I recently threw a small (socially distanced, limited invite) get-together to celebrate the birthday anniversary for my ‘Irish triplets‘. As part of my thoroughly last-minute preparations, and as the self-appointed chief chef, I decided to go online and source for some delectable cuts from the Farmer’s Choice online shop. Given that I was already running way behind schedule and that I didn’t have any prior experience with shopping on their fairly new platform, this was a huge leap of faith! I mean honestly what I should probably have done is go onto a familiar platform like Glovo or the dearly departed Safeboda and made the purchase there, but the deals on the Farmer’s Choice online brand shop were irresistible. I was also happy to try it out because the engine behind it was the “DPO Shop” and because I have had good experiences with Direct Pay Online’s (DPO) core payments proposition, I did not expect them to screw this up.

I made my order of BBQ fodder (way too much for a limited invite shindig, but hey, working from home also means dusting off my cooking hat!), and the shopping experience with the DPO Shop engine was as expected – quite seamless. However because the merchant decided to fulfill their own delivery, my order went into a big black hole that made it impossible to track it…queue the panicked wannabe chef! Anyway, long story short, because I was unable to reach the merchant on any of their listed contacts, I decided to activate the famous Kenyan maxim – “you need to know people”, and called a friend at DPO to help me get through to the merchant; my cookout went swimmingly, and my guests were delighted with the feast!

I bring this experience up because it feels like the perfect anecdote to contextualize the launch of Digiduka’s third pillar in our quest to bring informal retailers in Africa into the digital economy – social commerce. The two main reasons that make this a problem worth solving for us are: one – commerce is irreversibly going digital and we want to equip our users with the tools to sell online; and two is that commerce, especially in Africa, remains quintessentially social. Think about it, we buy milk, bread, and mobile airtime (in between the big supermarket runs) from the kiosk next door, however, millions of these shopkeepers are beginning to lose their customers to Q-commerce or quick commerce platforms that host the big supermarket brands, and the kiosks just don’t have the tools to compete. 

We also buy shoes, car accessories, cat nip and baby clothes from people we know, or friends of friends who post their goods on Facebook, however, the buying experience is broken and they cannot compete with that of the bigger, more organized e-commerce platforms that have figured out a way to make the online shopping experience seamless – from product discovery and research to the checkout process. 

Solving this problem for small businesses such as Nairobi’s Eden Leather Goods really is the reason behind our recently announced partnership with Facebook that will see Digiduka build social commerce tools, such as an online storefront, to enable millions of informal retailers in Africa to sell online and get paid digitally. 

If you know a small business in Africa that should transform their social media page into a fully-fledged online shop, then please sign them up for early access by filling out this form: https://forms.gle/1RBwVjivmnQV3uHu6

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