Last week The New Times’ business pages carried a story on the regional retail giant Nakumatt Holdings’ plan to open 25 new outlets across the East African region in the next three years in response to their growing clientele.
Nakumatt has outlets in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda with intentions to open soon in Bujumbura and the South Sudan capital Juba. Other media reports have indicated that they intend to spread as far as West and Southern Africa in the near future to compete with continental giants like South Africa’s Massmart.
Supermarkets have become a mainstay in Kigali since Nakumatt and Simba supermarket joined the likes of T2000 store in downtown Kigali and Ndoli’s at Gisiminti. Now almost every area that has a significant urbanised settlement has a supermarket to serve the people there.
Supermarkets do have several advantages especially the convenience and abundant choice for the shoppers. Lots of items are all found in one place and one just has to pick and head to the counter and pay.
Of course there are also disadvantages such as the inability for shoppers to bargain for a lower price something that we seem to expect on almost everything. The other being that since we only go to the counter to pay there is limited human contact or socialisation compared to what we tend to have with our local shopper who asks about our wellbeing before serving us.
Another major challenge especially with foreign based supermarkets is that they tend to import most of their products while looking down on local produce. It is common for instance to find a Kenyan based supermarket like Nakumatt or Uchumi stocking lots of Kenyan products that are readily available in the local markets.
Although we are in the East African Community where a common market allows free movement of goods and services it is vital that Rwanda producers find a way of getting their produce onto the supermarket shelves. For this to happen, quality is the key word.
Supermarkets survive on not just offering a variety of goods but also quality goods since their main clientele is the middle class that tends to appreciate quality as opposed to quantity. And the onus of ensuring quality lies on the producers who have to match the standards set or expected by the supermarket stockists.
Having said that, I think the Rwanda Bureau of Standards should come up with seminars and workshops for local producers in order to guide them on how to improve on the quality of their goods so that they can compete favourably with exported goods on the shelves.
Suppliers must ensure that their goods are not only of a high quality but also that the supply is consistent. It is very disturbing for clients to find something on the shelf today and then next week the supermarket attendant has to inform them that the supplier did not bring anything this week.
The increase in supermarket outlets is expected to grow not only because Nakumatt is expanding but also because Uchumi and other regional names are keen to join the race for the Rwandan customer. We should also not forget that Walmart the world’s largest retail chain is slowly making its way to the East African region after buying a stake in South Africa’s Massmart.