Edith Mokeira, a freelance writer, has enjoyed the convenience of online shopping for years, saying her strong affinity for online shopping was developed during her college days when the digital revolution was taking shape in Kenya.
"I enjoy shopping online, though it can be addictive. Over the years, I have always made orders for my favorite shoes, clothes and other accessories over the electronic commerce platforms," Mokeira confessed her near addiction to online shopping, thanks to its accompanying benefits like speed, convenience and pocket-friendliness when compared to traditional retail stores.
She had just received brand new shoes ordered through Kilimall, one of Kenya's top online retail platforms, as the country's digital-savvy youth embarked on frenzied shopping ahead of Black Friday.
At the Kilimall warehouse on the outskirts of Nairobi, feisty motorbike riders who waited for their turn to deliver neatly wrapped parcels to clients admitted that the growth of e-commerce in Kenya had transformed their livelihoods.
Gabriel Owino, a 45-year-old father of five and a seasoned delivery man said that working as a contractor for Kilimall in the last five years has improved his financial status.
"I have benefitted from the growth of online business in the country as a motorbike rider. Delivering parcels has been financially rewarding. Am able to clear household bills without much struggle," said Owino.
His younger colleague, Alex Mutuku, aged 30 and father of two, said that he anticipated a windfall during this year's Back Friday, as orders to deliver parcels to clients tripled.
According to Mutuku, his three-year stint as a deliveryman has broadened his understanding of e-commerce and the benefits it has unleashed to the local economy. "The online business has given me a day job and I'm guaranteed a minimum monthly income of about 25,000 shillings (223 U.S. dollars)," said Mutuku.
Kenya is ranked among African e-commerce powerhouses that also include Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco, thanks to higher internet penetration, friendly regulations and a stable macro-economic environment.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in its "COVID-19 impact on e-commerce in Africa" report says that more than 294 million Africans have internet connections while growing smartphone ownership, youth bulge, and rising middle-class incomes have spurred the growth of online shopping.
Silas Musyoka, Marketplace Operations manager at Kilimall revealed that online sales surged at the onset of the pandemic early last year amid lockdowns, adding that the trend could last longer.
"More people are buying products online. Many African countries are adopting e-commerce, supply chains are expanding and I see specific countries emerging as leaders in this sector," said Musyoka, envisioning a brighter future for China-Africa cooperation in digital economy saying it will help revamp supply chains, promote seamless trade in high-quality products and create additional jobs for the youth.
His optimism has solid backing as a report released in April by Visa Consulting and Analytics notes that Africa's nascent e-commerce sector has demonstrated huge potential for growth.
According to the report titled "e-commerce developments across Sub-Saharan Africa", the region registered a 42 percent growth in online sales from 2019 to 2020 while the pandemic restrictions saw e-commerce users in Sub-Saharan Africa rose by 5 percent in 2020, compared to 2019.
Pelita Wanyonyi, a product manager at Tecno in Kenya said that e-commerce platforms in the country including Kilimall and Jumia have offered convenient and cost-effective means for clients to acquire their favorite smartphones.
According to Wanyonyi, the online platforms have enhanced the visibility of Chinese smartphones in Kenya and other strategic markets in Africa, besides benefitting consumers in terms of discounted prices and guaranteed quality.
"We receive 50 percent of our sales from the online market, it is doing very well," said Wanyonyi.
Evans Kiprotich, an employee at Kilimall's technical department, said online buying that gives him convenience and fun has a promising future in Africa. He previously studied industrial engineering at China's Hunan University.
Kiprotich said that he had gained a wealth of experience with online commerce while in China where he was a frequent visitor to Chinese online shopping platforms, such as Taobao and Pinduoduo that made it convenient for him to acquire trendy attire and electronics. "E-commerce is very promising in Africa as more people are embracing online shopping," he said.