HEVA Fund unveils Uhuru market’s e-commerce platform set to expand reach

HEVA, the East African creative economy catalyst fund, in collaboration with the traders of Uhuru Market, and Kenya’s National Government’s SMEs Advisory Unit, has unveiled an online e-commerce platform that will enable over 1,000 traders to reach more customers through the online platform.

Uhuru Market becomes the first market in the region to adopt a digital approach to enable micro, small and medium-sized fashion and apparel producers and retailers to expand their market reach beyond walk-in clientele. This approach is guided by HEVA’s Action Research Project as a key initiative to position Uhuru Market as a Center of Excellence. This project was aimed at addressing the constraints of the garment and textile value chains within the market ecosystem, formalize their trade with a view to promoting the ideals of “Buy Kenya, Build Kenya”, as quality and desirable clothes are manufactured here in Kenya.

Through the e-commerce site https://uhurumarket.co.ke, co-developed with Vivo Activewear Ltd, shoppers can conveniently search and shop for a wide range of products from select stores in the open-air market. As part of structuring, the team has also set up a physical customer care center, and trained customer service representatives on how to address customer inquiries through a dedicated hotline number; +254 740 821 990, or via email to helpdesk@uhurumarket.co.ke.

To ensure streamlined delivery, a network of riders and other delivery partners have been identified to fulfill customer orders within 24 – 48 hours after order placement, at an affordable fee within Nairobi and across the country strengthened by a delivery policy.

Uhuru Market becomes the first open-air market in the East African region, and one of the few in Africa, to tap comprehensively and strategically into the digital space
The platform will support over 1000 traders directly and other partners in the value chain

“Transformations in the landscape of trade and technology have fundamentally altered the way Kenyans purchase and consume goods and services, especially with the critical migration onto the online space catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic. E-commerce has also proven essential due to convenience and easier adherence to social distancing rules,” said HEVA Fund Managing Partner, George Gachara.

Uhuru Market traders continually face numerous challenges including limited and unsustainable market access, competition from other structured local private manufacturers, and operational challenges, as well as limited access to credit facilities through SME funds, credit guarantees, and LPO financing from banks.

“The market rehabilitation efforts will drive access to public services, as well as firm-level support to reduce inefficiencies, increase value addition and increase value chain integration and market access, as well as increase direct and institutional financing to this subsector and its practitioners.”

“Businesses looking to set themselves up for long-term success should increase digitization, improve supply chain resilience, and redesign their business strategy,” Mr Gachara added.

At the same time, to ensure quality and to drive sustainability of the program, HEVA has forged a partnership with the Technical University of Kenya for capacity building. Uhuru Market traders have been equipped with digital, business, and technical skills such as Garment Design and Construction, Bag Design, and the Basics of Quality Control as part of capacity building.

HEVA has also registered over 1,000 traders into the Kenya Fashion Council (KFCO) through a group membership subscription. This deal will see the market be able to contribute to critical conversations around the growth of the textiles and garment industry in the country. It will also allow traders to benefit from the business opportunities extended to the council by both the private and public sectors.

Improving the health, physical and economic welfare of the traders and their dependents is also key to streamlining the market’s operations. In partnership with the local government, HEVA provided convenient registration services for NHIF and NSSF to the traders, and the market leadership kept these contacts and networks, which will facilitate their direct engagement with these national bodies.

In a bid to increase the Uhuru Market SACCO’s capacity and enroll new members, HEVA has also contracted Realtime Technology to digitize Jormat SACCO from an analog system to a digital paperless system.

The market will continue to offer quality products through the online platform, such as men’s and women’s corporate uniforms, school uniforms, and kids and baby wear, among other accessories, as it aims to diversify its production. The traders will be supported in their role of supplying affordable clothing to Kenyans of all walks of life, and providing gainful, decent, and sustainable employment to the community to drive economic growth and foster inclusive trade.