Feature: Kenyan artisans embrace digital apps for more business

By UnreguserYang Zhen

NAIROBI, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Joshua Onyango, a motor vehicle mechanic in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, browsed his smartphone keenly recently as he took a break from his work.

"No customer yet," he said before returning the gadget in his pocket and continuing with his work.

On the phone, Onyango was checking an app in which he has registered so that potential clients can easily access him.

"This is now where the business is," said Onyango, who has listed his garage where he does general repairs, wiring and car painting.

"The number of clients coming through the app is rising because one just checks and gets my contacts there," he told Xinhua.

The mechanic is among growing artisans in the east African nation who are embracing mobile apps to boost their businesses.

The apps are steadily changing the sector, making it formal, just as they have done with motor vehicle taxis and food delivery.

Besides mechanics, masons, carpenters, tailors, electricians, welders and painters are among other artisans using the apps.

Most of the software is made by local app developers, who understand the challenges the artisans and people in need of their services go through.

The apps are, therefore, helping connect the artisans and their clients at the click of a button.

"The good thing is that when you register with the app, people trust you because they know your garage and yourself were vetted," said Onyango, noting one pays some fee before registration.

He observed that with the widespread use of mobile phones in Kenya, it is no longer tenable to rely on word of mouth to sell one's services.

"Referrals have worked in the past but the world is now digital. As artisans, we can no longer rely on them which is why we must go digital," he said. Mutua Kyalo, a welder in Kitengela, is listed in a builders' app.

"I listed last year after seeing the benefits and paying 1,500 shillings (about 13 U.S. dollars). Some of my business now comes through the app, we are tens of us but the beauty is that we are categorized according to our areas of operations," he said.

Victor Ng'ang'a, an app developer who came up with MyMech, a software that lists mechanics across Kenya, said the platform does not only come in handy during emergencies but also in times one is not in a hurry.

"As a motorist, all you need is to have an internet connection then you open the app, choose the service you want and then put your location," he said.

While it is mandatory for mechanics to be registered after being vetted, motorists don't necessarily have to register in advance.

"Carwash service providers, motor vehicle spare parts dealers, valuers, painters, tyre sales and repairers can also list on the app. All these are artisans," he said.

Ng'ang'a noted that over 4,000 mechanics and garages, among other artisanal service providers, have listed on his platform.

And so is the case with those apps targeting artisans in the construction industry or farmers.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution, a software development start-up in Nairobi, noted that just as with cab-hailing apps, the apps targeting artisans will radically change the sector in the east African nation that is largely informal.

"The apps are the future of service provision in Kenya as people turn to digital technology for access and to offer services," he said.

According to the Economic Survey 2020 done by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the informal sector accounts for 90 percent of jobs created annually in Kenya. Up to 767,900 jobs were created in the sector in 2019.

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