Classifieds CEO: Ownai zero-rating could present a challenge, but we’re in a good position to combat it

Posted by Read 28 Comments

Picture: Garth Drummond, Founder and CEO of Webdev Africa.

Commenting on the launch of a new look of their classifieds marketplace platform two days ago, Garth Drummond, the CEO of Webdev Africa, told us they respect Econet for its achievements but they feel confident about defending their market leadership in internet classifieds in Zimbabwe.

We’d asked Drummond if the new Econet classifieds project which launched and relaunched these past few months, affects their strategy onwards. He said it doesn’t and, interestingly, brought up Webdev’s  “partnership” with One Africa Media (OAM) as contributing to their strength against new competition like Ownai.

He however did acknowledge that the zero rating “could present a challenge for us”:


While there is a new competitor in the online classifieds space every month in Zimbabwe, we do respect Econet and its amazing achievements to date. It does not affect our strategy. We have always had free options and will continue to, in addition to offering extra value to our paying customers. Some aspects of their offering which leverage their incumbency as Zim’s largest MNO could present a challenge for us. However, with our clear market leadership in visitors and content, our pace of innovation, our track record of building successful online businesses, and additional experience, technology and marketing from OAM put us in a good position to combat that.

One Africa Media is one of Africa’s largest internet marketplace companies owning and operating classifieds type properties in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana.

On when they’ll be adding payments and auction to Drummond said this is still being considered but priority was to re-develop the entire system from scratch.

He also shared some stats. He says their site now gets some 500,000 visits a month with casual sellers making up about 15% of all adverts posted.The property category, which now has a dedicated site, is still’s most trafficked category.

One key improvement he told us about which we hadn’t noticed when we posted the announcement earlier, is the ability for buyers and sellers to chat live on the site. There are also new subscription options for sellers. In addition to the 5 live ads for free, there are now $10, $30 and $50 per month subscription options to suit every budget.

The free ads limit has attracted some been compared unfavourably to Ownai’s “everything is free” mode they’re still in.


Webdev is a internet company based in Zimbabwe which is part of the African continental group of companies called [[[ROAM]]. Webdev operates a payments gateway called Paynow, a bills payments website called TopUp, a web development company called Webdev, and a marketplace websites; and... Read More About Webdev

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless International, is the first and largest mobile network services provider in Zimbabwe. The telecoms giant became popular with its products and services such as Buddie. It has established branches in different corners of the country and enjoys... Read More About Econet


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  1. Mark BYO says:

    Why would I list on classifieds if I can upload unlimited free ads on I think classifieds need to offer unlimited free listings if they want to compete. I’m sure econet will soon offer online payments too which will be good. Classifieds have been without competition for too long and failed to innovate. Ownai has finally provided some tough competition.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I agree. Why can’t classifieds just offer us unlimited free listings. They’ve been able to make money from us until now but can’t continue like that if a big competitor is offering free listings. I think ownai will price them out of the market unless they address that issue. Especially in the current economy when every cent counts

      1. KGB says:

        you do know that ownai is only about two weeks old? like all other econet businesses, their terms will change. remember, right now they arent making any money off this site and their free unlimited ads is just to start rolling traffic in. soon it will be money making time for them

        1. pete says:

          Econet said about Ownai that it is “free to list and always will be.” I guess revenue will come from somewhere else. If they offer online payments with Ecocash they can probably run a sustainable business with just ecocash transaction fees. Will be interesting to see.

          1. Mazambane says:

            The $3 WhatsApp bundles were unlimited initially too – that changed. It will always be free to list? – possibly. It does not say they won’t impose a limit on number of free listing like classifieds does OR that they won’t add premium listings and now for the big one…….do you really believe that it will always be free to browse? 🙂 I don’t.
            Ecocash fees are a red herring as long as Ownai is a largely C2C marketplace. Most items sold will involve face-to-face interactions = cash transactions. Ownai is not an e-commerce site and will not become an e-commerce site so long as they are on their current technology stack.
            The industry needed competition and now its here – Ownai vs Classifieds vs ‘the rest’. This will be an interesting battle. You don’t even have to pick a side to enjoy.

            1. tapiwa says:

              Yeh will be interesting to see how the different platforms fight it out. Classifieds were enjoying a very non competitive landscape until ownai arrived on the scene. I think there’s room for both to succeed but my money would be on if I had to pick sides. From what I’ve seen from both services, ownai on the whole offers a better user experience and more benefits to sellers.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Its not like they asking for a fortune, access to 500,000 people and displaying my brand is worth $10 to me, one extra sale makes me that back, the rest is bonus.

      1. zimcoder says:

        With millions of subscribers I’m sure econet has a bigger potential market though. They’ve only just launched so will be interesting to see how quickly they can scale ownai. They have better marketing resources to make it big quickly.

    3. Anesu says:

      Simple…You’d list on as opposed to free ownai because still has all the traffic…and until ownai has just as much traffic….it makes business sense to put money where the traffic is, as opposed to no money where there isnt much traffic.

    4. Anonymous says:

      innovate: make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

      Classifieds have innovated. I don’t understand your logic? They have upgraded their site many times. I do enjoy the ownai site as well although of late I find it is offline and inaccessible which is a shame and I hope it comes back online soon.
      I think offer credit where it is due as classifieds have grown from nothing to something, that should be inspiring and if free unlimited listings is what you want then sure take advantage of ownai for that time but I don’t think its fair to put down classifieds based on that reasoning!! Competition is GOOD and we should be proud of businesses making a mark in Zimbabwe!

  2. zimcoder says:

    Competition is good for the market. Imagine if there was only one super sketch chain or bank in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans would suffer.

    1. zimcoder says:

      Supermarket chain even.

  3. Eeee says:

    Seems like econet is trying to box out the competition bt a classifieds site lives and dies by its ability to sell for example classifieds has sold me a house and numerous cars. So ownai will have to beat out classifieds on that front.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Classifieds offer free advertising via their whatsapp platform +263782998877 its amazing

  5. Eeee says:

    Look at craigslist and how ugly it is bt still works well

  6. Rogerstheking says:

    classifieds offers a free ads placement via their whatsapp platform +263782998877 its awesome and it goes live there and then.

  7. aktion says:

    Thanks to Ownai my dream of marketing my products online has now become a reality. My only internet source is my mobile network Econet and this is true for millions of people.
    Thanks Econet for such innovative products,most of us would still be in the dark ages without you

  8. too many conflicted trolls. get a life!

    1. ngattich says:

      Why is he a troll? Kikikk

      1. Anonymous says:

        I guess anyone who likes Econet is a troll in the minds of techzim. lol

        1. easy to tell actually… lot that comes here trolling not the sharpest tools in the shed

    2. tinm@n says:

      More of shills than trolls.

      And yes, they are plenty

  9. Swing Both Ways says:

    I’m getting this really strong either-or vibe from most of the comments. Surely I can’t be the only one celebrating plurality in this context? Just list on them both, the dollars will be just as green either way!

    1. vee says:

      Exactly my thought…. I will list on both. Like simcards i can have both and enjoy both worlds.

      1. Kumbo says:

        I’ve been using classifieds for years but now offer unlimited free ad listings I think classifieds need to do match them and do same. It’s tough times right now for small businesses so we need all the help we can get to market ourselves. nice that we now have Onwai as another place to sell our stuff. so far looks like it will be a hit.

  10. Munoda says:

    The new look or menu for classifieds is difficult to use bring back the old one or your sales go down

  11. tawkats says:

    Is it fair business practice though for Econet to zero-rate Ownai?

  12. Soshie says:

    Wabdev complicated their website , they should use the earlier format.

Comments are closed.