Kenya experiences explosion of digital marketplaces amid Covid-19 pandemic


AS Kenya fights the Covid-19 pandemic, the disease is also altering the retail landscape as more buyers go online.

The switch has, therefore, seen many entrepreneurs come up with online businesses to cash in on the opportunity.

While some of the businesses which were offline take their activities online, existing online ones have scaled up their operations.

From the sale of fresh produce to clothes and shoes, cooked food, baby items, mobile phones and alcoholic drinks, the digital start-ups are aggressively marketing their products online where many Kenyans are currently spending their time.

All one needs to do is make a call or click a button and place their orders and pay via mobile money or on delivery of the product, which is brought to one’s doorstep.

Mkulima Young, Baba Mboga and Groceries Paradise, which deal with farm produce, are some of the online startups seeking to cash in during the period of the pandemic.

While the first one links buyers and sellers, the last two buy produce from farmers and do home deliveries, with all the online businesses recording a surge in business.

‘Yes, online business has increased during this pandemic period, therefore, giving opportunities for more players to come in. For agricultural online marketplaces, for instance, there has been increased usage, which currently provides us with good feedback on how to improve the infrastructure going forward,’ said Joseph Macharia, the founder of Mkulima Young.

Thanks to the pandemic, Macharia noted that his start-up has now partnered with a county government to enable farmers to market their products not only in Kenya but also regionally.

‘This is a chance that we did not have before the pandemic but it has come up after the county government in Nakuru saw the opportunity our site brings and noted their farmers can benefit,’ he said.

Macharia reckoned that going by the increasing numbers of people who are going online, Kenya’s retail sector would change radically in the coming months giving a huge leap to online business, which had stagnated over the years.

‘I had resisted doing online shopping for years but for the first time last week, I did and liked it,’ said insurance agent Beatrice Kerubo, who bought food from an online start-up.

According to her, many people had resisted buying items online but the COVID-19 measures are helping a mindset change, with a good number of people trying for the first time during the pandemic.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution, a software development firm in Nairobi, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has given entrepreneurs a chance to grow online businesses and turn around the retail sector.

‘My take is that even after the pandemic, online business will remain sustainable. Both buyers and sellers have realized the cost-effectiveness of using the platforms despite some shortcomings that include fraud, which can be tackled by authorities,’ he said.




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