Kenya’s telecommunications giant sets up online shop 'Masoko' to take on Jumia

Masoko will be modelled after retail e-commerce giants Alibaba (Chinese) and Amazon (US)

The platform, known as Masoko, Swahili for markets, is currently undergoing internal testing ahead of rollout later this month, according to sources familiar with the product.

“Kenya has a huge untapped potential for e-commerce,”  Safaricom chief financial officer Sateesh Kamath said at the company’s investor briefing in Nairobi Friday.

Masoko will be modelled after retail e-commerce giants Alibaba (Chinese) and Amazon (US) and the company hopes it will ride its revolutionary mobile money transfer, M-Pesa which has proven a hit.

Masoko will target the fast mushrooming formal retail and informal online trading in Kenya.

“To start with Kenya has a large number of customers with access to high speed internet through Safaricom’s vast and efficient network”. Mr Kamath, who is sitting in for Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore who has taken a medical leave added.

Safaricom which released its half year financial report on Friday is the dominant player in Kenya, controlling 69 per cent of the market share.

The online platform plans to start with 200 vendors and about 30,000 consumer goods ranging from electronics to food and will provide a platform for merchants to trade goods on social media sites.

“We believe this market has the potential to grow multiple times in the next few years,”

Kenya has a huge population which is tech savvy buoyed by a burgeoning middle-class that continues to attract international brands to set up base in the country.

Alibaba founder and Chief Executive, Jack Ma visited Kenya in July said Africa would play a vital role in the near future because 'it had nothing to lose' and boosted of a young populations that is rapidly learning and developing technology.

China's richest man announced that Alipay, offered by his Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, will be launched in the country as an indigenous company in the near future.

Kenya’s e-commerce sector is currently dominated by brands such as Jumia, Kilimall, OLX, Pigiame, among others.

The telecommunication firm is expected to face stiff competition from market leader Jumia which boasts of 5,000 vendors and about 500,000 products listed on its e-commerce site four years after its launch.

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