E-commerce gives Kenyan courier industry a lift

Why walk to the shop to buy groceries, food or shoes when you can shop for the goods via the phone and they are delivered at your doorstep? This is the question many Kenyans are asking themselves these days before choosing the convenient option that has seen a boom in e-commerce in Kenya.

Medicines, groceries, meals, shopping and electronic items, among others, are just a click away on citizen’s smartphones.

While e-commerce service providers that include telecommunication firms, supermarkets, restaurants, grocery stores, and fast-food chains are some of the beneficiaries of the trade, the biggest winners are turning out to be courier services.

Kenya is experiencing a surge in courier service providers as the fortunes in the sector are changed by the booming e-commerce, as the use of the internet grows to hit a new high in Kenya.

According to the Communication Authority (CA), growth of courier business in Kenya is currently hinged on e-commerce. As of June, there were 1,027 courier service providers in Kenya, with the number rising by a record 30 from 997 in a similar quarter in 2018. The 1,027 courier service providers during the period moved 885,862 parcels and courier items, a growth from 724,866 in the period ending March.

“The rise is mainly attributed to the increased uptake of e-commerce in the country especially by micro, small and middle-sized enterprises,” said CA.

Courier service providers in Kenya include leading bus companies, the postal corporation, independent firms that mainly use motorbikes for short-distance deliveries, media houses and security companies.

A survey at various leading bus companies in Kenya shows that parcel delivery is among their most popular services.

At Easy Coach, a leading bus company, dozens of parcels were being sorted for delivery to various western Kenya destinations on Tuesday.

“We move hundreds of courier items every day, big and small,” said an attendant, with the company charging a minimum of 300 shillings (3 U.S. dollars) for each item.

It was a similar case at Modern Coast Bus Company in downtown Nairobi, which also ferries tens of parcels every day to various coastal towns.

Among items ferried by the long-distance bus companies is electronic equipment like computers and TVs, medicines, clothes, foodstuffs and motor vehicle spare parts bought by small businesses upcountry.

“There is good business in rural areas because I have several customers there. They tell me the machines they want, I share with them photos of what I have via WhatsApp, we agree the price, they pay via mobile money and I send the items via courier,” offered Gilbert Ojiambo, a computer seller in Nairobi.

Besides bus companies, cab hailing firms like Uber and Bolt are among the latest entrants in the courier delivery services in Kenya as they seek to cash in on the rise in-home delivery services, especially in the capital Nairobi.

Courier Industry Association chairman Geoffrey Mwove in a recent interview said e-commerce is the current growth driver of the industry, with firms leveraging on technology to enhance efficiency and lower costs.

Kenya was ranked seven out of 10 e-commerce developing economies in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The UN agency put the number of online shoppers in Kenya at about 2.6 million, with the country trailing leader South Africa which had over 3 million.

– Source Xinhua