Two years ago, I called for Kenyan developers/ entrepreneurs to move on from dumb phones and develop for Smartphones. Back then there were sizable number of prominent voices who thought my call was premature. At the time, I had approximated that there were around 500K smartphones in the country. My call could have been too early but looking at it now, I think I was right then.
Look around now and the craze about sms/dumb phone/ Africa bla bla bla is down to almost zero level. Why? Because for all those years and despite all the noise nobody has made it big through the sms/ussd route. Another reason is that Kenyans are moving away from dumb phones as fast as they can. Safaricom alone has over 1.7million smartphones on their system. That number does not include the so called data enabled phones…nah smartphones only. Based on that my estimation at this moment is that we have over 2 million smartphones in Kenya. Remember two years ago were talking about 500K.
But dumb vs smartphone is a story for another day. For today, the focus is on the ecommerce business and why the time has come for Kenyans stand up and take advantage of the prevailing opportunities. I know tech writers like to throw in sometime meaningless stats in their articles but unfortunately I am not going to avoid doing the same here. According to the last CCK report covering July to September 2013 the number of internet users in Kenya stood at 19.1 Million, while the internet/data subscribers were 11.6million. You might say that those are just numbers but the fact is that they are there. Meaning the market is there and therefore there should not be any excuse why selling online in Kenya is not viable and actually profitable.
My observation based on what I see people updating both on Facebook and Twitter is that Kenyans are embracing online transactions.OLX Kenya, for example has become a household name in Kenya. And when people talk about selling things, it is not surprising to hear them say sell it on online. For some time the people who were comfortable buying goods or services online were mostly techies, but the trend has changed. Now I see friends from different walks of life talking about buying or looking for stuffs online. I expect more Kenyan SMEs to enter market place this year and the coming years.
Still on the above numbers, the great thing about Kenya is that we expect the online space to grow month after month. A time is fast approaching when many of these users will realize the benefits of buying online as opposed to going physically to the shop and when that time comes we will be talking a different story here.