application to really kick the Zimbabwean e-commerce revolution into high gear. We are still looking for our shining example of how e-commerce has truly arrived in Zimbabwe.

We can attribute this to several factors, one of which has been up until now the issue of payments. While we might get divergent views on whether or not our country is ready to do business online, crossing of payments from that list brings us one step closer to experiencing that huge wave that we have been anticipating ever since dollarisation.

Other pieces of the puzzle that are already in place include the increasing internet penetration rate, a highly consumptive society and the absence of exchange rate woes (thanks to the borrowed currencies).

However, the most significant component in all of this is the acceptance of a cashless culture that has been facilitated by the mobile money revolution.

With the successes of mobile money in other African markets translating to a greater uptake of e-commerce services, the same wave is likely to hit Zimbabwe because we offer similar growth prospects for anyone willing to take the risk.

The local MNOs have a greater incentive to see this happening because of the huge opportunity of mobile money and the decline in voice revenue. These operators have been gearing up for greater m-commerce activity with expanded options for mobile wallets and more investment into the same business line.  Some have even hinted that they are going to have a go at e-commerce themselves.

It goes without saying that there are other factors that have to be brought into perspective before we start holding our breath for anything close to success stories like Jumia, Konga, Bid or Buy or even ten figure valuations like what has been achieved by India’s Flipkart 

First of all whoever wants to make a huge splash in e-commerce has to figure out the logistics side of things. If I’m buying goods from a trusted wholesaler or e-tailer it makes sense and would be great to have them delivered to my doorstep or at a convenient location.

A lot of innovation will be needed to come up with appropriate solutions for this challenge, and it will take active involvement from stakeholders in logistics willing to see the long term opportunity of the e-commerce. Perhaps this is where Zimpost needs to come in aggressively as part of their turnaround plan.

Not surprisingly the Paynow team has considered this and confirmed that they are exploring possible solutions for this through strategic partnerships. We are keen on seeing how they will solve this, together with the other startups in the trenches trying to figure that one out as well.

If that is taken care of in the short or medium term we’d still need to see competitive pricing from online merchants. Beyond the noise surrounding payment options, logistics or web stores that look great and function perfectly, if it its not priced right it won’t be bought. I might as well catch a kombi and go and pick up the product myself.

The e-commerce landscape has changed drastically in the last 24 months but what lies ahead in the next year will answer the question of how ready we have been for it and where it goes to in the future.

How do you think local e-commerce is likely to take shape in the next two years? Feel free to give us your opinion in the comments below.

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