Cracking Classifieds in (East) Africa

Classifieds is a global game. In every country worldwide, people have created networks to buy and sell their goods. With technological growth, those networks have moved online and have started to include even more people. Ushering in the era of the ‘modern’ Classifieds Platform.

To succeed in this market, a lot of same rules apply everywhere, which at their most basic distil down to:

  • Provide quality listings
  • Source serious leads
  • Reduce fraud and spam
  • Remove friction from payments and delivery

However, while the need to buy and sell exists globally, local differences mean there is no single cookie-cutter model that can be applied. A successful European or American model will not automatically succeed in Africa. More so in Africa, a model for one country is no guarantee of success in another country.

So what are some of the differences distinguishing Kenya and Tanzania – two of the powerhouses of East Africa from the rest of the world?

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Mobile Connectivity has leapfrogged traditional telecoms. Internet Penetration stands at 88% in Kenya. Around 75% of Kenyans use their mobile device as their primary means of accessing the internet. Tanzania, by contrast, has about 40% internet penetration with more than 80% of people using their phones to go online. Data connectivity costs are falling fast, but combined with little disposable income, people are very conscious of how much data they are using.

If you are not building for mobile and more specifically low data usage, you are not serving the market. Data compression, OMX friendly, smaller images and fewer videos are just some of the options to be considered.

Credit Cards are not (and never were) a thing

East Africa is the home of Mobile Money, from Mpesa in Kenya to Tigo Pesa in Tanzania. The region continues to lead in its development and adoption. Companies wanting to succeed here, need to have a comprehensive understanding of Mobile Money.  If your solution focuses on EFTs or Credit Cards for payments, you will quickly fail.

Local Partnerships, Local Knowledge

Finally, and most importantly, you cannot sit in Europe, America or even South Africa and expect to build a successful Marketplace in Kenya, Tanzania or elsewhere. Languages differ, slang differs, adoption rates of new features and technology differ. If you aren’t speaking to locals daily, and treating them like the experts they are, especially to understand the offline world your users’ inhabit, you will quickly fall out of touch and lose the most fundamental aspects needed for your business to succeed; local partnerships, local knowledge and local preferences.

All in all, marketplaces are continually evolving. It is becoming even easier to connect people and rise to a new set of challenges. But at the heart of it, we all want trust, honesty and value. And we are willing to reward those who provide them.


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