Africa Sokoni is a Kenyan based online marketplace that brings African customers and retailers together online in a hassle-free shopping experience. Africa Sokoni co-founder Fred Kirui spoke to Techmoran about how they are working towards this goal.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your educational background etc
My name is Fredrick Kirui,I am the Co-Founder & Director – Strategy at Africa Sokoni. I am a graduate holder of a Bsc Ecotourism Hotel and Institution from Maseno University and is currently pursuing a MBA for Executives from Strathmore Business School.
How would you describe your company, tell us about your team
We have a young and a robust team of professionals. 85% of the staff are female, I think we take the advise from Jack Ma very seriously, in regards to hiring women in for a successful organisation. The team was carefully selected based on their individual competencies and strengths. We realised that we need professionals who don’t see working for AfricaSokoni as an employment rather as an opportunity to enhance their skills.
What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
We launched AfricaSokoni driven primarily by the improved and increasing internet penetration in Kenya and Africa as a whole. We are also inspired by the numerous research data that depicts the untapped market opportunity for e-commerce in Kenya and Africa. We are also tapping into the need to offer reliability, convenience and affordability of items to the increasing middle class in Kenya. We are anchoring our vision of “Redefining Shopping in Africa” through leveraging the power of the internet, and through the introduction of relevant and scalable technologies.
How has uptake been like since you launched?
So far so good. I would be lying to you if I told we are making massive profits. We are however encouraged by the reception we have received in the market being only here in less than 2 months. We are positive that we are heading in the right direction. We are cognisant with the fact that we have a long way to go. We still have so much ground to cover. We are ready and thrilled by this opportunity to serve Kenyans and Africans in general.
Who is your major competition? What do you do to distinguish yourself from them?
For us, competition ranges from a brick and mortar retailer to anyone who is offering a similar e-commerce service either locally or internationaly.
We are trying to cut a niche for ourselves through availing products on AfricaSokoni that truly reflect the strong African spirit from clothing to handbags. We also provide 12 hour delivery within Nairobi and 24 hours outside Nairobi.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
Our biggest challenge has and will always be converting the millions of Kenyans who still think that it’s unsafe to buy stuff online.
The other challenge is getting the best prices for the stuff that we sell on our platform to ensure we give our customers the best value for money.
A future challenge for us, with global expansion being a main goal of ours we face what most companies face when dealing with global expansion growth. Advertising, culture, language, local market trends and product market acceptance. Gaining comprehensive insight into all these aspects is vital in expanding across territories, regions, and countries.”
What do you think the future of e-commerce is in Africa?
There is an enormous future in Africa for Ecommerce. According to a McKinsey’s Lions go digital report, online shopping could account for up to 10% of retails sales (with a value of around US $75 billion) by 2025, as more Africans gain access to the internet. For us, we want to dip our finger in this pie hence our focus on expanding to other countries in Africa.
What is your advice to aspiring African entrepreneurs?
My advise to aspiring Africa entrepreneurs is that, we need more of you in the market. Africa will greatly develop if we have more entrepreneurs especially in the technology industry. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. It requires, persistence and resilience. You have to surround yourself with people who not only inspire you but also people who can hold you accountable for all that you are doing. Finally, believe in yourself. We are capable of doing the extraordinary if only we believed in our abilities.