Masoko an African equivalent of Amazon.com has been announced by Safaricom, as they eye to tap into the growing online marketplace in Kenya.
Masoko is a Swahili word for markets. It is to offer a range of products ranging from electronics, cosmetics, food and beverages.
Safaricom is looking to work with farmers and manufacturers pursuing direct market access and better supply-chain efficiencies.
Competition is expected to be intense with the likes of Jumia and Kilimall, thought Safaricom Masoko’s biggest advantage is their huge budget and of course the possible integration of Lipa na M-Pesa as one of their payment gateways.
Masoko is currently going through inhouse tests before going live, Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore said in a media interview.
“This offering will not be holding inventory and neither will it be an anyone-can-sell arena,” Mr Collymore said. “Safaricom is carefully screening all the merchants before giving them access to the platform.” The objective of the platform, according to Safaricom director of enterprise Rita Okuthe, is to become “a little more” than an African equivalent of Amazon.com’s Marketplace. Safaricom, which is currently the world’s top mobile money provider, is hoping to build on the success of M-Pesa, which handled Sh432.5 billion worth of mobile commerce transactions in the first quarter ofthe year.
Safaricom has partnered with local courier firm, Sendy, and Fargo Courier Kenya, which will deal with delivery and warehousing of goods from merchants who sign up on Masoko.
For the local businesses Masoko will enable online trading with customers, in turn boosting Safaricom’s M-Pesa payments platform (Lipa na M-Pesa).
Collymore also said Masoko will eventually grow to enable African business people to trade across borders, allowing someone in Kenya to buy Ethiopian leather goods on the site, or to export their produce to Nigeria.
“Technology knocks down physical borders,” he said, “What we do know is that it (Masoko) is the thing that will take us out of Kenya.”
According to data from the Communication Authority of Kenya, over Sh625 billion worth of mobile commerce transactions were recorded at end of March exposing an enormous prospect of online business in Kenya thanks to the growing number of Kenyans with internet enabled smartphones.