…because I’m new in Zambia, plus, I shudder to say, a technophobe, the whole online shopping thing, never quite grew on me. You can understand now, how this article proved to be a challenging write. So, my next best option was to go to the public: ask around, get opinions, and maybe even make a friend or five in the process.
After a few, quite fruitful interviews, the general consensus about online shopping in Zambia are that it is still a foreign concept: a highly reliable and fairly epic source of mine, who chose to refrain from the limelight, opting for anonymity, states that it is, “non-existent…because there is simply no convenient way that appeals to Zambians to buy products online…The way online shopping is working in Zambia is a manual process, cash on delivery…I feel until some form of payment system is introduced to ease mobile and online payments that ordinary Zambians can use and are comfortable with, it will be difficult to put Zambia and online shopping in the same sentence.” – (Anonymous, 2016)
Andrew Zaraki Nguvu, a multi-award winning social entrepreneur, took it a step further by saying,“it is not a viable business venture…people don’t trust electronic buying…” A shocking 86% of Zambians don’t have bank accounts. – (Nguvu, 2016) It is important to note that 360deals is aware of this, and in a very honest response, their target market, is people who do have bank accounts i.e. people in urban areas. And if we look at it in a macro sense, people living in urban areas, have at least one relative who is part of the 86%, and may even be in some cases the breadwinner for that one. What I’m driving at here is that, even though 86% don’t have bank accounts and are not in a place to do online shopping, it may be safe to assume, that they may still stand in a place to benefit (indirectly) from it.
However, I do find it most amazing, peculiar and even sad to some extent, that most of the 14% who have bank accounts, would most probably trust foreign online shopping sites, such as Amazon and Ebay, and not something home-grown. So I ask, should the relationship between merchant and customer in Zambia, be interrogated? Is there a possibility that they may have gone wrong in terms of service delivery, product delivery, and/or customer service? What should be done to earn trust?
In Jeremiah Maubo’s view, Ebay and Amazon have managed to maintain consistency in their delivery service, provide convenience in terms of payment plans and as a result, earning trust. Maubo, a graphic designer in the making and an all ‘round self-proclaimed Sci-Fi geek, further states that why shop online in Zambia, when you can go to the store and simply get it? The only reasons to shop online would be to get something that cannot be readily found in Zambia, to get good discount deals, or if you are buying in bulk (Maubo, 2016).
According to the Free Online Dictionary, Convenience is, “Something that increases comfort or saves work.” – (Dictionary, 2011) So, I Googled, “How to order online”…and there it was, in about 8 to 10 convenient steps, each leading smoothly to the next. However, when I Googled, “How to order online in Zambia”, it wasn’t as straightforward. What’s more is, most of the sites that do cater for online shopping, point to Amazon and other foreign online stores. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Amazon or anything like that, but this IS about online shopping in Zambia, remember!?
Is there a possibility that they [we] may have gone wrong in terms of service delivery, product delivery, and/or customer service? What should be done to earn trust?
Fortunately, according to Chona Mwemba, founder of M-pact Visual House, there is hope for the online shopping world in Zambia. Mwemba believes that online shopping is secure in Zambia and that, “We have the I.T caliber to allow easy access for customer usage…I’m assuming from Dot Com there is a secure way for online shops to facilitate instant purchases…I do know that the ordering process is straightforward…” – (Mwemba, 2016).
And there it is, our safe word for the article, or at least, its close cousin – ‘straightforward’. As a result, being an enthusiast at heart, and a firm believer in going local, I choose to hold onto this opinion.
In conclusion, I believe that online shopping has taken off in other parts of the world, because of their ability to strongly define themselves through a system of notation, record-keeping, information giving and the efficiency with which it is churned out. In Africa, the system of notation is much younger than that in the western world and is simply not inherently ours.
I also believe that, because of our inability to strongly define ourselves, culturally, as Zambians, we often imbibe and replicate, quite well might I add, what is foreign. We are so drawn to it because its packaging is uber shiny, and heavily popularized. Adolf Hitler said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
So, rather than passively chugging down what we’re fed, believing that it is gospel truth, if we can begin to define ourselves and actively churn out our own information, it might prove to be a strong foundation for the process of trust in our local products and online local shopping to be earned. In saying this, I think that the quality of our local products and services need to be drastically improved for this to occur because it a symbiotic relationship.