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Physical addressing could boost e-commerce in Kenya

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Physical addressing will boost e-commerce in Kenya. (Image Source:

Owning a physical address is critical. Not only does it allow a courier from a popular e-commerce website to find your residential home, but it also allows a medical response team to attend to medical emergencies at a faster rate.

While a courier missing a delivery is not life threatening… an ambulance that is unable to find a patient is.

According to Parinaz Firozi, MD, Jumia Kenya: “Almost all courier and emergency response service companies rely on google maps and phone calls to locate their destination, across Kenya, making the deliveries unnecessarily expensive and sometimes even impossible. Kenya has never had a proper physical address system, since independence, and this is a major challenge to e-commerce.”

“You are forced to assign riders to deliver in their area of residence since they know the terrain, streets and the buildings, delivery is a delicate balance between cost, time and efficiency. You have to get it right,” adds Firozi.

Duncan Muchangi, MD, Hellofood Kenya explains that: “While street and road names are often helpful… sometimes political events instigate a change thus making the current addressing situation unreliable. This is especially apparent when it comes to delivering items containing fresh produce.”

He adds that: “Food is sensitive, your customer wants it hot and on time, but if our rider gets lost for 30 minutes chances are the customer could look for another alternative while you bear the cost. It’s necessary to fix this problem.”

Probably the biggest beneficiary of e-commerce in Kenya, the courier industry confirmed a 30% upsurge of shipments in the last half of 2015 thanks to partnerships with e-commerce companies across board. The latest this year, OLX and G4S signed a partnership that will allow OLX sellers to send packages to buyers through G4S. While business is good, the two entities face a similar challenge; lack of a physical address system.

According to Geoffrey Mwove, Chairman Courier industry association and the Director of courier at G4S Kenya, “The government should roll out a national and regional physical addressing system, Streets, roads and blocks need to be named and marked permanently. Property developers and gated estates should also erect direction signs, google maps may help but are not precise.”

Mwove further reiterated that a combination of the physical addressing, mobile applications such as OkHi that provide the geolocation of the house and a photo of the door or building thus enabling the information to be shared on whatsapp or SMS through a URL link make a perfect recipe to solve the address problem and grow the market rapidly.

Staff Writer

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