Ivory Coast stallholders turn to digital marketplace

Demba Baradji Online sales have helped Demba Baradji's jewellery shop, Barradji & Fils

Ebay and Alibaba may be the world's biggest online marketplaces, but not in Africa.

Technology of Business

Few have access to them or have even heard of them. Instead, Kaymu, whose website declares it the "number one marketplace in emerging countries", is rapidly cornering the market.

It is the brainchild of e-commerce group, Africa Internet Holding, backed by Rocket Internet, the incubator founded by the German Samwer brothers famous for making millions by cloning digital businesses.

Launched just two years ago Kaymu now has operations in 25 countries and 15 of them are in Africa.

While there are other e-commerce sites in Ivory Coast - such as Jumia, Africa's answer to Amazon, as well as Wasiri and Sigata - Kaymu is the first person-to-person marketplace open to individuals rather than just shops.

Its Ivory Coast operation launched at the start of this year, and many locals are beginning to cotton on to the potential benefits.

Fatoumata Guindo Fatoumata Guindo has made her first online purchases and may be a convert to e-commerce

When I meet Fatoumata Guindo she is carefully unwrapping a package containing three ceramic cake moulds. She turns them over in her hands, inspecting them, and then moves on to a second package; more cake moulds in different shapes.

"This is the first time I've ordered anything online," she tells me. "I'm not too into the internet, you see."

Madame Guindo, in her 60s and the wife of the local imam, has just received her first order from Kaymu.

A little sceptical of buying anything at first, she now thinks e-commerce could be the future. "Yes, it's possible. This can happen," she says.

Wholesalers

In Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic capital, Kaymu's country manager Mehdi Ben Abroug takes me to Adjame, the country's biggest market.

Chic Shop in Adjame market Adjame market in Abidjan boasts a cornucopia of gift shops

From fruit and veg, to jewellery, to washing machines, the tightly packed stalls sell absolutely everything. The smells, colours and sounds are so intense, a few hours of browsing leaves you exhausted.

It is where Kaymu first began to recruit its "sellers".

"These guys in this market have very low margins because they are wholesalers," explains Mr Abroug.

"They go to Dubai, to China and bring back containers and they sell as wholesalers so the margin on the product is really low."

But on Kaymu, he says, they can sell directly to the customer and get a higher margin.

More than 200 market sellers in Adjame now have a presence on the e-commerce marketplace.

Kaymu Ivory Coast home page Kaymu's Ivory Coast site was launched early in 2014

It works in the same way as eBay in that anyone can use the site to sell anything, so-called customer-to-customer.

Kaymu helps sellers post pictures of their products on the website, arranges collection and delivery of the goods, and takes 10-20% commission of every item sold.

Take-up of the new site has been faster in Ivory Coast than any other country on the continent.

Africa chief executive Elias Schulze explains that the country's "tradition of private sector vibrancy" and "strong mobile and internet backbone" has been a huge part of the company's success here.

He adds that "the emerging middle class who are largely tech-savvy and hungry for real price and product discovery" are ready to buy online.

Tamasin Ford meets the Abidjan market traders setting up their stalls online

Increased profits

Demba Barradji, 26, the manager of Barradji & Fils, a jewellery shop in Adjame, stands behind his counter as the Kaymu rep asks him to sign the forms for today's collection.

"I chose Kaymu for my business to grow," he says. "[Profits] have already increased by around 20-25%. It's a good business for Africa and for Ivory Coast - a business that has a future."

Abdul Affiz Jewar in his cosmetics shop Abdul Affiz Jewar's cosmetics shop is also on Kaymu; he says delivery costs are an issue for his customers

He pours the gold chains and glittery watches he bought in Thailand into the Kaymu pouches ready for delivery.

"To start with I didn't have much confidence in Kaymu because of cyber-criminality," he says. "But now there hasn't been any problems or scams. It's OK."

And would he close up shop and transfer everything online?

"Yes. Why not close my shop, as I will make more money," he says.

Up the road from Mr Barradji's shop, 27-year-old Abdul Affiz Jewar manages his family's cosmetics store, well-known in Adjame for its cheap beauty products.

He also joined Kaymu a few months ago but has not seen the same types of increase in profits. He puts this down to the fact that it is "cheaper for my customers to buy things in the shop".

Delivery costs of about $3 to $4 per item, make it hard for him to be competitive online.

"I can't imagine closing my shop and selling only online because I have lots of clients who I would lose," he concludes.

Criminality

However, cyber crime is one of the major challenges facing e-commerce in Ivory Coast. The country has one of the worst reputations for cyber criminality on the continent, leaving many people wary of buying online.

"For the moment people are afraid," says Mr Barradji. "But in the long run, in the future… it could be better."

Cyber crime also poses problems for online payment, which is why everything is done cash-in-hand, for now at least.

The drivers call the customers in advance to arrange delivery and then collect payments when they deliver the goods.

People walking though floods For most people in Ivory Coast online shopping is not an option

But this will not be the case for long, insists Mr Abroug.

"We have huge expectations for mobile money," he says. Kaymu plans to pay vendors via mobile then expand this service to the customers buying online.

For now though, with no upfront payment, it is not unusual for delivery drivers to make wasted trips.

Often customers are not at home when they said they would be, don't have enough money, or have simply changed their minds.

Fewer than 50% of orders placed online end up in a payment.

So until better technology comes to the rescue, e-commerce in Ivory Coast can mean a day scooting around the city on the delivery bike in the tropical West African rains. All for nothing.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    TESCO PROFITS Via Twitter

    City grandee David Buik tweets: "It never rains but it pours dear old Tesco. It appears profits have been over-stated by £250 mn - shares could be down 5% at the opening."

     
  2.  
    TESCO PROFITS 07:15:
    A group of Tesco shopping trolleys

    "We have uncovered a serious issue and have responded accordingly," said Dave Lewis, who took over as the boss of Tesco last month. "The chairman and I have acted quickly to establish a comprehensive independent investigation. The board, my colleagues, our customers and I expect Tesco to operate with integrity and transparency and we will take decisive action as the results of the investigation become clear."

     
  3.  
    TESCO PROFITS 07:11: Breaking News

    Tesco has released a statement saying it over-stated its expected profit for the six months to 23 August. In a trading statement on 29 August it said it expected half-year profits to be £1.1bn. It has now revised this down by £250m.

     
  4.  
    LISTEN AGAIN Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: The #WUTM podcast. All yours: bbc.co.uk/podcasts/serie…

     
  5.  
    AIR FRANCE 07:03:
    Air France planes

    Pilots at Air France are looking ahead to a second week on strike this morning. France's transport minister Alain Vidalies says the fate of Air France is at stake in the dispute. Pilots are angry that the airline is expanding its budget carrier, which pays pilots less.

     
  6.  
    LABOUR ANTI-BUSINESS? 06:55: BBC Radio 4

    Lord Jones tells Today that Labour has not given business the credit it deserves. "Without the wealth that business creates you have no public sector, you have no taxation, you don't have one job in the country. That's how important business is," he says.

     
  7.  
    LABOUR ANTI-BUSINESS? 06:51: BBC Radio 4
    Digby Jones

    Lord Digby Jones, former head of the CBI and member of the last Labour government tells Today that Labour is casting doubt on its support for the UK business community. "Whatever the current shadow cabinet say - let's nationalise the banks, let's have a social market in energy, lets increase business taxes, whatever it may be - they are showing by their actions that they actually don't get it," he says.

     
  8.  
    DEVOLUTION 06:42: Radio 5 live

    Wake Up to Money has been discussing the prospects for more devolution across the UK in the wake of the "No" vote in Scotland. Tony Travers from the London School of Economics says the UK is one of the most centralised democracies in the world - 95% of tax revenues go straight to the exchequer.

     
  9.  
    MINIMUM WAGE 06:35: BBC Radio 4

    Is Labour leader Ed Miliband's pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 per hour by 2020 anti-business?Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, tells the Today programme he shares many of the Labour party's concerns - on energy prices, zero-hours contracts and wages. "But... we don't agree with Labour's instinct to legislate or regulate on these matters," he says.

     
  10.  
    MARKETS 06:29: BBC Breakfast
    Breakfast

    Breakfast's Steph McGovern is in the City in London before dawn this morning, talking to analysts and market traders about what's moving the markets after the "No" vote in Scotland last week. She'll be talking to a currency trader later to find out what's going to happen to the pound.

     
  11.  
    MINIMUM WAGE 06:18:

    Labour's leader Ed Miliband says Labour will put the minimum wage up to £8 an hour if they win the election next year - up from the £6.50 is due to rise to this October. The unions say that's not enough, and want £10 an hour, while the CBI warns any rise will "put jobs at risk".

     
  12.  
    LABOUR CONFERENCE 06:12:
    Labour shadow  chancellor Ed Balls

    Ed Balls is expected to say that Labour will reinstate the 50 top rate of tax in his speech to the party conference later today. That's not necessarily news. But Labour haven't been completely clear on whether they would reinstate the 50p tax band until now. The inclusion of the proposal essentially amounts to an election promise eight months out from the general election.

     
  13.  
    Phones 4U 06:02: Radio 5 live

    EE has confirmed it's looking into buy a few of those Phones 4 U shops now on the market. Judy Palmer from Begbies Traynor defends EE and Vodafone, the operators accused of helping to put the mobile retailer out of business, on Wake Up to Money calling their actions "commercial hardball".

     
  14.  
    06:01: Edwin Lane Business reporter, BBC News

    Hello all. We're also getting the latest on the fate of Phones 4U, after it went into administration last week. Get in touch with us on bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or tweet us @BBCBusiness.

     
  15.  
    0600: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. We start the day with news that luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo is looking at a stock market float in London, there are also half year results from Moss Bros. The Labour party conference goes into its second full day with a speech from shadow chancellor Ed Balls. It's his last conference speech before the election so we'll bring you any nuggets from that too. Stay with us.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.