Kenyan e-commerce exhibits how social media has opened up opportunities for the youth in the country, and how access to the Internet can uplift the population. The names Soko Kuu and Soko Nyeusi may not resound as much as eBay, but to some 34,200 Facebook users, mostly in Kenya, they are the local equivalent.
‘Soko Kuu’ means ‘Big market’ and ‘Soko Nyeusi’ ‘Black market’ in Swahili, practically explaining what the groups are all about.
Unlike other marketing sites developed by the west, this market is neither regulated nor taxed, thus attracting many who would otherwise not prefer a formal trade under the set rules.
To participate, consumers and sellers have to like the group, opening to them a ‘hidden trade’ and the ‘treasures’ that come with it.
The creators of Soko Kuu identifying themselves as “Express Recognition Limited” have distanced themselves from all transactions, asking the participants in the trading to be cautious.
The creators further advise willing users to note that “SOKO KUU is not your (buyer), or any Merchant’s agent and will not act as either of your agent in connection with resolving any disputes between you and a Merchant”, in other words meaning consumers engaging in any activity are literally on their own.
What is however thrilling in both groups’ deals is the level of sophistication of products on sale and the cash amounts involved. For high-end electronics, buyers can access them for as high as KSh50,000 (approx US$590) while a plate of food delivered within Nairobi’s Central Business District can go for as low as KSh100 (approx US$1.20).
Electronics, beauty products, food and fashion dominates the deals with most of those involved in fashion wares seemingly looking like upcoming entrepreneurs advertising their own creations.
Although it is unclear just how many transactions are successful or how much money flows through this e-commerce channel one thing is clear, young Kenyans have managed to beat the distribution trap the biggest menace in Kenyan trade with some already on their way to beating the unemployment hurdle.
As to the legality of the commerce and the origin of the goods on sale, for now, nobody seems to care.