Thousands of Kenyan MSMEs trained on e-commerce

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Over 2,500 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya have received training on expanding their digital presence courtesy of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).

The KEPSA E-commerce Booster Program was launched in February this year with a target of training 2,000 MSMEs.

According to the Alliance, the enterprises have been trained on introduction to e-commerce, digital marketing, aftersales, content creation and management.

Of the figure, 1300 businesses were on-boarded onto various ecommerce marketplaces to increase and diversify their revenue streams hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MSMEs targeted by the program were struggling with their digital brand presence with majority of them reporting they were either unaware of missed opportunities or did not have a digital brand strategy.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruptions in global and regional value chains, it is clear that e-commerce is an important tool and solution for both businesses and consumers,” KEPSA said in a statement.

The Alliance says it conducted the program owing to the fact that e-commerce can support small businesses in reducing their costs and effectively reaching their customers.

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The MSMEs targeted by the program were struggling with their digital brand presence / UNSPLASH

E-commerce is also an economic driver for both domestic growth and international trade that makes economies more competitive.

KEPSA reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has occasioned a spike in business-to-consumers (B2C) online sales and an increase in Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce.

According to the Alliance, the increase in B2C sales is particularly evident in online sales of medical supplies, household essentials and food products.

As a result, attention has been drawn to several challenges hindering the full potential of ecommerce across countries.

This comes on the backdrop of a World Bank finding which revealed that Kenyan entrepreneurs and small business owners in urban and peri-urban communities have struggled to retain customers, stock their shops, and implement effective health and safety protocols since the onset of the pandemic.

The KEPSA Chief Executive Officer, Carole Kariuki acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had pushed businesses to be innovative and get out of their comfort zones by expanding their sales and services on e-commerce platforms.

“We are trying to help business leaders understand what’s going on in the market and how the world is changing and help them identify strategic opportunities that are available and those that may not have been possible even just a year ago.”

Speaking at the event the Cabinet Secretary for ICT Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru said the government is increasing the internet and mobile network grid in the country by investing in last mile connectivity.

“A 2020 report by the Internet World Stats rated Kenya’s internet penetration as the highest in Africa with 87.2 percent of the population connected. The e-commerce sector has significant potential to create new jobs directly on online marketplaces, supporting services and spin-off economic activities.”

Trade Mark East Africa Kenya Country Director, Ahmed Farah HSC, noted that COVID19 has had a significant impact on the general economy.

“Many enterprises have faced challenges which have in extreme cases led to business closure and loss of employment. Some of the measures that TradeMark East Africa prioritizes in its approach to work are aimed at ultimately reducing poverty and creating wealth for our people while we protect our environment.”

Present at the launch was the KEPSA Founding Chair Dr. Manu Chandaria who said that the program was timely because MSMEs are the backbone of the country’s economy.

Data released by UNCTAD in March this year show a strong uptake of e-commerce across regions, with consumers in emerging economies making the greatest shift to online shopping.

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According to the report, Latin America’s online marketplace Mercado Libre, for example, sold twice as many items per day in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same period the previous year. And African e-commerce platform Jumia reported a 50 percent jump in transactions during the first six months of 2020.

China’s online share of retail sales rose from 19.4 percent to 24.6 percent between August 2019 and August 2020. In Kazakhstan, the online share of retail sales increased from 5 percent in 2019 to 9.4 percent in 2020.

Thailand saw downloads of shopping apps jump 60 percent in just one week during March 2020.

The trend towards e-commerce uptake seen in 2020 is likely to be sustained during recovery, the report says.

Wanjiku Njuguna is a Kenyan-based business reporter with experience of more than eight years.

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