Driving digital economy in Africa through inclusive and secure e-commerce
Pauline Tichawangana, Zimpost E-Commerce Executive
Back in 2016, when the Istanbul World Postal Strategy recognized digital transformation and diversification of postal services in Africa as an essential building block of the global postal network’s modernization, Zimpost – the national postal operator of Zimbabwe – saw it as an opportunity to harness the digital economy to drive postal growth and innovation.
It took Zimpost just one year to develop its own online store Zimpostmall, which was later re-branded and launched as Zimbabwemall.post to suit the digital economy development priorities outlined in the country’s National Strategy. Since its launch in 2020, the e-commerce Mall has become a national platform catering for the needs of the whole nation and even other smaller online stores.
While having all the classical features of a virtual shopping platform, such as categorized browsing, free registration and a variety of payment options, Zimbabwemall provides customers with much more than a convenient online shopping experience, with a business model based on partnership, inclusion and high security standards.
The platform facilitates trade at three levels: cross-border exports by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); overseas purchases from e-sellers; and domestic transactions involving local e-sellers.
Local sellers, who wish to register on Zimbabwemall, can do so for free and offer their products and services on the platform paying only 2% of the gross sales amount, with Zimpost offering pick-up and last-mile delivery services for all purchases made through the Mall. Apart from that, Zimpost facilitates customs clearing on imports and exports for sellers, thereby enabling local brands and products to get global exposure. As of February 2022, 138 e-sellers were registered on the platform, reaching over 70,000 unique website visitors with top countries including Zimbabwe, United States, South Africa, United Kingdom and Mauritius.
What is even more remarkable, local businesses gain this facilitated access to domestic and international markets with zero additional investment in technology. This is due to Zimbabwemall using the secure internet infrastructure of Zimpost, based on the top-level domain .POST, sponsored by the UPU, with no rental fees charged from sellers for using the domain. Using the UPU’s .POST top-level domain, Zimpost has benefited from a robust cybersecurity shield that helps prevent cyberattacks and protect businesses.
The Zimbabwemall system is interoperable and can integrate with various online sites. Accessibility to various population groups and convenience are further improved through a diversity of payment options and multilingualism. Currently, navigation through the Mall is possible in nine languages (ChiChewa, French, ChiShona, Chinese, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Zulu and English) and payment in two currencies (USD and ZWL). Efforts are being made to also include mobile money payment options.
Since its inception, the online shopping mall does not only create a distinct competitive advantage for Zimpost through expanding the Post’s physical and digital presence, it also largely promotes financial inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked in the country. Zimbabwemall.post has significantly assisted Zimbabwean small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to service their niche markets, to reach customers in a cost-effective way and to be able to successfully compete locally, regionally and internationally. Most importantly, through this flagship e-commerce project, Zimpost boosts employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for more financially vulnerable population groups, such as women, youth and unemployed and, thus, makes a meaningful and sustainable contribution to the creation of the inclusive digital economy in Africa.