Yesterday Equity Bank entered a very significant partnership with PayPal, a partnership that will see Equity Bank account holders enabled to buy and sell products and services at eBay and receive payments through their bank accounts. Linking a bank account is very important as most e-commerce transactions use PayPal as the acceptable payment platform. Most online transactions be they receiving payment for goods, money transfer, purchases of apps, subscriptions to several portals and online accounts, etc etc are paid for via PayPal.
The fact that Kenyans have not had an M-PESA like service for executing online transactions has to a large extent contributed to the sluggish adoption of e-commerce and online marketplaces. Kenyans also have this fear of doing business online as for long time virtual businesses have been seen as dens for fraudsters.By entering into partnership with PayPal, Equity has solved the former problem, but its partnership with Paypal means it is time to fight the real monster that has scared Kenyans away from online businesses.
Equity-PayPal Partnership is key not only for it as business unit but for the entire economy. There are a number of items that Kenyans could obtain affordably from the global markets via platforms like eBay and similar market places that accept PayPal. As it stands now, Kenyans are limited on choices as we can only buy from businesses who have imported some of these items and due to lack of competition, we end up paying extremely high prices for the products as the margins set by the few importers are exorbitant.
On the other side of the coin, doing export business is it not a walk in the pack. Lack of wider markets for our farmers has made them languish in poverty yet some of the products they produce have ready markets in other parts of the world. If these farmers and other business men and women faced with similar predicaments could easily be connected to the global market then a significant part of their problem would have been sorted; and it is Equity that has taken the bold step to venture into the field of providing the missing link for Kenyans to enter the global e-commerce business in a big way.
Equity, for it to ensure that this important partnership thrives to benefit all, it should do three things that are very key: 1. It should popularize the Equity-PayPal Partnership to every single Equity Bank holder 2. Frontier the creation of policies and structures needed for placing Kenya as strategic player in the global online businesses and 3. Be in the forefront in demystifying online businesses to Kenyans by conducting or sponsoring a thorough civic education.
1. Popularizing PayPal in Kenya
It has been quite some time since I saw any serious ads run by Equity on TV, neither do I hear them on radio despite the fact that they have new products like BebaPay that needs exposure and up-scaling. As we discussed here, Equity Bank in collaboration with Google have come up with a product that has the potential of drastically reducing or potentially eliminating corruption, accidents, and traffics jams caused by reckless driving on our roads. I don’t know the reasons behind Equity quietness but as marketing experts would attest, consumers need to be constantly reminded of their brands everywhere and every time in order to maintain loyalty. Whatever it is that has made Equity Bank lax in commercials, it is time it came out strong in making its presence felt now that it has new products and partnerships that are key to changing the lives of Kenyans, once again.
Given the laxity with which Equity Bank has introduced BebaPay into Kenya, there is a likelihood that the partnership it has forged with PayPal will also be limited in adoption. Although the partnership has been entered into due to the realization that millions of Kenyans have had increased access to the internet thanks to increased penetration of mobile phones in the last few years, it won’t be surprising that only the tech savvy Kenyans who already have PayPal accounts will take advantage of Equity-PayPal partnership. I however hope that this won’t be the case but Equity will put resources in ensuring that every single account holder understands PayPal and how to benefit from a PayPal account.
2. Frontier policies and structures for global e-commerce
I have tried to “buy” a few goods from eBay since Equity announced their partnership with PayPal just to see how practical it will be to have goods from eBay delivered to me. Surprisingly most of the goods I “bought” were not deliverable to Kenya. Also, listed items from Kenya in eBay are mostly Jerseys, currency, and stamps.
To ensure that Kenya become an important player in the global e-commerce, we need strong policies in place that will establish critical platforms, businesses, and structures for not only letting sellers ship their merchandise to the local markets but most importantly let local businesses effectively utilize online market places like eBay for their good and for the good of the country. Equity should not just frontier PayPal as platform for making payments for goods to be bought from eBay but importantly ensure that we are able to pitch our own products to be bought via eBay and similar websites. It is critical that necessary policies and structures are put in place, and put in place like yesterday.
3. Demystify e-commerce
We know the trend. A number of online market places and other online businesses in Kenya have tried but closed shop. We fear that some of the good things we currently enjoy online will sooner than later follow suit and disappear if Kenyans remain what they are, skeptics of online transactions.
Very few Kenyans believe that they can make payments to people they have not seen and actually receive the goods/services they paid for. Their fear is warranted. As you are well aware, a number con-men and con-women have taken advantage of our ignorance to fraud us big time since the emergence of M-PESA. Online, I personally almost got coned of over Kshs 30,000 on a promise to receive a phone that I wanted to buy from Google Trader. A friend of mine the other day almost gave away Kshs. 70,000 as rent for a fake house that was advertised at OLX. How many Kenyans get conned on fake online jobs on a daily basis?
Now imagine these and many other con-related antics will escalate when online payments will be just a click or two away thanks to the ability to link our bank accounts to PayPal. To avert this, Equity Bank must work closely with PayPal, the Government and all online stakeholders to ensure that structures discussed above are implemented. After implementing structures that will not only promote Kenyans involvement in the global e-commerce and related businesses but also seal almost all loopholes useful for fraudsters, it will be time to invest significant resources in demystifying e-commerce. Once Kenyans are made to trust online businesses to a level where they can view online as any ordinary market place, then there will be nothing to stop Equity and PayPal from reaping in the billions as Kenya’s economy and her people equally progress.
Equity Bank, the ball is still in your court; please, advertise, promote, and establish your new banking products with the same vigor that you transformed our banking sector. More so, get more involved in educating Kenyans on the importance of any/all your online/tech related ventures. Otherwise, the monster that is Kenyans skepticism of online and tech related payment systems will kill your very well intended projects and partnerships.