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Transforming Skeptical Shoppers Into Enthusiastic E-commerce Users: Growing a Big Business from a Niche Market


TechInAfrica – E-commerce is big business in other parts of Africa, but it until recently it has not taken hold in Zambia. There are plenty of reasons for this. Although tech-savvy consumers shop online, retailers like Amazon do not ship to Zambia. Government post offices are unreliable, courier shipping is too expensive and customs procedures can be a nightmare. And oh yes, most Zambian consumers just didn’t trust e-commerce.

Dot Com Zambia founder and general director Mawano Kambeu, saw an opportunity to cater to customers who want to shop online for international products that are difficult to find in Zambian stores. The key: strong consumer demand for an import-based service.

To succeed, Dot Com Zambia had to make that service more convenient and pleasant for the buyer. They had to reduce the risk of purchasing goods online by guaranteeing security of imported goods that are shipped to a specified address. And they had to spend a lot of time and effort educating Zambian shoppers to use and trust e-commerce tools.

Explosive growth, to say the least
If you measure the company’s progress by a 44-fold increase in revenue, you could say that  there is a growing demand for e-commerce products and services in the country. Dot Com Zambia has seen its revenue increase from USD 17,000 in 2009 to US$750,000 in five years. That’s the type of frenetic growth that gets investor attention.

Dot Com Zambia runs two platforms:

  • Import Zambia, an online shopping mall, in which Zambian consumers can shop in international e-commerce stores and have their goods delivered to their homes.
  • Bus Tickets Zambia, an online ticket service, which enables consumers to purchase inter-city and cross-country bus tickets.

The company’s core market is Zambia with fulfillment and customer service operations in the United States and United Kingdom.

Payoff for patience and knowhow. 

Established formally in 2009, Dot Com Zambia had a long, uncertain road establishing itself as a national e-commerce pioneer. In early days, Kambeu provided the financial cushion and security by keeping his full-time job. Later, a bank, a friend and an angel investor loaned him a total of USD 53,000 to keep things afloat.

While all this was happening, Dot Com Zambia established strategic partnerships with Airtel Money, ZAMPOST, DHL Zambia Ltd and other Zambian businesses.

And in September 2015, Dot Com Zambia hit the mother lode—USD$500,000 in investment from Dutch Venture Capital Funds, eVentures Africa Fund, Kukula Capital and Zambian venture Capital Fund.

With the funds, company officers are looking to combine Kukula’s local presence with eVentures Africa’s success at building technology ventures to scale.


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