Flux and the Farmer: the evolving concept of marketplace and of “online” in Africa

There is a digital convergence happening in rural Kenya that echoes, somewhat faintly, the combination of factors that led to the first phase of market growth and creation. In the late 1980s, for about a decade or so, enough market forces converged in rural Kenya, particularly centered around the Chuka to Meru market region just north of Nairobi, to provide the first boost for the SHS (small home solar) industry.

Now, every rural market can set you up with the local sola fundi. There happened one with the mobile phone hardware side, where now your local “Mobile Doctor” hangs out his shingle for a variety of different services necessary to the rural bourgeoisie. The one we’re all holding our breaths for, while waiting to exhale, is the Great Online Bazaar coming alive.

Look at Nigeria! E-commerce has gone viral, there’s no other way to put it. Jumia is rapidly gaining mindshare while others not very far behind. Of course, the population is 4 times that of Kenya’s, more or less, as the local measurements go, so the critical mass of credit card holders is sufficient. On the other hand, there is news of Safaricom launching MPesa payments online with registered merchants.

What more do we need?

If we can bring in the Twitter on USSD, we can try to get a conversation going, which in turn will be the seeds of that great Grand Bazaar in the cloud ;p

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