uAfrica – an easy way to setup an online store in South Africa

ZApreneur spoke to Jenn Hattingh from uAfrica about their ecommerce offering. This is the start of a series of interviews on eCommerce in South Africa. What spark our interest was an initiative to assist new businesses to set up online stores, and a promise of support from uAfrica and bidorbuy.
Key Takeaway:  If you interested in setting up an online store in South Africa, uAfrica is running a competition. What I like about the competition is that every entrant gets a good value set of freebies including assistance in setting up a store, promotional credit on bidorbuy, and ability to test out their multichannel app for six months, free. And that is what the losers in the competition get!  View the competition details and enter now!

1. Hi. Please tell us a little about uAfrica.

uAfrica.com is a reseller for the Shopify eCommerce platform in  Africa. We have localised Shopify for the South African online business market by bringing South African payment gateways and shipping  functionality into the ring to help make Shopify even more accessible to local merchants.

2.Who runs the place? How long have you been around?

Andy Higgins is our MD, he founded bidorbuy back in 1999 and after  leaving bidorbuy started uAfrica.com.

3. Awesome! Why would a company use a service like uAfrica rather than say run a store yourself, using for example WooCommerce?

A shopping platform is a matter of personal preference but, being cloud based, we think that Shopify is a great solution for many South African merchants simply because they don’t need to worry about managing  things like servers, backups or upgrades. They can focus on their core business leaving the technical aspects up to the experts. uAfrica.com has > also built tools to localise Shopify in South Africa and we have negotiated special terms that allow us to charge our clients in ZAR for their monthly Shopify subscription fee instead of USD, so the monthly cost ends up saving  merchants a bit of money at the end of the day.

4. How does uAfrica work with Shopify?

We’re a strategic partner of Shopify and help spread the word around Africa about the benefits of having a Shopify store. Besides other marketing initiates we also run monthly workshop sessions, called MeetUps, to help merchants set up and manage their stores.

5. How does uAfrica work with Bidorbuy?

Andy, our MD, founded bidorbuy back in 1999 and the relationship has remained a close one ever since. We have built an integration into bidorbuy.co.za that makes it easy for merchants to sell across multiple channels.

6. I see you have a Multichannel app. What does it do?

uAfrica’s Multichannel service allows an online merchant to sell on multiple channels while only needing to manage inventory and orders on one ‘source’. For example, when a merchant places an order on their bidorbuy  channel, the inventory is updated on the Shopify source store, so you never > sell anything you don’t have. At the moment we integrate into Shopify and  bidorbuy but we are looking to broaden the offering as Multichannel grows.
The app also offers uAfrica Shipping which allows merchants to obtain > quotes from multiple couriers and then generate waybills, handle courier collection requests and track shipments with status notification updates to buyers.

7. As someone providing online stores, what reflections do you have of > the online commerce in South Africa?

South Africa is still behind the rest of the developed world with regards to adoption of eCommerce, however the sector is growing at around 30% per annum, albeit off a relatively low base. This compares to flat or low single digit growth of traditional retail so it is an exciting sector to be involved in.
With the advancements in technology such as hand held devices and better internet provision, the infrastructure available to shop online with ease is now available to South Africans and online businesses are starting to make the move online to reap the benefits.

8. What advice would you offer to a business owner wanting to start an online store?

The best advice we can offer is to just jump in! The best way to learn about how a platform ticks is to give it a try. Shopify offers a free 14 day trial where you really get to test the platform out and what it can offer. There are no limitations on the free trial either, so you can > really get into the gritty details and additional functionality that is available. A lot of new online merchants are nervous to launch because the site isn’t ‘perfect’, but if they’re not live, nobody is looking at their product offering and they’re wasting time and money. Think progress, not perfection.
uAfrica is running a New Business Competition for the duration of 2016 to help merchants get set up selling online. View the competition details and enter now!
Note: ZApreneur Media does NOT earn a referral commission from this article.