By Laura Otieno
Kisumu, Kenya – When the covid19 pandemic struck, a lot of physical business spaces including markets were shut down as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus. In Kisumu, Kibuye, arguably the largest open-air market in the Western region serving businesses as far as Uganda was also shut and thousands of traders were left without physical premises to trade, especially perishable goods.
Lakehub, a local tech start up, developed an e-commerce platform dubbed Chichwa (dholuo word meaning “our market”), which allows businesses to engage in online trade, targeting traders in fresh produce, second-hand clothes mitumba, Artisan and Kibanda food vendors. At no cost, 631 traders have been onboarded on the platform that was launched in June 2022.
The project is specifically targeting women, according to LakeHub, Kenya has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa and there’s still a big disparity between male and female internet usage, despite the fact that women represent more than half the Kenyan population, and also make up the majority of informal traders.
Caroline Atieno, a vendor at the e commerce platform, shares her story with Laura Otieno. With Chichwa, the target is to help women traders access a bigger customer base, and the freedom to work from home while expanding their business and closing the gender gap in e-commerce by helping women in informal businesses, transition to selling via formal e-commerce platforms.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Laura Otieno and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union