Online auction is gradually gaining currency in Kenya as people turn to internet platforms to advertise, buy and sell various items. Tens of Kenyans are turning to internet auction sites offering podiums for people to buy or sell their items both locally and internationally.

Popular items being auctioned include mobile phones, vehicles, motorbikes, iPads, video cameras, furniture, fridges and vehicle tracking devices. The process begins with someone posting the photo of the item they want to sell and giving its details, for instance, whether it is new, used, or reconditioned.

Sellers must further specify minimum bids they are willing to accept and if they will meet shipping costs in the case of international buyers.

“The HTC HD2 mobile phone has a powerful 1ghz processor, a 4.3 inch massive screen, 3g (7.2mbps), digital compass, 5mp camera. It runs on windows 6.5, 448 MB of RAM. It has a pick to mute feature. It can be used as a WiFi router, and has Microsoft office 2010. The phone is brand new. It is going for 301 U. S. dollars,” a seller writes on uzanunua.com, an online auction site in the East African nation.

“Motorbike, Yamaha FZR 1000cc on sale. Hot bargain, mint condition and smooth engine run. Style: sports, kilometres: 150, 000, selling price: 4,698 dollars. Bids end on March 26, 2012,” Ken Mzungu offers on another online auction platform. Once a potential buyer sees photos of the item and related information, they can offer their bids.

“I’m interested with the motorbike. Few questions though; what is the lowest bid that you can take? Do you need the money at once? I can pay in installments for a maximum of three months and pick it up when I come home,” writes a Kenyan living in the U.S.

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“The lowest price the bike can go is 4457 dollars. The money should be paid in cash or deposited in my bank account but you can send someone to come and check it out and test ride. But am afraid you can only have the bike once the payment is done in full. We can organize on how that can be done, like you having the bike keys and I keep the bike indoors until that is done in full,” writes Mzungu back.

Just like in real auctioning, the bidding process goes on until the seller finds the highest bidder.

Then, payment is done through mobile phone cash transfer systems, cash, bank electronic transfer, money order, cheques or credit card payments. Kevin Ngechu, who bought a professional still photo digital camera on an online auction site, said on Tuesday the platforms are emerging in the East African nation as the best places to shop. “What one needs is patience and they must visit several sites to check if they are offering what you want and at the best price, ” said Ngechu. Ngechu noted he bought his camera at 602 dollars.

“A foreigner who was leaving the country had advertised it on one of the sites. He had asked for 700 dollars but we bargained and settled on 602 dollars. The camera was still in good condition. This is the sixth month am using it,” he said. Ngechu exchanged phone numbers with the seller online and thereafter met at a restaurant in the capital. “I did not go with cash despite having agreed on selling price to minimize risks. I went and viewed the camera first and once I was assured it was in perfect form, I went with the man to a bank, withdrew the money and paid him,” he recounted.

Mathew Muthuri, an online marketer in Nairobi, said online auction is gaining currency in Kenya because of its convenience. “People are turning to the sites to sell their items because advertising fees are low, from as a little as 0.60 dollars and one can reach unlimited number of potential buyers both in Kenya and outside,” he said. Growth of mobile telephone payment systems in the East African nation has also boosted the nascent sector.

“The platforms have made payments easier and faster. While in Europe and US people use credit cards, here mobile phones facilitate the transactions and the fact that payment is made in real time have made the platforms the preferred modes of payments in online auction transaction,” he said. However, unlike globally acclaimed online auction site e-bay, Kenya’s auction platforms do not collect or distribute payments. They are merely e-commerce platforms that link sellers and buyers. It is upon the two to agree on modes of payments they will use once a bid is successful.

However, Muthuri noted despite the growth of online auction in Kenya, the sites are yet to gain wide acceptance because of the challenges that come with online transactions, which include fraud. “Internet and mobile phone fraud has been on the rise in Kenya. Thus, people fear they may be conned since fraudsters can advertise their products there, get bids, receive payments and then disappear,” he said.

People are turning to the sites to sell their items because advertising fees are low, from as a little as 0.60 dollars and one can reach unlimited number of potential buyers both in Kenya and outside. (XINHUA)

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