The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with Jumia Uganda, the leading e-commerce company have launched an e-commerce platform to sustain supply chains for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and connect them with consumers online to sustain livelihoods as part of the response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In view of restrictions on movement and social distancing guidelines which were instituted as part of the measures to curtail further transmission of the disease, digital solutions offer some of the most powerful avenues to address current market challenges while boosting online trading and marketing.
This initiative is a strategic opportunity to empower vulnerable groups and those hardest hit in the informal trade sector such as women, youth and persons with disabilities by connecting them with potential buyers. It will also connect rural farmers with the urban markets, keeping the supply chain for agricultural produce active and providing employment and mitigate effects of the COVID-19 on the economy.
The lockdown measures such as restrictions on movement, stay at home guidelines have impacted business flow, cut off hundreds of informal market vendors from their usual customers, affecting incomes and straining sustenance of livelihoods, with many struggling to stay afloat. The lockdown also disrupted trade and affected business operations and supply chains of key sectors of the economy.
The innovative e-commerce platform will benefit vendors in five (5) markets; Nakasero, Nakawa, Wandegeya, Bugolobi and Kalerwe, all in Kampala city. UNDP will provide smartphones, airtime and data to be used by the market vendors, and importantly, support the strengthening of an innovation ecosystem around e-commerce.
On their part, Jumia Food will avail of its dedicated ordering platform via app and website that includes a last-mile distribution network, diverse set of payment methods, quality assurance, and facilitation of training for the vendors.
While officiating at the launch held at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives – with strict adherence of social distancing requirements, the Minister of Trade, industry and Cooperatives; Hon. Amelia Kyambadde welcomed the UNDP-Jumia Uganda partnership saying, “This initiative will create convenient shopping, promote the growth of the ICT industry and usage, contribute to the decongestion and transformation of Kampala into a smart city that will be pleasant for all Ugandans and our visitors, the tourists.”
The Minister also challenged Ugandans and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to embrace the digital economy to connect businesses with a diverse customer base, “we cannot continue to sit and wait for consumers or even customers to find us in our markets; we need to go online to enable our customers and buyers to place orders and goods and services find them in the comfort of their homes or offices. This is the new reality!”
On her part, the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Elsie Attafuah said that the partnership with Jumia Food, will provide, “a safe, convenient and fast service to the citizens of Uganda while boosting trade.”
She said the offer is part of UNDP’s broader effort to deploy digital solutions for business continuity through e-governance and e-commerce, as Uganda responds to the current disruptions and pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Such innovations, she noted, will also support the eventual realization of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACfTA) Agreement by connecting Uganda to markets in the region.
“COVID-19 presents not only a health but also a humanitarian and development crisis, that is threatening to leave deep social, economic and political scars for years. It is therefore important to build the national capacity to harness the digital economy to expand e-commerce to support supply chains to enable business continuity, support livelihoods and enable early recovery from the Pandemic,” Ms. Attafuah added.
UNDP’s offer to the COVID-19 Response is three-pronged entailing supporting countries to prepare, respond and recover from the COVID-19 crisis and at the heart of this, is concrete partnership and dynamic collaborations with both state and non-state actors including the private sector.
Jumia Uganda Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Ron Kawamara, said both the market vendors and the buyers will find it easy to use the Jumia Food Vendor App and will offer the consumers a convenient, “Stay Home and Shop” service.
“E-commerce digital platforms like Jumia are at the forefront of providing the informal sector and SMEs solutions to keep running and reaching customers during the COVID-19 crisis. We are very excited to partner with UNDP and offer our platform, delivery tools, training and experience to market vendors to access consumers in need of fresh produce and for consumers to be able to access the produce, safely,” he added.
How the Jumia UNDP partnership will work
The model employs market agents, who validate the goods and services, before they are dispatched. The agents ascertain that the goods meet the requisite quality, are hygienic and securely packaged to ensure customer satisfaction and safety.
Jumia will use its infrastructure which includes, riders trained to provide safe and contactless deliveries, to provide a platform for the vendors to reach customers who are currently under lockdown. Consumers will have an option of giving feedback on the level of satisfaction of both the product and the service through the, Jumia Vendor App.