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Lack of national address system puts a drag on e-commerce

By Graham Kajilwa | September 2nd 2021

From right: Moringa School, Country Director-Kenya, Nelly Agyemang Gyamfi and Head of Marketing, Alex Onduso, receive an award from Winnie Karanja of Chasing Maverick at the Kenya Edtech Summit and Awards. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The lack of a national address system is a major gaping hole in the country’s burgeoning e-commerce business that experts note is dragging the growth of the sector.

While the country has a robust technology sector, an envy of its peers that has leapfrogged e-commerce especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of an address system is said to result in lots of inefficiencies.

Experts speaking at the Kenya e-commerce Awards and Conference 2021 held on Friday said while it is easy and efficient to buy commodities online, having them delivered to the right place is a tall order.

Customers still have to physically move to assist in having them delivered and at times choose to pick them themselves.

Eric Wafula, head of marketing ROAM, an online marketplace company, said the pandemic brought out the business acumen of Kenyans, some of whom had been laid-off and set up enterprises.

Mr Wafula wondered how the country is yet to have a national address system amidst these growths.

“The biggest challenge is the national address system. Most of us live in places without proper addresses,” he said.

Lack of NAS is a major gaping hole in the country’s e-commerce business. [Courtesy]

Wafula said the industry can grow tenfold if this is addressed. He said he is aware of works being underway to come up with an addressing system and called for fast-tracking of the process.

The Communications Authority of Kenya is mandated with developing a national address system (NAS) as per the Kenya Information and Communication (Numbering) Regulations 2010.

The regulations dictate that the CA should establish a National Communications and Addressing Plan (NCAP) for electronic communication numbers and addresses and postal codes.

The NCAP among other details shall include geographical postal details and points of delivery.

The Standard Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Orlando Lyomu, who attended the event, detailed the frustration of this gaping hole in the sector.

“How many of you have been dropped a pin? How many ended in a dead-end? That is the other problem of our system,” he said.

“If I buy something and someone calls to find directions, it becomes another e-commerce activity just to get instructions on how to deliver it. Those are some of the inefficiencies.”

Standard Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Orlando Lyomu. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Lyomu said if the country had an elaborate address system, even the sale of newspapers, would be streamlined such that customers will have the product delivered directly to them.

“Our model forced us to revert to traffic sales basically people going for the product instead of the product going to them,” he said.

The national address system is supposed to give fine details of places by naming and numbering streets, buildings, roads and parcels of land.

Due to the lack of such, some e-commerce businesses are using agents or opened physical shops in some places to facilitate collection of items.

Copia Kenya, an online marketplace that sells household and constructions items, is one of such as it operates with agents where clients can pick their items at a central place. 

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