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‘It is the right time for e-commerce’

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Ron Kawamara is Jumia Uganda’s new Chief Executive Officer. He spoke to The Independent’s Julius Businge about his strategy and related online developments.

What are the reasons behind Jumia’s success story in Uganda?

We have been growing because of our best prices in the market. We offer convenience by delivering products to customers. We guarantee our products – the quality is good and we deal in genuine products. We also allow customers to pay after receiving the product and allow them to return the product in seven days in case they are not comfortable with it.

What is your assessment of e-commerce in Uganda and the region at the moment?

E-commerce is on the upswing evidenced by many companies coming on the market – Uber, Taxify, SafeBoda and others. This is the time for e-commerce in Uganda. People are using technology to get convenience. In the U.S and Europe, internet business makes up 15% of the overall economy but in Uganda and most African countries, internet or e-commerce makes up less than 1% of the economy, which means 99% of trade is still happening offline. But the opportunity is here, companies are making money, customers are buying, businesses are selling and internet is becoming cheaper and more affordable. This is the good time for e-commerce.

How has a slowing economy affected online business in recent years?

Despite the economy being tough, Jumia has been growing steadily. Obviously if the economy was better, we would even have a more positive story. We are part and partial of the Ugandan experience.

What is your strategy for turning around fortunes of Jumia Uganda?

I want to make sure that we continue to have the best prices, the widest range of products and to give our customers the best experience by delivering on time.

How positive has been your business to Uganda’s economy?

We employ hundreds of people directly and several indirectly. We have our business partners  hotels, sellers, restaurants who are making a lot of revenue through this alternative line of revenue. For customers, they are able to save money and use savings to do other development things. In addition, we train young leaders – for instance, Uber and Taxify managing directors have all been trained at Jumia.

How are you dealing with the challenges that you face as a business?

Internet is still expensive for many of our customers and as a result, many of them find it expensive to reach us online and we lose on those sales. That is the biggest challenge.

So how should relevant players go about driving down the cost of the internet?

I must admit that internet prices are reducing but not fast enough. Government can help reduce it faster by investing in infrastructure. There are many people who don’t understand that a lot of fiber has been laid in Kampala and that they can connect to it. There needs to be an education on the benefits of using the internet and how affordable it is becoming day-by-day.

What is your position on regulating e-commerce in this country?

We welcome regulation because we want to play in a clean and safe environment. Regulation should protect the buyer and the seller. Laws regarding data protection for the consumer are coming and we hope government will ensure that whoever goes to the internet plays by the rules.

What should consumers expect from Jumia’s black Friday starting Nov.16 – Dec.7?

Black Friday is the biggest online sale of the year. We negotiate thousands of deals for our customers. We have up to 80% discounts on over 1000 products. This is the only time that you find the best prices in Uganda in a short period of time. We negotiate with importers, manufacturers, distributors to achieve this. We hope to generate Shs17.5bn in terms of economic activity during that period.

Going forward, what is your reading of e-commerce and Jumia’s business in Uganda?

In the next 5-10 years, Jumia will be a household name that will be known for good quality, best prices and with happiest customers. We believe internet technology is a great equaliser and can allow us offer people the value that people who are not online cannot get. E-commerce is no longer the future, it is here with us.

In executing your roles, what defines your leadership traits?

I try to understand people. I invest time to understand the inner person and through that I am able to get the best out of people. I understand my team; I know their fears and I know what it takes to manage them.

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