Is Tanzania seeing a surge in e-commerce? Conversation with Arnold Roman


“Tanzania is my home, and Africa is the future”, Arnold says as he firmly stares at me. According to United Nations projections, Africa’s population would more than double by 2050. By 2100, one in every three persons on the planet will be African. This implies that by the end of the century, Sub-Saharan Africa, which now has a very youthful population, will be home to over half of the world’s young people.

“While rapid population growth in Africa can be perceived as a challenge, it can also be perceived as an opportunity. There is tremendous potential for any kind of business if you look at it,” says Arnold Roman, an Internet entrepreneur based in Arusha. “Think of that growth as a market for food, pharmaceuticals, electronics, clothing, transportation and so forth. It really is an opportunity”, he added.

Arnold Joshua Roman, 24 years old, is currently pursuing Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge University. He completed his undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Arts in International Business from Coventry University in the United Kingdom before starting his current venture. His educational background also includes a Diploma in Financial Management from Queens Management School.

While it is understandable that some individuals would consider staying in Europe or America after completing their academic education, Arnold made a daring decision to return to Tanzania, feeling that here is where the future was waiting. “In Tanzania, there is almost endless potential in almost everything. Many opportunities are untapped. I’m back here because I believe that I can build a more promising future not only for myself but also for other young people and contribute to the growth of my nation,” Arnold says with a grin on his face.

When Arnold returned to Tanzania and began exploring potential sectors in which to launch his venture, he discovered that the business environment involving producers, distributors, retailers, and end customers is “very unpleasant.” “I found it impossible to purchase bulk supplies at a reasonable price since the procedure was made lengthy and costly by the long and expensive chain of persons involved,” he added.

Arnold wanted to create an infrastructure that would allow the supply chain between manufacturers and merchants to be broken down. “It is for this reason that I decided to start Fropollo, a business to the business marketplace that sources rapidly moving consumer items from manufacturers to retailers at below-market costs in East Africa”, says Arnold, who spoke to Tanzania Daily about his decision to start the business.

Retailers may order not just industrial items, but also agricultural produce and food that has been freshly harvested from farms via Fropollo. Arnold believes that this will add value to farmers as well, ensuring they get fair pricing for their produce.

It is his belief that by doing so, things will become more affordable not just for merchants, but also for end customers across the area. “From what I can see, e-commerce is thriving in Tanzania. Think about it. People are increasingly going online to sell and purchase on sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others”.

“It shows that people are becoming more confident in doing commerce online,” he adds. Fropollo is also endeavouring to modernize and revolutionize the way internet commerce is conducted in Tanzania,

According to Arnold, he was inspired by comparable developments that have occurred in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and other similar markets where solutions such as Fropollo have shown to be successful and efficient in adding more value not just in e-commerce, but in manufacturing, agriculture, and other relevant sectors.

In response to the question of why he chose Arusha as the location of Fropollo’s headquarters rather than larger cities like Dar es Salaam and Nairobi which are more vibrant, Arnold states that Arusha is his hometown and that he would want to see more innovative businesses and startups outside of Dar. “I chose Arusha as the location for my business because it is first and foremost my home, and I would want to see other businesses established in various places outside Dar es Salaam so that development is evenly distributed,” he said.

But, maybe more crucially, my startup is focused on the regional market, which includes the whole East African Community, and its headquarters are in Arusha, Tanzania. “It’s much simpler to launch from here,” he added, a smile on his face.

According to him, more young people should embrace entrepreneurship as a means of finding gainful work since it is through this that we as a nation can generate more jobs and strengthen our economic foundation.

“It wasn’t easy at all when I first began, but I understood exactly what he was looking for. To get my firm off the ground, I had to borrow money from family and friends and go into my own resources. However, I have seen the expansion and am certain that it will develop to become one of the most significant business platforms in East Africa and throughout the continent in the near future.” Retailers may register on the site, make orders for a variety of items, and then pay to have the products delivered directly to their stores or places of business, saving time and money.

According to TCRA’s Quarterly Communications Statistics from September 2021, the estimated number of internet users in Tanzania is more than 29 million people, accounting for approximately half of Tanzania’s population estimates from the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics. This has created an opportunity for many, with thousands of small firms adopting digital transformation as a low-cost marketing and infrastructure option.

When asked what this implies for enterprises, Lydia Charles, Executive Director of Her Initiative, a non-profit organization that empowers young women business owners via digital skills training and mentorship, replied that online markets have become the new normal. “The internet and online platforms have altered the way we conduct business, communicate, shop, and do anything else you can think of.” We recognized this and have since taught over 2000 young female entrepreneurs in digital skills through our online platform called Panda Digital. We hope to help bridge the gender digital gap.” She states.

Doing business online, according to Arnold Roman, entails more than just a desire and personal preparation. He requests that the government and other stakeholders to provide a more favourable legal and business environment for young people to pursue self-employment.

According to the data I’ve read, between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people enter the labor market each year. This is a massive amount of people, especially young people looking for opportunities. Business, entrepreneurship and digital transformation in my opinion are the future of our economy and job creation and should be handled as such. We can really create a fair future for everyone if we empower this group of youth, with skills, resources and a conducive environment that can support them to thrive.”, he concluded.


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