- E-commerce is supporting women’s entry to and success in the digital economy and helping to compete in sectors like electronics where they are typically underrepresented
- The growth of e-commerce in countries such as Kenya represents an opportunity to close gender gaps by opening more markets to women-owned businesses
- By bridging the wide gap of access to digital and financial inclusion, more women would be able to list their businesses on e-commerce platforms and allowing them to grow
The ongoing expansion of Kenya’s digital economy has the potential of creating opportunities for countless Kenyan women to make a livelihood, especially in the e-commerce space.
A finding by the International Financial Corporation observed that the growth of e-commerce in countries such as Kenya represents an opportunity to close gender gaps by opening more markets to women-owned businesses.
It further noted that while there is a higher incidence of women entrepreneurs compared to men, advances in disruptive technologies do not always translate into advances in gender equality that would facilitate their success on e-commerce platforms.
A separate finding by Dalberg dubbed ‘Kenya’s Digital Economy Portal’ showed that while the growth of digital infrastructure has been exponential with 65% of Kenyans having access to the internet, only 13% of Kenyans have used e-commerce platforms to buy or sell products and services. Of the total, 40% of these users said they have faced challenges in receiving their deliveries, due to a lack of precise street addresses and logistics complications.
So as the world celebrates International Women’s Month under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,’ this March, The Exchange Africa sort to find out what stakeholders in the industry, especially the government, should do to accommodate more women in the e-commerce space.
The report by the IFC noted that by bridging the widespread gap of access to digital and financial inclusion, more women would be able to list their businesses to e-commerce platforms and allow them to grow.
“E-commerce is supporting women’s entry to and success in the digital economy. It is also helping women-owned businesses to compete in sectors like electronics where they are typically underrepresented,” Stephanie Von Friedebeburg of the International Financial Corporation (IFC) said in the report.
Offer credit facilities to women to support their participation in e-commerce
Abdul Varvany, CEO of Kenyan online marketplace Airduka said that while women entrepreneurs are actively participating in e-commerce, they require a lot of support to grow.
He said that women are already dominating the MSME space, but are yet to make such strides in the digital space.
“If stakeholders across all e-commerce platforms in Kenya committed to actively targeting women in the MSME sector, we would witness exponential success as women are already well represented in that sector.”
Ensure online safety
Another way of ensuring that women thrive in the digital space, including on social media platforms, is by preventing them from various attacks online.
Varvany noted that women, despite their various capacities, are subjected to attacks online which can make them shy away from participating aggressively online, including on e-commerce platforms. Women tend to undergo several forms of cyber harassment, trolling and non-consensual sharing of intimate photos.
He asked relevant stakeholders to ensure the legislative frameworks laid out to create a safe place for women to enjoy the digital space safely are followed at all costs.
Offer frequent training to women operating in the e-commerce space
IFC also found that the gender gap on e-commerce platforms can be closed by encouraging greater uptake of value-added services amongst women-owned businesses.
As per the report, women’s lower use of value-added services stems from having to pay a premium for such services on many platforms.
Since women have lower revenues, their businesses are likely to have less disposable income to channel towards additional promotional activities beyond what may already be provided by the platform for free.
IFC said that the issue is particularly concerning given women’s concentration in high-competition segments like fashion, where such promotional tools could provide a way to further differentiate their offerings.