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E-commerce operator Copia said the firm has registered growth in its business, as buyers head online to acquire essential and non-essential products./COURTESY

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Online buying takes flight in rural areas amid coronavirus – Copia

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 – Low and middle-income earners in rural and peri-urban areas are increasingly turning to e-commerce, in obedience to the social distancing directive by the government to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

E-commerce operator Copia said the firm has registered growth in its business, as buyers head online to acquire essential and non-essential products.

“Kenyans in rural areas have not been left behind when it comes to buying products online. This is a good thing because it ensures their safety,” Tim Steel, Copia Kenya’s Managing Director told Capital Business.

Copia, which was launched in the Kenyan market in 2013, has been specializing in serving Kenyans in rural and peri-urban areas.

This is unlike some of its competitors who are focused on young and urban internet-savvy population, and the country’s growing middle class.

According to Steel, this locks low and middle-income earners in these areas out of getting served like everyone else, which makes them, vulnerable to exploitive traders.

“This is why we focus on the people in these areas. We deliver to them each and everything they would need, at a fair price,” Steel said.

How it works

Customers need only to log into the company’s website and place their orders on their smartphones, without traveling to large shopping centers in their communities.

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In case a customer does not have a smartphone, they only need to visit one of the company’s agents, who places the order for them and delivers to the agent within two days.

The company has established distributions networks of more than 12,000 agents across 15 counties where it operates.

“Central Kenya has so far been our most successful market, probably because that is where we started,” Steel said, adding that the Eastern region is also a major market.

What they deliver

“Could be anything; animal feeds, construction materials, electronics, fast-moving goods and foodstuff among others. We aim to cater to the needs of people in these regions, which sometimes, are different from those of people in urban places,” Steel said.

The company is also set on increase its variety, to include more products, such as furniture.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, Steel is urging Kenyans in urban centers to keep their loved ones in rural areas safe by sending them essential services via the platform.

“We encourage all Kenyans to keep their loved ones in mashinani safe at home by sending them food items, personal care, and sanitizing products as well as many more products by ordering on copia.co.ke,” said Tim.  

Steel’s sentiments come at a time when the overall e-commerce space has recorded growth.

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Data by the United Nations reveals that e-commerce in the continent has grown by 18 percent annually since 2014, and is increasing luring investors.

But e-commerce in Africa still lags behind other parts of the world. 

Some 21 million people shopped online in 2017 in Africa, according to the report, accounting for only 2 percent of the world’s total.

Half of those shoppers are also concentrated in just three countries: Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. 

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