UNDP, Jumia and Market Vendors all benefiting from unique E-Commerce Partnership

July 14, 2022

Informal market vendors at Nakasero market operating under limited capacity during COVID-19.

UNDP Uganda

There is an old proverb that suggests the key to your own success is through first helping others to succeed. When we at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Uganda Accelerator Lab reflect on our partnership with e-commerce company Jumia Food Uganda, this proverb certainly rings true. Our partnership with Jumia began in 2019, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent containment measures, where we agreed to establish a new market segment on Jumia’s E-Commerce Platform to enable informal market vendors to continue selling their produce online. The initial concept was also slated to fortify agricultural supply chains, connect rural farmers to urban markets, create jobs and livelihood opportunities with a focus on women and youth, decongest urban centres, enhance digital literacy, and promote e-commerce sector development in Uganda.

Market Vendors Win
Before the onset of COVID-19, Kampala’s market vendors relied primarily on consumers visiting them physically, strolling through market stalls and bargaining for the right price for fresh produce. While this was beneficial for the consumer, especially those with savvy bargaining skills, for the market vendor it would often mean registering losses with little or no profit to bring home. This also created potential to compromise the quality of produce being sold, since many items would be bought and sold at a low cost.

With consumers now shopping for fresh produce online, market vendors have not only increased their sales by more than double, but they have also gained business management skills from training offered through this UNDP x Jumia initiative. One market vendor in particular, Ms. Nakatudde Sharifah, expressed to us with great excitement that produce is now being sold by the exact quantity, quality and at the right price, remove the element of bargaining all together. She explained that the training also helped her sell quality produce at the right price to physical consumers, empowering her to stand her ground on the right price and being assured of the quality produce she is selling. These days, since Uganda and Kampala’s economy has since opened, Sharifah continues to serve consumers both online and physically which has greatly improved her sales.

Jumia Uganda CEO Mr. Ron Kawamara at the Jumia 10th Anniversary.

UNDP Uganda

Jumia Wins
The UNDP x Jumia E-Commerce Platform initially served seven markets across Kampala (Nakasero, Nakawa, Wandegeya, Bugolobi, Kalerwe, Naalya and Kibuye) with 1,200 informal market vendors initially registered on the platform and selling their fresh produce online. With Jumia originally selling electronics, kitchenware and clothing online, this market segment to accommodate Kampala’s markets was an entirely new venture. 

Jumia has since expanded the platform to reach 10 markets by adding Ntinda, Owino and Entebbe. More than 4,000 market vendors have now been registered on the platform, with more than 60% of these being women, youth and people with disabilities. Meanwhile, this new market segment is now selling more than 300,000 unique products each month.

This UNDP x Jumia project was also selected in 2021 for the Digital X Scale Accelerator, a global initiative developed by UNDP Chief Digital Office to find, match and scale proven and innovative digital solutions around the world. Through this opportunity, we were enabled to not only expand to other markets but also devise ways of making this business solution sustainable. One feature to arrive from this intervention was the introduction of offline customer care helplines, catering for consumers who had previously been unable to access the E-Commerce Platform online and thereby bridging the digital divide and widening the consumer base.

During Jumia’s recent 10th Anniversary celebrations, Jumia Food Uganda CEO Mr. Ron Kawamara emphasized that the UNDP x Jumia E-Commerce Platform has managed to create jobs for an additional 925 young people in roles such as market agents, produce packers, customer care providers and delivery riders with many being equipped with training in digital skills, food quality standards, safety measures and business management.

Digital X Scale Accelerator explored opportunities to scale the UNDP x Jumia E-Commerce Platform.

UNDP Uganda

UNDP and Uganda Wins

In Uganda, a country with limited existing access to digital tools and a lack of digital literacy, the informal sector has experienced a digital divide and been left vulnerable when responding to the economic shocks that have arisen from COVID-19. The UNDP x Jumia E-Commerce Platform has presented a strategic opportunity to aid more vulnerable groups such as women, youth and people with disabilities through connecting them directly with consumers, maintaining business flow and safeguarding livelihoods.

In 2022, there is currently no national regulatory framework in Uganda to allow stakeholders to fully utilize the potential of e-commerce, which has led to the establishment of many unregulated platforms that do not offer safe or fair transactions for consumers. Applying learnings from the UNDP x Jumia partnership, the Accelerator Lab team through the Digitalization, Innovation and Smart Cities (DISC) Programme is now prioritizing the development of Uganda’s National E-Commerce Strategy with plans to standardize products across the informal sector through barcoding to aid traceability and enhance consumer safety, as well as deploy strategies to graduate informal market vendors into formal businesses.

We hope that this UNDP x Jumia partnership will continue to inform ongoing development of Uganda’s e-commerce sector, supporting the Government of Uganda to establish an appropriate regulatory framework that will allow smooth trade, both nationally and regionally, and explore opportunities enabled by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. For Jumia and other leaders in Uganda’s e-commerce sector, there is a continuing role to play as champions for ongoing e-commerce sector development and as enablers for inclusive and transformational economic growth for the people of Uganda.

By Hadijah Nabbale, Head of Solutions Mapping: Berna Mugema, Head of Experimentation; and Ashley Prigent, Communications Specialist.