The Connected Summit 2023 on Tuesday held a plenary discussion on opportunities and challenges in e-commerce in Kenya, which highlighted the need for increased investment in technology and infrastructure to fully realize the potential of the sector.
The panel was moderated by Harry Hare, Chairman, dx5 and featured key experts in the field, including Hon Susan Auma Mang’eni, Principal Secretary, State Department of MSMEs; John Kipyegon Tonui, Post Master General, Postal Corporation; Francis Ngari, Kenya Private Sector Alliance; Frida Inchoga, Advisor on Digital Commerce/Trade, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change; Dr James Ngari Njeru Ag. Director, Research, Planning and Quality Management, Communication Authority of Kenya; and Peter Mathenge, SVP, Head, Public Sector Sales, Treasury & Trade Solutions, SSA, Citi.
PS Mang’eni emphasized that the country needs to empower MSMEs with the right technological tools and training to get into the e-commerce space. She noted that there is massive potential for expansion in e-commerce, and this can be achieved through technology and infrastructure that makes digital services and finances accessible to the majority of the population.
Tonui, on his part, revealed that the Postal Corporation is working on an e-commerce platform that will enable traders to list their products and services. He noted that the corporation is coming up with a website where Kenyans can access e-commerce services both locally and internationally, with Posta providing last-mile delivery.
Ngari highlighted that the potential of Kenya’s e-commerce sector has not been fully realized due to the lack of a national address system that affects the delivery of purchased goods. He also noted that Kenya could earn more revenues from e-commerce if the country exports more of its products and services aided by online platforms.
Inchoga called on the government to offer support to MSMEs to expand their businesses outside Kenya, stating that there needs to be a favourable regulatory environment. She emphasized the importance of supporting MSMEs to expand beyond the borders of Kenya, as there are opportunities to start track and trace in Kenya.
Mathenge noted that there is potential for the expansion of e-commerce if the government starts offering its services and products online. He noted that governments across the board are asking for large-scale platforms where citizens can access services.
Dr Njeru argued that Kenya’s e-commerce is urban-centric because rural businesses lag in the online space. He noted that the potential for MSMEs today is to have them placed into a platform where they can sell their products and services countrywide. He emphasized the need for payment platforms using Mpesa to ensure that payment is accessible to all.
The panellists agreed that the lack of trust among Kenyans in e-commerce was a significant impediment to the sector. They noted that this can be resolved by having transparent platforms aided by technology to verify users and identify fraudsters. They emphasized the need for online dispute resolution to solve disputes from unsatisfied parties.
In conclusion, the panellists agreed that the potential for e-commerce in Kenya is vast, and with the right technological tools, infrastructure, and regulatory environment, the sector can significantly contribute to the country’s economy. They called on the government and private sector players to work together to create an enabling environment for e-commerce to thrive in Kenya.