By Clemens Weitz, CEO of ROAM
To anyone who lives and works in today’s rapidly-digitising world, it won’t come as much of a surprise that research has shown a strong link between a population’s increased access to internet connectivity and a boost in national economic development. According to estimates, a 10% increase in broadband penetration in low- and middle-income countries can result in a 1.38% growth in GDP.
Infrastructure challenges, however, present an ongoing obstacle to the widespread rollout of fixed broadband connections in most African states. The booming penetration of more affordable mobile connectivity, though, is launching the continent into a new era of prosperity with digital tools designed by Africans, for Africans.
It is within this context that ROAM (Ringier One Africa Media) was established, bringing together many of Africa’s most widely-used and best-trusted online marketplaces – across verticals including automotive, property and jobs – to define a new standard of user experience, security and access to African consumers. It’s clear that there is an appetite for selling goods online. Revenue from listings on the various ROAM platforms, for example, has increased by over 60% year on year, fuelled by private individuals and businesses.
Mobile connectivity is the commercial boost that Africa has been waiting for – connecting businesses and consumers via the channels they use most frequently. It merges the formal and informal economies that have for so long existed in parallel on the continent and enhances access to some of the world’s fastest-growing consumer economies. This form of connectivity is undoubtedly on the rise, too. On ROAM’s sites alone, mobile usage has increased by 45% over the last 5 years in Kenya, and over 82% in the Nigeria market during the same period. Add to this the fact that a diversifying economy has encouraged massive growth in Africa’s emerging middle class and their discretionary income, and the rising opportunity for African businesses, both big and small, becomes immediately apparent.
The success of digital projects aimed specifically at addressing the challenges and needs of Africa – such as M-Pesa and other mobile innovations – shows us that Western business models are not necessarily always the best fit for still-developing markets. African users, in many cases, are new to the world of online trading, and require tailored services, designed with a mobile-first mindset, and the freedom to choose between diverse sellers with the peace of mind that they are getting the right product or service, at the right price.
Formed through the unification of Ringier Africa and One Africa Media (OAM), ROAM consolidates some of Africa’s most popular automotive, property and employment marketplaces, including Cheki (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda), ZoomTanzania, BuyRentKenya, PigiaMe and Private Property Nigeria. The organisation’s mission is simple: to connect Africans to opportunities, empower users through transparency, and transform markets through technology.
“Trust is our most important asset, especially in our markets where word-of-mouth is key,” said ROAM CEO, Clemens Weitz. “At ROAM, we truly see every listing as an opportunity for our user. This implies a completely different standard of excellence relative to our competition. We are dedicated to ensuring a quality user experience in every aspect of the buying or selling process.“
In the past, quality assurance took the form of employees having to assess and approve every listing that appeared on any ROAM platform. Today, advanced algorithms have taken on much of this work, although a relational, human element continues to be central to the way the organisation does business.
“Whether applying for a new job, buying a car, or investing into a home – we are often in the middle of significant life decisions. Therefore, it is very dear and important to us to create a competitive, transparent marketplace where our user’s safety and satisfaction are ensured.” adds Weitz. “In all our markets, based on recent surveys, the number one concern raised by sellers is fraud, especially in C2C transactions. This shouldn’t be a concern though, as ROAM brands have very strict prevention measures in place. Less than 5% of our listings are suspected of fraud, which never make it onto our various sites.”
ROAM’s goal, ultimately, is to ensure that every individual marketplace in its ecosystem is known as a reliable and high-quality destination. Through transparency, objective advice, and a carefully curated selection of sellers, the organisation remains dedicated to a philosophy that always puts the consumer first.
As ROAM continues to raise the bar in terms of customer experiences and quality offerings, the result is a gradual upward trajectory of consumer expectations. This, in turn, spurs on more customer-centric behaviour among competitors in the arena that can only further benefit local markets. By enabling more freedom of choice and improved decision-making, ROAM is playing a part in creating an ecosystem that simultaneously increases choice, transparency and security for its users, and revolutionises the ways in which Africans buy and sell online.