Heva, East Africa’s creative economy catalyst fund, in collaboration with the traders of Uhuru Market and Kenya’s national government’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) advisory unit, has unveiled an online e-commerce platform that will enable over one thousand traders to reach more customers through an online platform.
Uhuru Market becomes the first market in the region to adopt a digital approach to enable micro, small and medium-sized fashion and apparel producers and retailers to expand their market reach beyond walk-in clientele. This approach is guided by Heva’s action research project, an initiative that is aimed at positioning Uhuru market as a centre of excellence. This project addresses the constraints of the garment and textile value chains within the market ecosystem. In addition, it formalizes their trade with a view to promote the ideals of ‘Buy Kenya, Build Kenya’, given that high quality and durable clothes are manufactured locally.
Through the e-commerce site co-developed with Vivo Activewear Ltd, shoppers can conveniently search and shop for a wide range of products from select stores in the open-air market. As part of the structuring, the team has set up a physical customer care centre, besides training customer service representatives on how to address inquiries through a dedicated number or email.
To ensure streamlined delivery, a network of riders and other delivery partners have been identified to deliver customers’ orders within twenty four to forty eight hours after order placement, at an affordable fee within Nairobi and across the country strengthened by a delivery policy.
“Transformations in the landscape of trade and technology have fundamentally altered the way Kenyans purchase and consume goods and services, especially with the critical migration into the online space catalysed by the Covid-19 pandemic. E-commerce has also proven essential due to convenience and easier adherence to social distancing rules,” said Heva Fund managing partner, George Gachara.
Uhuru Market traders continually face numerous challenges including limited and unsustainable market access, competition from other structured local private manufacturers, operational as well as limited access to credit facilities. “The market rehabilitation efforts will drive access to public services, as well as firm-level support to reduce inefficiencies, increase value addition and increase value chain integration and market access, besides increasing direct and institutional financing to this subsector and its practitioners,” said Mr. Gachara.
“Businesses looking to set themselves up for long-term success should increase digitization, improve supply chain resilience and redesign their business strategy,” he added. At the same time, to ensure quality and to drive sustainability of the programme, Heva has forged a partnership with the Technical University of Kenya for capacity building. To that end, Uhuru Market traders have been equipped with digital, business and technical skills such as garment design and construction, design of bags and basics in quality control as part of capacity building.
Heva has also registered over one thousand traders into the Kenya Fashion Council (KFCO) through a group membership subscription. This deal will enable the market to contribute to critical conversations around the growth of the textiles and garment industry in the country. It will also allow traders to benefit from the business opportunities extended to the council by both the private and public sectors. Improving the health, physical and economic welfare of the traders and their dependents is also vital in streamlining the market’s operations. In partnership with the local government, Heva has provided convenient registration services for NHIF and NSSF to the traders. Moreover, in a bid to enhance Uhuru Market sacco’s capacity and enroll new members, Heva has contracted Realtime Technology to digitize it.