Zimbabwean businesses are embracing the Internet to capture a big chunk of their paying audiences that may live beyond their own borders.
A lot of Zimbabweans now live outside of Zimbabwe. For one reason or another they now live abroad in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. Oh who am I kidding? They are abroad for political and economical reasons. It is these same economic reasons that have made local Zimbabwean businesses use the Internet and serve Zimbabweans abroad for their priceless foreign currency. This is the lifeline of most Zimbabwean businesses – the Forex.
So how does this work?
Basically people abroad still have most of their family back home and chip in now and again financially to support family. With a lot happening due to the economic meltdown of recent Zimbabwean times, there has been a bigger and bigger need to buy such services or products as generators, solar panels, boreholes, wells and so on just to get life’s basic essentials covered. Your water, your energy and so forth. At one point there was even a need to buy actual groceries online or abroad just so someone could survive. No joke.
So anyway with this rather dark and gloomy backdrop some switched-on businesses have used their contacts to get online and capture this market for profit. I have lost track of how many Zimabweans are out of the country but last I heard it could have been up to 5 million versus a whole population of around 12 million. This is more than 1 in 3 living outside! That may seem tragic at first but when you look at someone abroad potentially supporting 2 or 3 people on average the numbers become a lot brighter. I am sure you can see the potential here.
Instead of the usual expensive and prohibitive phone calls to overseas landlines, more and more businesses are setting up websites and using services like Skype and the usual ordinary email to get in touch with those in far way lands just so they can do business together. In fact there is now a saying that in Harare there is only two kinds of businesses; those online and those out of business! Indeed there is now a formidable presence of the said businesses on the social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and so on. And who can blame them? You need to connect with your prospects where they play right? Right.
The local infrastructure is also helping with this and that data cable being deployed to handle the wave of online traffic and the Internet as a whole. I hear there are now more Blackberry mobile phones than any other brand of mobile phone in the main cities simply due to the demand for online access and such.
With very few businesses online in Zimbabwe to start with, the ones that are online are in touch with these “foreigners” and can easily market their services for payment directly online but with the services dispatched or served in Zimbabwe itself. With the “cheaper” marketing online and easier communications this has proven a real winner and is still growing. The Internet is definitely the way forward. Who is next?