online shopping in uganda
Shopping online concept that allows payment by credit card and offers home delivery. Photo credit: iStockphoto.

Online shopping in Uganda is the new normal. On the international scene you must have heard people talk about online stores like eBay and Amazon, Walmart, Bestbuy etc. These ecommerce giants are making millions of dollars from selling stuff online.

We are living in exciting times, the digital era, where you no longer have to visit the local market or traditional brick and mortar shop to get what you want, or when you want to buy something from abroad, you don’t need middle men anymore.

The internet in Uganda has witnessed a tremendous growth, which has changed the way people buy and sell. These days when you want to buy anything be it a computer, phone, clothes, medicine or even groceries, all you need is to have a smartphone or computer that is connected to internet, visit any online shopping site, browse through its products, order what you want and have it delivered to you.

These online shopping platforms offer everything ranging from effortless payments to doorstep delivery. Many of them accept payments through credit/debit cards, Mobile Money, PayPal and Cash on Delivery (COD).

In this detailed guide, you will learn everything you have ever wanted to know about shopping online in Uganda.

Also Read; The Insider Guide To Starting An Online Business In Uganda

Online shopping statistics in Uganda

According to the 2017 report by Uganda Communications Commission, internet penetration in Uganda was recorded at 45% reaching about 17.1 million people. The same report shows that, in the same year mobile internet subscriptions registered a 14.5% growth with an estimated 1.6 million new subscribers.

In 2018, Forbes Magazine ranked Uganda in the 7th position of countries with the highest internet penetration in Africa. However the quality of internet in Uganda still remains low in rural areas compared to urban areas and moreover 75% of Ugandans live in rural areas.

Although the number of Ugandans who own smartphones and have access to the internet has increased, the country is still lagging behind when it comes to the adoption of online shopping as compared to other East African countries. This is mainly attributed to unfavorable government policies which make the internet too expensive.

The growth of social media in Uganda might have exploded, but when it comes to making payments online, the numbers are still very low and this has posed a very big challenge to online shopping. Most Ugandans don’t have or use debit/credit cards and even those that have them, some don’t know they actually work. Over 80% of online orders are paid in cash because people don’t really trust online shopping.

Ugandans are not alien to this concept of buying online even though we are still struggling to get it right. Some Ugandan online shops are really doing well, trying hard to win trust of Ugandans and become part of one of the fastest growing industry in the world.

Moreover, many banks in Uganda are now offering debit cards to their clients which allow for online payments, and some like Stanbic Bank are even issuing credit cards.

According to a report by Contador Harrison, Ugandans who shop online are aged 21-40 and most of them do transactions through mobile devices and on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

In 2020, the rise of online shopping was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic which brought total lockdowns in many countries including Uganda. The lockdown saw many physical shops shift online with a number of them creating websites, mobile applications and social media pages.

Looking at how lucrative the online shopping business is, more ecommerce businesses are springing up every day but not all of them do not have great standards are not reliable to shop with.

There are currently over 100 online stores in Uganda but unfortunately over 90% of online shoppers only patronize a very small segment of these stores.

Read; 18 reasons ecommerce businesses in Uganda are failing

Benefits of shopping online in Uganda

Online shopping offers fast, easy and interesting buying experience which comes with benefits such as;

  • It saves time and money (transport) you would have wasted going to a traditional store.
  • It is easy to compare prices between different websites before finally making a decision to buy.
  • You can read reviews of people who purchased the same item in the past. If reviews are bad, then chances are the item is bad or seller is not trusted.
  • You can receive online customer support in a fast and timely manner.
  • It is easier to return an item you don’t like especially if you are using a reputable site.
  • You shop from the comfort of your home with just a click of a button
  • Ability to shop from anywhere in the world
  • Shop at any time you want. You can buy an item outside normal business hours. Online shopping works 24/7.
  • Many shopping sites offer exciting discounts and coupons thus helps you save money.
  • No checkout lines to deal with like it is in supermarkets.

Drawbacks of online shopping in Uganda

Online shopping has its drawbacks too and among them include the following:

  • Since you cannot touch and feel the item, you cannot be sure of what you will get.
  • Delayed shipping due to challenges in logistics.
  • Shipping fees make products (especially low cost products) expensive.
  • You risk losing your money if you land on a malicious shopping site.
  • You credit card details can be stolen by crooked and scammy shopping sites.
  • Fake online reviews just to convince gullible customers
  • Not knowing the full price till checkout. Some sites have hidden costs like shipping and handling fees.
  • Counterfeit and substandard goods are all over the online market.
  • Fraud and identity theft – Only use your debit/credit on sites you trust.
  • Actual theft of purchase or important packages getting lost.
  • Returns not being accepted on some items.
  • Shopping sites owners can release your private location information such as phone number, email address, home address etc thereby exposing you to spies, criminals and spam advertisers.

Read; How To Start An Online Boutique In Uganda

Best online shopping sites in Uganda

Presently, there are hundreds of online shops (or ecommerce shops) in Uganda, but in this article I have researched an exclusive list of the top online shopping sites in Uganda that are reputable and are trusted to buy from. These sites have been selected based on factors such as competitive pricing, customer service and the quality of products they sell. If you know any other trusted online stores in Uganda that you think should have been on this list, mention them in the comments. If you own one, please contact me here so it can be featured on the list.

1. Jumia

Jumia is arguably the biggest ecommerce marketplace in Africa. Founded in Nigeria in 2012 and expanded to Uganda in 2014, Jumia has grown to become the largest online marketplace in Uganda with thousands of users. The ecommerce giant which primarily connects sellers and buyers sells everything including electronics, computers, phones, books, home appliances, fashion items, groceries, kids items, jewelry, and many more. Jumia Uganda has a well-crafted website and mobile app with a perfect User Interface (UI) which makes it easy to navigate and browse through products. The website accepts local payments methods such as Mobile Money and Cash On Delivery. The most interesting bit about Jumia Uganda is you can place an order via call which gives the best User Experience (UX).

What I like about Jumia

  • Variety of products
  • Dependable delivery and customer service.
  • Extensive search filters tailored to individual products.
  • Cross platform
  • Money back guarantee
  • Returns and exchanges accepted

What I dislike about Jumia

  • Prices higher than those in local market
  • Relatively high delivery fees. Charges delivery fees even when you personally collect item from their pickup station.
  • Charges delivery fee per order. No combined shipping.
  • Pickup stations only available in select locations, mostly in central Uganda.

2. Jiji Uganda

Buy and Sell for free! That is the Jiji.ug slogan. Launched in June 2019 after acquiring OLX Uganda, Jiji has thrived as the biggest classifieds site in Uganda. Jiji has tagged itself as Uganda’s most preferred classifieds platform where everything sells.

With Jiji if you have any unwanted item(s), you simply take its photo, upload it on the site and get customers real quick.

Unlike ordinary online shops and ecommerce marketplaces, Jiji does not accept online payments. Once you identify an item you like on their platform, you contact the seller, link up, inspect the item and pay cash if the item is per the description and meets your expectations.

 What I like about Jiji Uganda

  • Multiples deals of used items at competitive prices
  • Freedom to bargain. Sellers are willing to negotiate.
  • Pay cash on delivery
  • Find buyers near you thus no need to pay shipping fees.
  • Great avenue for getting rid of unwanted stuff.

What I dislike about Jiji Uganda

  • Hub for scammers
  • No returns
  • No money back guarantee
  • Risk of buying stolen used items
  • It is more of a hyper local platform and you need to continuously search for products in order to get a great deal.
  • Delivery times depend on the reliability of the seller.

3. Kikuu

Chinese owned Kikuu is a dropshipping store which has been operating in Uganda since 2015. The company takes orders from clients which they later source from Chinese suppliers and deliver in about 20-30 days. Kikuu majorly deals in consumer electronics and fashion apparel.

However this company has earned itself a bad reputation for having the worst customer care. Their customers all over their social handles complain how they don’t respond to customer inquiries, take long to deliver, deliver fake or poor quality products and that sometimes deliver wrong items and refuse to accept returns or refund.

If Kikuu works on its customer care, checks quality of their products and put in place a transparent returns/refund policy, it would become one of the best go-to site for online shopping in Uganda.

What I like about Kikuu Uganda

  • Hassle-free payments via mobile money
  • Variety of products
  • Low priced items
  • Accepts bulk orders
  • Free shipping
  • Multiple pickup stores across the country

What I dislike like about Kikuu Uganda

  • Unreliable service
  • Longer deliveries of over 30 days
  • Poor customer care
  • No Cash on Delivery
  • Limited pickup stations

4. Masikini

Masikini is one of the top online stores in Uganda, visited by thousands of people on a daily basis. The site offers a massive collection of fashion items, laptops, jewelry, cars and sports equipment. The items listed on Masikini are sourced from leading online suppliers in UK, USA and China through ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Taobao and eBay. Masikini allows its buyers to pay for goods directly using either MTN Moblile Money (MTN Momo), Airtel Money and Debit/Credit card.

What I like about Masikini

  • Sells authentic items from UK and USA
  • Flexible payment methods
  • Get items you can’t easily find in local market

What I dislike about Masikini

  • Highly priced items
  • Longer deliveries
  • Costly shipping

5. Bazebo

Bazebo is one of the fastest shopping platforms in Uganda. The company sources it products from abroad. It boosts of a database of over 400000 items from clothing to electronics, medications to tech gadgets; you can get almost anything imaginable on Bazebo. Bazebo also have a physical presence at Acacia Mall Kampala.

What I like about Bazebo

  • Allows you to buy items from global stores like Amazon, eBay and BestBuy
  • Customer service responds rapidly and reliably
  • Free returns on items you decide you do not want.
  • Find some obscure items at really cheap prices

What I dislike about Bazebo

  • Have no stock at hand. Everything is imported.
  • Longer deliveries since their items are sourced from overseas suppliers.
  • Highly priced items. Their prices almost double those in local market
  • They have only one pickup station

Also read; How To Start An Online Store In Uganda

Best Sites / Apps for Online Grocery Shopping in Uganda

Whether you are stuck at home or you are too busy to go shopping, shopping online for groceries in Uganda is now incredibly convenient. With just a click of a button, you can order online all the groceries you need including vegetables, matooke, sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, meat, fish, fresh cuts, dairy products, grains, bread, spices, herbs, sea foods, animal products, rice, honey, flour, frozen foods, packaged foods etc. Below are my picks of the best online grocery shopping apps / websites in Uganda.

NOTE: Your online grocery buying experience can be affected by a number of factors including location of physical store, stock availability, purchase restrictions and delivery times. So stay patient and flexible.

Other local online shopping websites in Uganda

  1. Dondolo (electronics, phones, computers)
  2. Cheki Uganda (Cheki is the leading car site in Uganda. With Cheki, you can buy and sell or import new and used cars).
  3. Paple Rayn (Fashion)
  4. Ugakart
  5. 2ambale (Fashion)
  6. Ugamall (Groceries, Phones, Apparel)
  7. Eyetrade (Classifieds)
  8. Odukar Store (Electronics)
  9. Killimall Uganda (Marketplace that sells everything)
  10. Kibuubo Online (Electronics, computers, mobile phones)
  11. Ugabox (online shopping portal curating ecommerce products from different sites)
  12. Navyspot (Fashion, consumer electronics)
  13. PEP (Online clothing store in Uganda with physical presence)
  14. Supaprice (buy from the UK and receive in Uganda)
  15. Condala (Online Marketplace for Uganda)
  16. 2fumbe (Kitchen appliances)
  17. Hello Fresh Uganda (groceries)
  18. Akatale Fresh (groceries)
  19. Jumia Food (Food delivery service)
  20. UGunlocked (Buy from the USA receive in Uganda)
  21. Jumia Deals (Classifieds ads site like Jiji)
  22. The Baby Bay (Baby’s shop)
  23. Dennan Store (Home use essentials)
  24. Mina Kids Collection (kids shop)

Ordering food – Best websites/apps to order food online in Uganda

Supermarkets in Uganda have been packed with people buying in bulk, and hotels and restaurants have been ordered by the government to halt dine-in services due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so leaving the house to get groceries or food is complicated.

There are, however, several food delivery services in Uganda, either through stores, apps or online-delivery platforms that are still taking orders.

Here’s a list of stores and online-delivery platforms in Uganda that are still offering food delivery:

Jumia Food

Jumia Food is arguably the largest food delivery platform in Uganda. The company delivers food to customers on behalf of partner restaurants that are registered on their platform.

Jumia Food service lets you order food from restaurants near you and have it deliver to you at your door-step or office.

Jumia Food has an extensive coverage of food cuisines from local to international cuisines. Moreover with Jumia Food you can order food at same price as that you would buy from a physical restaurant and on top of that offer special deals that you can’t find anywhere else.

How Jumia Food delivery service works

Jumia Food has both Android and iOS apps as well as a web platform that can be accessed from mobile, tablet or computer.

To get started with using the service, all you need to do is download their app or visit their website at https://food.jumia.ug and create an account, then select your area or neighborhood.

Once you have selected your area, a list of participating or partner restaurants will come along with their menus.

You can then choose what you want to eat, add it to cart and pay up using either mobile money or debit/credit. Once your order is successfully processed, Jumia will send it to a member of their service team to coordinate the delivery process. Now just relax as you wait for your order to get to you shortly.
Payment method: Mobile Money, Debit/ Credit card
Delivery time: 60 minutes
Delivery fee: 6000/-
Platform: Web | Android | iOS

SafeBoda Food

SafeBoda is a ride-hailing business which recently ventured into Food delivery business. The service currently operates only within Kampala but has plans to expand to other districts.

With Safeboda food, you can order your favorite foods from restaurants near you, at the best prices, and have it delivered to your door-step.

The food delivery service section of the app features diverse street food vendors and local food restaurants in Uganda. You can order any meal by clicking the food icon, search what you like to eat, add it to cart, proceed to pay and your food will reach you in just minutes. With Safeboda, you can order any food including Rolex, Kikomando, Chicken, Luwombo, Pork etc.
Payment method: Mobile Money, Debit/ Credit card
Delivery time: 20-40 minutes
Delivery fee: Between 1500/- to 5000/-
Platform: Android | iOS

Cafe Javas

Café Javas is one of the most popular fast foods restaurants in Kampala with its various outlets located around City Oil fuel stations. In 2018, the company launched a remote food delivery service where a customer can place an order and have it delivered to them in less than one hour.

With Café Javas, you can buy chicken online, order burgers, pizza, beef, fish, sandwich, soups, bits and bites, salads, coffee, tea and so much more.

Currently the company accepts orders via their android app or via their Jumia Food vendor page where orders are fulfilled by Jumia.

Additionally, you can also place an order at Cafe Javas via their hotline number: +256393000090
Payment method: Mobile Money, Debit/ Credit card
Delivery time: Less than 1 hour
Delivery fee: 5000/-
Platform: Web | Android

KFC

Kentucky Fried chicken (KFC) is yet another popular fast foods restaurant with a chain of branches situated around Kampala. KFC is known for its flagship product – fried chicken. The company accepts orders via Jumia Food app or through their subsidiary page jfood.kfc.ug.
Payment method: Mobile Money, Debit/ Credit card
Delivery time: Less than 40mins
Delivery fee: 6000/-
Platform: Web | Android

Food 911

Feel like having a bite but find it frustrating to go out and look for one? Well, a new food delivery company Food 911 has got you covered. Founded in 2019, Food 911 brings food delivery to you and helps you discover variety of restaurants with food delivery options.

Based in Kampala, Food 911 has 20 operational points in Kampala, Seeta, Gayaza and Entebbe. The company has plans to expand to others soon.

Food 911 has kept a low profile, as it runs its business only on WhatsApp, Facebook and Telephone numbers.

Placing an order on Food 911

All you need is make a call to Food 911 hotline number +256704807458 and identify the type of food you want. Depending on your location, the service offers a list of restaurants and their respective menus. Once you have chosen what you want eat, the food will be delivered to you within one hour. You only pay after your food has been delivered. Food 911 accepts orders between 8am to 10pm throughout the week.

Food 911 uses a special computer algorithm to identify restaurants located within a range of 5kms from their customer’s locations. With this, the company is able to manage delivery time and keep it within less than one hour, while it takes into account meal preparation time.

Food 911 also accepts food pre-orders for as early as a day in advance and delivery depends on different restaurants’ operating hours.
Payment method: Cash on Delivery (COD)
Delivery time: Under 1hour
Delivery fee: 5000/-
Platform: WhatsApp | Facebook | Mobile (+256704807458)

Pink Cloud

Pink Cloud is Uganda’s first cloud kitchen. A cloud kitchen is basically a restaurant kitchen that only accepts incoming orders through an online order management system and usually has no dine-in facility. Pink Cloud has a base kitchen that delivers food to its customers at their doorsteps. If you are tired of wasting time going to the restaurant and then waiting in the queue to get your food, Pink cloud is the solution.
Payment method: Cash on Delivery, Mobile Money, Visa debit/credit card
Delivery time: Under 1hour
Delivery fee: Free
Platform: Web | Android

Buy medicine online in Uganda – Best online pharmacies in Uganda

The revolutionary internet technology in Uganda has caught up with the medical sector in Uganda. Now for those who have no time to walk to the chemist to buy medicine have the option to buy drugs and prescriptions through online pharmacies in Uganda. This also serves as a big relief to those that feel ashamed of buying some drugs in person. The convenience that comes with buying medicine online in Uganda not only saves you time but also saves you money as your medicines are delivered to your door-step. Below is a comprehensive list of online pharmacies in Uganda:

  • Ecopharm
  • First Pharmacy
  • Pine Pharmacy
  • C&A Pharmacy

1. Ecopharm Pharmacy

Ecopharm Pharmacy is one of the leading pharmacies in Uganda with an online presence. It sells many products ranging from supplements, vitamins, skin care product, family planning medicines, fragrance, skin care products, healthcare equipment and many more. Although Ecopharm sells most of its products through its string of branches around Kampala, it also has a hotline where one can order medicine online and have it delivered to their door-step.
Website: https://ecopharmug.com/
Physical location: Victoria House Kampala
Contact: +256706900800, +256394824059
Door delivery: Yes

2. First Pharmacy

First Pharmacy is one of the best pharmacies you will find in the Uganda online marketplace. The medical giant was established to source and increase access to healthcare products in Uganda. The company has grown from retail to now wholesale entity, dealing in importation and distribution of medicines, medical sundries and wellness products. The pharmacy offers an array of wellness and high-quality medical products at affordable rates. Some of the items you can find at First Pharmacy include medicines, multivitamins, dietary supplements, personal healthcare products, hygiene products, beauty and skincare products, and many more. The most beautiful thing about First Pharmacy is they can collect your prescription from the surgery for you and deliver your medication to your home.
Website: https://firstpharmacyltd.com/
Physical location: Mulago and Wandegeya
Contact: +256 414 532 558 (Mulago), +256 414 531132 (Wandegeya)
Ordering Number: +256754444442 (Whatsapp+Calls)
Door delivery: Yes

3. Pine Pharmacy

Pine Pharmacy is an online retail pharmacy in Uganda where you can shop for various pharmaceutical products like vaccines, supplements, vitamins, medical devices, baby care items, skin and baby care products etc.

The company has a physical outlet located on Ivory Plaza, Kampala Uganda. This means it operates under a premise license issued by the Uganda National Authority.

When you place an order with pine pharmacy via their website, delivery of your medicines can happen on the same day and 2-3 days if you are outside Kampala.

Pine Pharmacy accepts online payments via mobile money and debit/card, but they also have an option to order and pay cash on delivery. All you need to do is place an order via their hotline: +256-393-518256.
Website: https://pinepharmacyug.com
Physical location: Ivory Plaza, Kampala.
Contact: +256 756 756627, +256-393-518256
Door delivery: Yes

4. C&A Pharmacy

C&A is a licensed and established pharmacy founded in 1997. The company has positioned itself as consistent providers of quality and dependable pharmaceutical products at very affordable prices ensuring a professional distribution and supply infrastructure that you can trust. C&A pharmacy focuses on selling medicines and other products such as toiletries, cosmetics, baby care products and so much more. C&A has physical outlets in Bugolobi, Kololo, Kabalagala and Village Mall.
Website: https://candapharmaceuticalsltd.com/
Physical location: Bugolobi
Contact: +256 785 446 708
Door delivery: Yes

Take Caution

While it may be convenient to buy your medications online in Uganda, be aware of some rouge operators. Some of them claim to sell prescription medicines at discounts, usually without the need for a valid prescription by a professional doctor. Such sellers usually sell counterfeit, expired or unapproved drugs outside the safeguards provide by the Uganda National Drug Authority. As a word of caution, please do not use any online pharmacy that does not have a license or certification. Also avoid those pharmacies that allow you to buy drugs without prescription from your doctor and do not display medicine prices in Uganda.

Disclaimer:

The above list of pharmacies in Uganda is only intended for general information purposes and does not address any individual circumstances. Please note that this is not a substitute for professional medical advice neither should it be relied on to make any kind of decisions. Any action you take upon the information presented in the above list is strictly done at your own risk and responsibility!

Tips to help you shop online safely – Online shopping security tips.

Anyone including senior shoppers is prone to online fraud, so it is very important that you take precautions while you engage in online shopping. Below are the best practices of online shopping to avoid common pitfalls and will always keep you safe while you buy online.

  1. Ensure that the website you are buying from is secure. Usually secure websites have a padlock or key symbol before the URL in the address bar. If any of the symbols is broken means your information is not secure, if not broken, means your information is secure.
  2. The website should have and clearly state their refund, return and exchange policies. You do not want to buy from a website that will sell you unwanted or counterfeit products and they refuse to refund your money, exchange for you the product with another or accept returns.
  3. Do not click on pop-up ads especially ones that alert you that your computer may have a virus. These ads are usually malicious and many of them contain viruses which can hurt your computer or steal your personal information.
  4. Ensure that the company you are buying from is registered and has a physical address and phone number.
  5. The prices of items should be reasonable, not too high, not too low and not too good to be true.
  6. Never use a site that asks for your personal information such as your National ID number or your mother’s maiden name.
  7. Only use a credit/debit card that has a fraud protection feature.
  8. Be aware of phishing sites. Fraudsters usually copy exact designs of popular websites and launch them on fake domains that slightly look like one for the popular site. Their sole aim is to steal your private info such as passwords, credit card info or simply trick you into buying a fake product that doesn’t exist. Always double-check the URL of a site before entering your information. For example the official Jumia Uganda website is jumia.ug but a fraudster could create a copy of it and launch it on a fake domain like www.jumia.tk.
  9. When buying high-end luxury or expensive products, ensure that you buy from a retailer (not a reseller) to avoid getting fake products or copies.
  10. Never wire money when someone asks you to do so. Sometimes scammers can pretend to be workers of popular eCommerce companies that sell products online and will request that you send the money to them via mobile money or specific bank accounts. Instead of wiring the money, report them to police.
  11. Make sure your password is secure. Your password should be strong and not easily guessable. There are hacking softwares that can easily crack simple passwords. Also don’t use same password on different site. If you have issues remembering your passwords, always write them on paper and keep them in a safe place that you can easily access.
  12. Never log into your bank accounts while connected to public WiFi connections in public places like bars, restaurants or libraries.
  13. If out of the blue you get an email supposedly from your bank, PayPal, or your favorite shopping website, asking you to update your password or provide other personal or account information, do not click the link or enter any sensitive information until you contact the company and they confirm they are the ones that sent the email.

Generally, if a website you want to buy from is encrypted and displays a key or pad icon, it is safe to let the merchant to securely store your card info (website owner won’t see your card info though instead they will see stars). Online stores do not store your info without your approval. If storing your card info makes you uncomfortable, don’t permit your merchant to do so. However many people allow websites like eBay or Amazon to store their card info because they shop there regularly which saves them having to manually enter the info everytime they want to buy.

Ultimately, if you are careful enough and take precautions to avoid the common risks associated with online shopping, you can have a great online shopping experience and take advantage of the convenience it comes with.

Steps to shop online in Uganda

To buy anything online, you will need to have a smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer with an active and reliable internet connection. You will also be required to have a valid email address and phone number. The email and phone number would be used in the delivery process such as confirming and tracking your order. You will also need to have a mobile money account or valid credit/debit card for online payment just incase a site you are buying from doesn’t accept cash on delivery.

Below are the steps to shop online in Uganda:

  • Choose the right online store
  • Go to the store
  • Add items to cart/bag
  • Checkout
  • Choose shipment and delivery options
  • Choose payment method
  • Confirm and Pay for your order
  • Track your order
  • Don’t forget about returns, refunds and exchanges.

Step 1 – Choose the right store

Not all online stores in Uganda are legit or reputable. Some are scams. To avoid falling for frauds, follow your common sense. Choose big, well known and reputable retailers. Look for websites that are professional, beautifully designed with clear information and are easily to navigate through. A website should not be your choice if it has some nasty design and is full of bugs. Also check if the company has a physical address, phone number and offers fast customer service via multiple channels like live chat, email, phone and social media. If it has none of these, it is a red flag.

Step 2 – Go to the store

Visit the website or mobile application of the store you want to buy from and browse through the categories of your interest. If you find an item you like, read its description to ensure that it meets the expectations of what you will receive.

Also, read product reviews about the same item from past buyers (some sites esp. marketplaces allow user reviews on products). Don’t just stop at the reviews within the store. Search for customer’s photos of the product. If item is branded, google its brand and the manufacturer.

If majority of reviews by past buyers are negative, it is advisable not to buy such an item. Only opt for items with a good review rating.

Step 3 – Add item to cart/bag

Once you have identified the item you want to buy, select its variants like color, size, capacity, quantity etc and then proceed and add it to cart. Adding an item to the cart will save the details of this item until you are ready to buy it, just like as if you have popped something you want to buy into a real shopping basket. You can add multiple items to cart.

Step 4 – Check out

Next is to checkout. At this stage you will be required to log into your account in order to proceed. If you already have account, simply login with your email and password. If you do not have an account, you will see the option to create one. However some sites allow users to checkout as guests. A guest does not need to have an account or login to checkout. However, for some sites, it may not be possible to track your orders if you checkout as a guest.

Step 5 – Choose shipment and delivery options

There are usually two types of delivery services in Uganda ie door-step delivery and pickup delivery (picking up from nearest delivery point). Established online stores like Jumia and Kikuu have multiple pickup points from different locations around Uganda.

When you order an item online, you can choose to have it shipped directly to your home or the item will be dropped at a pickup point near you and chosen by you. Be aware of the delivery costs. Collecting your item from a pickup point costs 50% less than home delivery. In fact some companies offer free pickup.

The best option is door-step delivery (sometimes called home delivery). It usually costs extra but you will be assured of an absolutely worry free online shopping experience. They deliver, you unbox in the presence of the delivery man, and if you don’t like item, you can make instant returns.

Please note that some retailers offer 100% free delivery.

Step 6 – Choose payment method

At this stage, you have to choose the method you want to pay for your order. Choose a payment which is safe and suits you. When it comes to payment, most online shopping sites in Uganda accept the following forms of payment:

  • MTN Mobile Money (MTN Momo)
  • Airtel Money
  • Debit/Credit cards by Visa or Mastercard
  • Cash on Delivery (the most popular)
  • Wire Transfer (pay by bank)
  • PayPal (See limitations)

Step 7 – Confirm and Pay for your order

Now confirm and pay for your order using any of the above mentioned payment methods. Upon successful transaction, you will see an onscreen message notifying you of the same. You will also receive detailed information about your order via email.

Step 8 – Track your order

Some online stores provide order tracking service. If the site you are buying from provides tracking, once your order is confirmed and paid, you will be provided with a tracking code. This code can be used to track your order right from time it leaves the warehouse to its destination. To track an order, the code along your email is entered on a special tracking page available on the site. Usually, the link to this tracking page can be accessed via your account dashboard. It could also be located anywhere on the website. For example if you want to track your order on Jumia, you go to https://www.jumia.ug/track/.

Step 9 – Don’t forget about returns, refunds and exchanges

It is advisable that only buy from a site that will accept returns, refunds or exchange. If you don’t like the item, or it doesn’t fit you or it is a wrong one, the company should be able to accept its return.

Most online stores in Uganda accept returns within a specified period of time ranging from 7-30 days. Usually, when you decide to return an item, you have to pay your own return fees. If you return an item, you can ask for a refund or for an exchange of a similar item.

A refund can also be issued in an instance that your order doesn’t arrive in an estimated period of time or doesn’t arrive forever. Remember that each site has own return, refund and exchange policies, so you must read them before placing an order.

You wouldn’t want to ever go through this. That’s why you should carefully follow this guide to avoid returns that could turn out to be costly and tedious.

If you have a friend that loves to shop online or plans to start shopping online, save him or her by sharing this guide with them.

What about buying goods from abroad?

Overseas goods are often cheaper, even after taking exchange rates and shipping into consideration. International shopping is now at your fingertips. It can be quite effective or even economical if done correctly. If you have been frustrated because you can’t have access to cheap items on the international market, it is time you discovered the world of global online shopping as a Ugandan. Cut off the middleman. You no longer need to pay anyone to buy for you anything from abroad. Do it yourself and it is easy!

Also Read; How To Import Goods from China to Uganda For Your Small Business

Any international shopping requires one to have a credit/debit card. So before planning your international purchase, ensure that you have a valid credit/debit card (preferably VISA or Mastercard) with enough credit and it must have the ability to accept international transactions.

Here’s a smart guide to online shopping from international online stores!

Best global online shopping sites in Uganda

Below are the best international online shopping stores that ship to Uganda:

The cost of shipping products from abroad to Uganda

While we are used to same day free shipping option from most ecommerce websites in Uganda, ordering products from a global website attracts shipping fees. There are several factors that determine how costly shipping is going to be.

Typically, shipping charges are determined based on various factors such as weight of the product, dimensions of the product, origin-destination of the product, taxes and duties, insurance as applicable and then service type. Express shipping usually 2-5 days, 10-15 days for economy shipping and 20-30 days for postal shipping.

Most international e-commerce websites have preferential rate agreements with shipping companies and the same is displayed on product pages or during checkout.

However some large global sellers/stores offer free shipping or selected items or sometimes on all items. Although items that ship for free tend to cost a little more.

Do I pay URA taxes for products purchased from abroad?

All goods imported into Uganda attract customs taxes except for goods imported for personal use and whose value is below $50. Any goods imported into the country with a value of more than $50 (about UGX 180,000/-) are taxable.

Taxes range between 24-65% depending on the item. The basic customs duty is 24% on majority of the products. But before you order anything from online from abroad that is worth over $50, make sure you first get tax details for that particular product from URA website or URA office near you.

Below are import customs tariff for commonly imported products:

SNITEMImport DutyVATExcise DutyWithholding TaxInfrastructure Levy
1Phones18%6%
2Cameras25%18%6%1.5%
3Garments25%18%6%1.5%
4Shoes25%18%6%1.5%
5Cosmetics25%18%10%6%1.5%
6Wedding Gowns25%18%6%1.5%
7Beauty accessories e.g necklaces, bangles, hair, decorations25%18%6%1.5%
8Computers18%6%

Payment options – How pay for your products on abroad ecommerce stores

Most international shopping websites accept credit/debit cards and PayPal as their mode of payment. The easiest and most secure form is of payment is debit/credit card. If you do not have one, ensure that you get it from your bank. Many Ugandan banks such as Equity, Stanbic, Standard Chartered, UBA, Absa, Housing Finance, Centenary etc now issue Visa/MasterCard branded debit/debit cards.

However some domestic cards that are not enabled for international transactions may not work on global shopping sites like eBay, Amazon or Aliexpress. So check with your bank and ask them if your card can be used to shop internationally. If not, ask them to activate it.

While making payment, make sure you pay within the official store app or website so you can qualify for buyer protection that most shopping platforms offer. Under no circumstances should you ever risk making payment using Wire Transfer (direct bank transfer), Western Union or Moneygram. You get no protection using these payment modes as the risk of getting duped by crooked scammers is too high.

Before you make a payment, be sure you have fully assessed the seller or store and you can trust them with your money.

How do I receive the products I ordered online from abroad?

Before you place an order on any ecommerce website, you will need to provide a postal address (P.O.Box…) where your items will be dropped when they arrive.

Alternatively if you have a Physical Box (provided by Posta Uganda), your items will be dropped at the Posta Uganda office near you, a notification mail would be placed in your box and you will receive an SMS message about the same asking you to go collect your items. Your box is hosted at Posta Uganda premises and is paid for annually.

Please note that it is not a must to have a postal address or physical box in order to receive your items purchased from abroad. Anyone can buy from abroad and receive their items here in Uganda, easily. If you don’t have a postal address or physical box and you want to buy something from abroad, if asked to enter your shipping address, simply enter your name, place where you live, email address, phone number, city and zip code. Below is an example of shipping information you should provide if you have no postal address:

Name: Mun Gerald
Address: Bugolobi Flats, Bugolobi, Nakawa Division.
City: Kampala
State or Province: Central, Western, Northern or Eastern
Postal/Zip code: 00256
Country: Uganda
Tel: +256701234567
Email: mail@example.com

Fill in the above shipping template with information relevant to you. For postal code or zip code, provide the universal one for Uganda which is 00256.

When you place an order on sites like eBay or Aliexpress, message the seller and ask them to include your name, shipping address, phone number and email address on your package. When your package arrives, it will be sent to Posta Uganda and they will send you an SMS notification asking you to go collect your package at a Posta Uganda office near you. This is why it is important to put a valid phone number so you can be notified when your stuff arrives.

However, if your package takes longer than 45 days with no communication from Posta Uganda, go to their office near you with your package reference number or tracking number and ask them to check if it arrived. Sometimes they forget to send notification SMS or sometimes they could have texted you when your phone is out of service and you don’t get the message.

To collect your package, you must go to Posta Uganda office near you with your original national ID or passport and a collection fee indicated in the message you received via text. Usually the fee is UGX 3000/- for each package you collect.

Moreover if your item arrives at Posta Uganda and you have no time to pick it, they can deliver it to you wherever you are for as low as UGX 4000/-depending on your location. Simply call their hotline on: +256414255569.

However if you ship your items using major courier companies like UPS, DHL or EMS, just stay at home, they will bring to you.

How long will it take for my item to get to Uganda

This will totally depend on the shipping method and the service type used. Below is the estimated time:

  • Express (2-5 days)
  • Economy (10-15 days)
  • Postal (20-30 days)
  • Sea (45-60 days)

I usually order items on Aliexpress and eBay via China Post Mail (economy international shipping) but I receive them on an average of 2-4 weeks. Regardless of the shipping method I choose, I’m used to this delivery duration. If it exceeds 45 days, I normally check with Post Office (Posta Uganda Kampala road) to confirm whether my package arrived or not.

If your item doesn’t arrive, don’t worry, you can still get back your money or have the seller send you another item at no extra cost. Most reputable global ecommerce brands offer buyer protection through various ways. For example if you pay for an item on eBay or Aliexpress and you don’t receive it within the estimated delivery time, you can open a dispute against the seller and have him send you another item or issue you a full refund.

Remember whenever you pay for anything on ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Amazon holds the payment until a buyer receives the item before they can release the payment to seller. This makes it safe for buyers. If the seller refuses to issue a refund for an item not arrived, Amazon will forcefully refund you.

Please note that buyer protection does not apply to every ecommerce site. It usually applies to ecommerce marketplaces which connect buyers and sellers.

Before you place an order on any global marketplace, first read and understand their buyer protection policies such as return, exchange and refund policies. For example on eBay, you can only claim for a refund within 30 days if you do not receive your item within the estimated delivery time.

Tips about buying online from abroad – safe buying

Beware of scammers. Scammers are everywhere on the internet. To ensure your money is protected, follow these tips below:

  1. Open dispute before your time runs out.
  2. NEVER cancel a dispute because a seller requested you to do so! On sites like eBay, it is not possible to re-open a closed case, and if you can’t reopen a closed case, you will most likely lose your money.
  3. Communicate with the seller on store’s official app or website. Do not chat with the seller outside the official platform. Communication outside the official store messaging channel does not concern the store owners and you will not be protected in case of a scam.
  4. Do not buy in bulk especially if it is your first time to buy from a seller. Buy in small quantities to test his product and willingness to serve you.
  5. Never pay for items via unsecured payment methods like Western Union, Moneygram or direct bank transfer. When you send money to someone via Moneygram or Western union, you have sent it to an individual not a company. So you can’t really tell where your money is going to end up. It could be a fake seller trying to scam you.

Read; Will Traditional Shops Survive The E-commerce Explosion In Uganda?

Incoming topics

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Conclusion

So, whether you’re searching for the hottest wardrobe wants, contemporary furnishings to rejuvenate your home or the latest tech gadgets, I’m certain you will now easily find what you want. Whenever you are on an online shopping spree online – please remember this essential guide to online shopping in Uganda – it will save you a lot of time and money at the same time.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you. Now i know everything about how to shop online in Uganda. I can now easily shop electronics online in Uganda, buy computer and phones online etc!

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