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eCommerce: Zimbabwe Online Shopping, a Low Hanging Fruit

Harare, Zimbabwe – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in 2019, Esther Shoko, a migrant nurse in the UK had to act fast, or watch from ...

Harare, Zimbabwe – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in 2019, Esther Shoko, a migrant nurse in the UK had to act fast, or watch from afar, while her family starved back home.

Miles away in Harare, her homeland, the authorities would soon pronounce a blanket lockdown in 2020 and when this happened, many families, including hers struggled to source daily provisions.

For years now, her immediate and extended families had heavily relied on her benevolence to send them money regularly. Already, her country had a documented history of food shortages. With the pandemic, this could worsen their plight.

Now, through her experience in Europe, times like these demanded one to stock up on basics, that could last during the lockdown period. But first, she needed a reliable, genuine online shopping platform to do so.

In the past, while transacting on dodgy online platforms, some of her colleagues had been duped, or their credit card information tampered with. This has created doubts with online payments, especially those from lesser unknown businesses.

This time, after a thorough research, which included getting credible references from trusted colleagues, she later investigated one online shopping platform to supply selected food parcels back home. 
eCommerce: Zimbabwe Online Shopping, a Low Hanging Fruit
Satisfied with her observations, in 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, she recorded her first international online transaction.

“In UK, I had used online shopping to buy various goods for myself and I wanted to send groceries back home, that would be enough for my family for the duration of the lockdown,” Esther told “During the pandemic lockdowns, food prices usually increase or they become scarce.”

In a few days, her family confirmed receiving their food parcels, delivered at their respective homes, putting to bed her lingering worries. After that encounter, she has used online shopping more than once. Lately, online shopping, which surged during the pandemic era, has shown “serious potential,” according to an online shop operator, adding that, “What COVID-19 did, was help divert the public’s attention towards the future. In a sense, COVID-19 was a catalyst and the momentum gained shouldn’t be lost.”

The online shop, created in the UK and targeting Zimbabweans in the diaspora, has enjoyed its peak transactions during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, chiefly fueled by the diaspora community, such as Esther, who is part of the millions who religiously send provisions back home.

“We have managed to position ourselves as the go to marketplace for our diaspora colleagues who require reliable service provision,” said the online proprietor. But while online shopping represents a relatively uncharted avenue, it, however, obviously harbors some underlying pitfalls.

Until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe’s online shopping remained largely unexplored, except for a few citizens with access to credit cards or a reliable internet. Some are skeptical for various reasons.

Yearly, the Zimbabwe diaspora community, familiar with the benefits of eCommerce platforms remitted $1.4 billion in 2021, thereby creating a large potential market. With 4.13 million active mobile money users, online shopping can be improved and harnessed easily.

Locally, online shopping has a lot of potential and Zimbabwe cannot be left out of the growing global bubble. To effectively embrace eCommerce, Zimbabwe must meet certain global standards. Again, Zimbabweans generally spend more time on social networks and these are a “low hanging fruit for budding entrepreneurs within the eCommerce space.”

Additionally, online shopping is putting the country into focus, and its willingness to do business easily, after years of economic meltdown characterized by cash shortages, hyperinflation and other inhibitive laws.

The diaspora community are transferring their knowledge and exposure by sending goods instead of cash, thereby reducing the risks involved, such as theft and misuse of funds by recipients.

Previous reports on the topic have mainly focused on the sudden boom. However, the proposed feature will seek the views of eCommerce players, both locally and abroad to understand how and why the industry is largely unexplored.

Since Zimbabwe has largely become an informal economy, with high unemployment, the article will equip informal traders on how to harness the online opportunities.

Online shopping provides a broader, diverse clientele. Also, the availability of smart money, remittances services and a large diaspora pool, can drive a large market into a bigger, better business.

However, existing cyber laws needs to be aligned, engage other online payments platforms and invest in infrastructure.

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