Rwandan businesses eye e-commerce success (en)
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Rwanda are eager to take advantage of digital markets where virtually no physical borders will inhibit them. Together with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and in partnership with GIZ, the German development agency, and DHL, a global logistics company, ITC is supporting these MSMEs sell online by developing the capabilities of the entrepreneurs and by providing innovative solutions to barriers that can impede the development of e-commerce including high logistic costs.
As more consumers globally switch to buying online, it will be critical for Rwandan companies to improve their online capabilities to be able to rapidly respond to changing consumer preferences.
Launched in 2017, the starting point of the Enabling the Future of e-commerce in Rwanda project, involved extensive market research to understand consumer behaviour and assess the potential for e-commerce in Kigali, Rwanda. To design a comprehensive e-commerce marketing strategy, ITC performed 800 interviews with local consumers to understand where and how the local population expects to buy goods online. The interviews were highly revealing, indicating that for many local producers the most relevant opportunities for selling online would be through international marketplaces.
Advanced e-commerce training
Over the course of the project, a team of ITC experts set about coaching a team of local trainers on advanced topics of e-commerce. After 35 days of face-to-face workshops and hands-on training, the local team of trainers will be tasked with accompanying 150 companies on their e-commerce journey.
Feedback on the training so far has been positive. Jack Gasana, an e-commerce coach, said: ‘The course has been very valuable for me at a personal and professional level and has helped me understand the demands of e-commerce. We are studying topics such as how to build trust, improve website usability and conduct online promotions that I am sure will have a big impact for firms in Rwanda through the follow-up support work we undertake with SMEs.
‘Certainly there is a great degree of demand from local firms to get our support, and I look forward to contributing to a stronger foundation for e-commerce in Rwanda,’ Gasana said.
A major problem facing MSMEs in Africa, especially in land-locked countries such as Rwanda, is the expensive and underdeveloped international goods transport system. The inability to offer international customers fast and effective shipping at reasonable prices is a competitive handicap for small firms aiming to sell on international marketplaces.
Recognizing the inadequate delivery system as one of the principle challenges MSMEs in Rwanda face, ITC has teamed up with DHL, one of the worlds’ leading transport and logistics firms, to study different ways to overcome this barrier.
In partnership with DHL, ITC has designed an innovative facility that is expected to start operating halfway through 2019; the E-commerce Service Centre (ECSC). It will combine warehousing and transportation facilities with value added services to serve the local and international markets by offering end-to-end services such as a warehousing facility, a digital photo study, a showroom, a training centre and a call centre to better serve Rwandan exporters.
By grouping together orders from multiple companies into bigger shipments at the ECSC, transportation costs are lowered which, has a positive impact on price for the end customers. More than just a transport hub, the service centre will also offer advisory services to small firms, provide photography services and preparing the digital identity of their products for online sale as well as last mile delivery services.
This innovative facility and the important strides that are being made in Rwanda to facilitate international trade via e-commerce channels will be discussed at UNCTAD’s Africa eCommerce Week that will be held next week in Nairobi. The event will bring together representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations for a week-long dialogue to identify innovative ways for shaping the African digital economy.
During eCommere Week, ITC will on 12 December at 3pm co-host an event entitled Enabling the Future of e-Commerce in Rwanda: Learning, Connecting, Earning in which panellists will be exploring how partnerships can build the foundations for growth of e-commerce in Rwanda and Africa.
The Enabling the Future of e-Commerce in Rwanda project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).