Many micro and small enterprises in Uganda still lack online presence due to, among others, the absence of digital skills to enable them open and run social media platforms or websites. The desire to help them have an online experience to market and create visibility for their products forced Merchandise Uganda, an e-commerce platform, to create an online marketplace that has enabled them to connect to global markets easily.
According to Nurudin Busingye, the Merchandise Uganda General Manager, the platform was established after realizing that over 15 million Ugandan businesses do not have an online display of their products.
Busingye says Merchandise Uganda, which is gaining prominence in Uganda, has supported over 200 businesses, which now have online shops and thus have an opportunity to interact with their buyers globally.
Established in March 2019, the platform allows merchants to open mini-showrooms through which they market their products to potential buyers by posting product photos and adverts, reviews, tips, and videos.
Busingye says that the platform has also enabled their clients to connect directly with manufacturers in China to supply the goods without them having to travel to China, which has reduced their cost of operations.
“The businesses use our platform to remain connected to their suppliers; even in the lockdown where people were not allowed to move, those who subscribed to Merchandise Uganda remained relevant because their shops were open and used our delivery team to deliver the products to the buyers,” he explains.
They facilitate a number of sectors including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, legal logistics, hotels, education and family, general merchandise, and health, among others, where people post their products, depending on the category.
One can subscribe to Merchandise Uganda upon entering their business details and paying Shs 50,000, Shs 100,000, or Shs 200,000 depending on the category chosen, then submit quality pictures of the products being marketed.
In a bid to support women, Busingye notes that Merchandise Uganda trained 30 members of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association in digital skills to enable them to promote their businesses online.
Additionally, Merchandise Uganda also offers three months of free services to all women enterprises that subscribe to the platform, help them brand their businesses, and support them in getting social media accounts to market their businesses.
Merchandise Uganda is among the companies taking part in the ongoing second edition of the 40-Days 40-FinTechs, organized by HiPipo in partnership with Crosslake Technologies, ModusBox, and Mojaloop Foundation, and sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
The initiative seeks to enable FinTechs to innovate solutions that facilitate cross-network financial transactions at minimal risks to enhance access to financial services.
Busingye commends HiPipo for the 40-Days 40-FinTechs initiative, saying that it has created for them visibility, noting that from last year’s edition, they were able to get a partner that linked them to the American Embassy, through which their clients started selling to people in the Diaspora.
To further support the growth of Uganda’s FinTech industry, Busingye requests the government to put in place enabling policies, especially in relation to access and cost of the internet, and also offer tax incentives, saying FinTechs are playing a big role in promoting a cashless economy.
The HiPipo Chief Executive Officer Innocent Kawooya says the 40-Days 40-FinTechs initiative seeks to boost the African FinTech ecosystem to enable innovators to enjoy sustainable profitability to help them design and deploy affordable and inclusive financial services for the poor.
He adds that FinTech in Africa offers attractive opportunities and that investors are rightfully picking interest in various startups offering a plethora of services, ranging from payments and lending, remittances, and cross-border transfers, among others.