Tanzania’s women entrepreneurs more innovative in online market
As internet becomes key societal fabric, tech-savvy entrepreneurs use Facebook, Instagram to market products, expand consumer base
With smartphones in their hands, a growing number of innovative women entrepreneurs in the East African country of Tanzania are using their strong social media presence to streamline their enterprises, market their products, and reap profits.
As the internet becomes the key societal fabric now, at least in urban areas, tech-savvy entrepreneurs use Facebook and Instagram to market their products and expand their consumer base.
On a typical humid Saturday morning, Kariakoo — a traditional shopping destination in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam — is a beehive of activities.
However, some digital-savvy women entrepreneurs have realized they do not need to be there to eke out a living.
A smartphone and a social media account to post pictures of the products they want to sell are all they need.
According to these entrepreneurs, all the customer has to do is to open the catalog, select an item, and send a message to the seller.
For Lilian Shayo, a tech-savvy entrepreneur in Mwenge, the click of a camera shutter is a good start.
She photographs shoes and apparel she has purchased from other countries with a professional camera and posts them on Facebook and Instagram for her customers to browse through.
“It is much easier to search on Instagram than to rove from one shop to another looking for a product, which takes a lot of time,” she told Anadolu Agency.
Shayo has been managing her retail business without a store for the past two years. She keeps her inventory at home and delivers it to consumers directly.
“For me, social media works well as owning a shop is too expensive,” she explained.
Her customers can shop online without having to sign up for a website or use a credit card, which is a rare luxury for most Tanzanians.
The adoption of social media platforms has revolutionized the way women entrepreneurs operate their enterprises.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship Development, nearly half of Dar es Salaam consumers would likely spend more in the future because of a brand’s presence on social media.
“Women entrepreneurs are fast to see the value of social media for branding and marketing their products,” said Donatus Olomi, CEO of the Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship Development.
According to him, the use of social media as a marketing tool has created a favorable environment for business and has been a boon to women entrepreneurs who have struggled to promote their businesses.
“Women have not always had the easiest path to enter the realm of entrepreneurship and gain financial independence,” Olomi explained. “However, with the help of online tools, they see a glimmer of hope.”
In the bustling metropolis of Dar es Salaam, women who have traditionally been discouraged from starting their own enterprises are now establishing micro-businesses that rely on online tools.
With a population of 60 million, Tanzania has 15.15 million internet users by 2021, with approximately 5.4 million using various social media platforms.
Social media is a key tool for women entrepreneurs who take advantage of its affordability to reach their target audiences.
The entrepreneurs are also leveraging social media as a promotional tool, posting and sharing photos of their products on regularly.
“They are incredibly creative. They know how to build trust and customers’ loyalty without the need for expensive advertising campaigns,” she added.
Lydia Charles, who leads the local charity HerInitiative, which helps women become financially independent, believes that the digital space is critical for aspiring women entrepreneurs to succeed in business.
“If you want to grab the market as an entrepreneur, you must have a strong social media presence,” she said.
According to her, one of the most powerful aspects of social media is the potential for relatability and the personal loyalty that the customers can develop for a brand.
“Your online presence begins with connecting with your friends and friends of friends in the way that your products can start to get noticed,” she said.
Flora Magabe, a well-known gospel singer and the founder of Flora Bridal, saw the thousands of “likes” she receives on her Instagram page every day as a rare business opportunity she could not pass up.
She regularly posts pictures of her shop on Instagram, leveraging her celebrity and a large number of followers.
Using Instagram has expanded her reach on a regional scale. Her page has now 1,500 followers.
“Many of my customers see the products we sell on my Instagram page,” she said.
Magabe’s business was relatively small when she began three years ago, but when she started sharing images of the outfits she sells on her Instagram page, she attracted many customers.