The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic may not yet be known on the African continent, however, there is no doubt that its effect has been overwhelmingly significant.
While there appears to be some form of recovery process put in place by some countries on the continent, more importantly, the role of digitisation in times like this, can’t be overemphasised.
The pandemic has presented to Africa a need to fully embrace digital transformation.
However, there is a need to recognise that there appears to be a long haul until every individual can get to enjoy the benefits of a digitised Africa.
In all this, a Rwandan based start-up, DMM.HeHe is digitising Africa’s trade ecosystem, by helping companies to stay relevant in times of digital shift through its smart logistics and ecommerce platform.
In an interview with Crepin Kayisire, Head of Marketing, DMM.HeHe, discussing the startup’s milestone in creating a pathway for digital shift in times like this.
According to Crepin, Dmm.HeHe has onboarded more than 60 Rwandan businesses to trade digitally and become integral players in the local eCommerce ecosystem.
“Our work focuses on developing state-of-the-art technological solutions such as comprehensive e-commerce platforms, digital payment integrations, marketing services, and most importantly last-mile logistics for local and global deliveries.”
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, there was a significant shift to online shopping as a result of the nation-wide 40-day lockdown put in place by the government to combat the outbreak.
“We noticed an average of 30% surge in online shopping on the various e-commerce businesses powered by our technology.
Noticing that many other businesses that had not made the move to digital were being left behind despite their need for viable solutions.
We streamlined our operations to onboard them to access our eCommerce solutions by easing the onboarding process, we worked with tel-cos to zero-rate eCommerce sites and increase our delivery network.”, he explained.
Challenges with DmmHeHe’s Smart Logistics solution pre-pandemic
Crepin explained that the startup’s logistics solution was running smoothly even before the pandemic.
“This solution came to solve the inefficiencies in the Rwandan eCommerce sector, particularly with delivery networks.”
According to him, during the pandemic, different players in the eCommerce sector in Rwanda were able to leverage this solution by requesting for on-demand delivery agents to move orders to their customers.
Convincing local retailers to embrace DmmHeHe’s E-commerce solution
Crepin agreed that like any other innovation, eCommerce spread will meet both early adopters and vigorous resistance.
When Dmm.HeHe started onboarding businesses in 2017, it recorded an overwhelming number of small startups doing fashion, selling electronics, whose founders were already familiar with the technology.
“In a small city like Kigali, word spread quickly and more businesses were requesting us to empower them with these digital solutions.
It was quite difficult to convince bigger and more established businesses to embrace the new way of retail but that changed during COVID-19.”
During the pandemic, Dmm.HeHe partnered with two of the biggest retail chains in Rwanda; Simba Supermarket and Sawa Citi to deliver groceries and other essentials to their customers with the help of its Smart Logistics solution.
DMMHeHe’s plan for expansion beyond Rwanda
According to Crepin, the startup has heavily invested in digitizing supply chains in Rwanda with plans to scale operations in the region in the near future.
“Currently, we are serving an active customer base of 8000 households in Kigali alone.
We recently branched out beyond the city and into rural Rwanda to bring technology to farmers by connecting them directly to shoppers in Kigali through the Abundance Village Initiative.”
About the HeHe Academy
The HeHe Innovation Academy is a research and innovation do-tank that hosts programs intended to groom the next generation of dynamic, passionate & skilled problem solvers.
It exposes them to the opportunities of emerging technologies and their applications.
“Our goal is to bring innovators, learners, policymakers, entrepreneurs together to learn how to build sustainable solutions that will greatly improve African lives.”
Currently, the HeHe Innovation Academy is hosting an E-commerce Incubation program that intends to groom digitally skilled Made-in-Rwanda agripreneurs by equipping them with the training necessary for them to build and grow competitive and profitable digitized businesses to realize this audacious vision.
The academy till date has produced 430 graduates and 69% female enrolment, Crepin explained that One of Dmm.HeHe’s core values is a simple belief in the fundamental equality of all people.
According to Crepin, the program accepts participants from all backgrounds, with the increased attention that no one is left behind.
“We have had many women graduate from previous cohorts to go on to prosper in traditionally male-dominated career paths.
Believing that this approach adds value and potential to the burgeoning tech sector not just in Rwanda but globally.”
Dmm.HeHe’s final thoughts on digitising Africa’s trade ecosystem
Crepin noted the many efforts and initiatives by governments and the private sector on the continent that make Dmm.HeHe work possible.
For instance, our digital payment solutions are made possible thanks to MTN that is banking the unbanked with mobile money.
Our platforms are used with the help of fast internet connectivity thanks to Government investment in fiber optic.
It is only a matter of time before these groundbreaking, context-appropriate solutions to serve all Africans from all economic backgrounds and improve their standards of living.
Featured Image: Dmm.HeHe Team
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