Years of instability and no formal banks have turned Somalia into a cashless society where mobile money is prevalent, but Somali innovators are now finding their way into the global e-commerce economy.
With well over 155 million mobile phone transactions amounting to 2.7 billion U.S. dollars a month, Somali traders are venturing into e-commerce to exploit the range of opportunities as consumption levels spike.
Soomar is an online shopping platform operating in Mogadishu.
The outlet, which utilizes both mobile and web applications, is one of the leading online shopping ventures in the Somali capital providing clients with a whole new shopping experience.
Soomar Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Mohamud told Xinhua on Saturday the business is now giving many people the option of purchasing items online.
Unlike conventional international online platforms that only accept credit and debit cards, Soomar provides a home-grown solution — mobile money.
“We accept local money transfer options such as EVC, and ZAAD as main payment systems. We also have application programming interface (API) integration with Salaam Bank,” Mohamud said, referring to a local bank that also provide e-services.
In its latest economic assessment report, the World Bank said mobile money transfers in Somalia have surpassed local currency use, with 2.7 billion dollars moving through mobile money networks every month.
The global lender also noted the uptake of mobile money use was at 75 percent as more Somalis embrace mobile and internet use.
Despite lack of home address systems in the country, Soomar is still able to deliver items to its clients.
“We use motorbikes and vans for delivery,” said Mohamud. “The duration between purchase and delivery is dependent on the location of the customers.”
“Our operation is divided into modules with offices and stores in main cities such as Mogadishu and Hargeisa,” he said, adding that the average time between purchase and delivery is around three hours.
In addition to the lack of home addresses, poor roads in Mogadishu is also a challenge for Soomar to deliver goods to its customers.
Amin Mohamud Hussein, who just concluded his master’s degree in medicine and has been in China for nine years, said Soomar’s services have made his life easy.
“With the app installed in my phone, I am able to access almost everything,” Hussein told Xinhua.
“I first learnt about Soomar when I saw a friend with a very nice t-shirt; he told me he bought it online through Soomar,” he said.
Soomar, with monthly sales at 20,000 dollars and 25,000 dollars, employ 40 permanent staff members, in addition to part-time workers, Mohamud said.
Most of the items Soomar sells are electronics and home supplies, but the firm is now diversifying to include doctor’s appointments, flight booking, internet and cable recharge, he said.
To ensure sound service for current and potential customers, Mohamed said, Soomar provides regularly updated user guidelines to build customer confidence, as more and more people opt to embrace new shopping options.