Online shopping in Rwanda is on the rise, but it’s still in the early days. While the Coronavirus pandemic and Rwanda’s increasingly online population have encouraged many stores to offer online options, results are mixed.
Shopping platforms, delivery options, and quality of service vary, and you should expect some flexibility regarding payment and delivery.
Fortunately, the situation is improving, and you can now order everything from fresh vegetables to medicine in Rwanda with increasing ease.
I regularly shop online in Rwanda and have used my experience to create this list of the best online stores and delivery services in Rwanda, common payment methods, and tips to boost your online shopping experience.
5 Quick Tips For Online Shopping in Rwanda
Just before you jump in, here are some essential tips to boost your experience shopping online in Rwanda:
- Most services (especially same-day services) are primarily offered within Kigali. If you live further afield, delivery is still possible but expect a longer delivery time and a higher fee.
- Bear in mind that deliveries are mostly made on motorbikes, which can be disrupted by traffic and rain. Be flexible with your delivery times, expect to receive a call from your driver in advance of or on arrival. Be prepared to offer directions if needed. Having a nearby landmark as a reference and some basic Kinyarwanda can be helpful.
- Some stores and services are best suited to an in-person experience. For example, clothing stores are best visited in person to try on items and have any alterations made.
- Expect delivery fees and higher, non-negotiable prices for online items. Hosting stores online is expensive Rwanda, and delivery drivers must be paid fairly to ensure reliability. If you’re on a tight budget or want a bargain, it’s best to visit stores or markets in person.
- At the time of writing, there are movement restrictions across Rwanda to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Curfew hours are updated bi-weekly and may affect the operating hours of online shopping and delivery services. It’s currently good practice to check a store’s operating hours online or by phone call.
Groceries and Produce
Rwandan start-up Vuba Vuba provides access to a huge range of Kigali and Musanze’s restaurants and supermarkets.
You can order meals from a range of cuisines and groceries from local markets and stores. Drinks are available, too, from spirits, beers, and sodas by the bottle or crate, to ready-made cocktails from one of Kigali’s best bars.
Once you’ve decided, you can pay online via card or mobile money, or pay cash on delivery. Your order is tracked on the app and will be delivered directly to your door within an hour.
Pride Farms grow and deliver a large variety of high-quality, organic fresh fruit and veg straight to your doorstep in Kigali.
You can pick between three veg boxes – classic, vegetable, or salad – with a diverse selection of high-quality vegetables and salads grown with natural resources and limited chemical influences. Their packaging is plastic-free and climate-friendly, too!
Use their website to order, pay, and schedule your delivery. Deliveries are made every weekday and delivered in a refrigerated truck, ensuring maximum freshness. Monthly subscriptions are also available.
La Fromagerie makes a range of (mostly French) cheese, including Camembert, Matured Brie, and fresh goats cheese, which can be ordered separately or as part of a cheese tasting platter.
Check their availability and place an order by sending them a WhatsApp on +250 782 204 155.
Kigali is one of the best cities in Africa to be a vegetarian (in my vegetarian opinion), and this is in no small part due to Kigali Farms, a modern mushroom farm growing high-quality button, cremini, portobello, and oyster mushrooms.
Order from Kigali Farms via WhatsApp on +250 784 444 062 for home delivery within Kigali.
Kigali-based home bakery Mukata Na Butta has quickly gained a reputation for having the most delicious treats in town, including cookies, cupcakes, and cakes.
You can find their menu on Instagram and order via WhatsApp. It’s best to order 24 hours in advance.
Well-known and popular Kigali cafe Brioche serves a range of meals and drinks but is best known for its bread and pastries.
You can order through their dedicated online store for direct, same-day delivery within Kigali. Bear in mind that they have a minimum order and a delivery fee, and close at 17.30 every day (including weekends).
Health and Cosmetics
Kasha is a mobile store dedicated to providing health and personal care products for women in Rwanda.
Their products include cosmetics, personal hygiene products, sanitary pads, and contraceptives – all delivered to you directly and in confidential packaging.
Kasha are also committed to ensuring anyone can order from any device; Order and pay on their website, via phone call, or USSD code. They’re open daily from 7 am to 10 pm.
TC Wellness offers a range of skincare products in Kigali, including popular international brands such as The Ordinary, Simple, Dove, Garnier, and Neutrogena.
You can check out their range and stock on Instagram, and order via direct message on the platform. They’re open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 7 pm, and payment is taken on delivery. They offer countrywide delivery, with delivery charges.
Bear in mind that they’re increasingly popular, so order your products as soon as possible before they run out.
Beyond restaurants and supermarkets (mentioned above), Vuba Vuba also hosts the well-known Kipharma Pharmacy.
You can order from a wide range of items, including baby care, baby food, skincare, and hair care. Like food orders, you can order via the app and choose to pay online or via cash on delivery.
Home and Garden
Komezart is an online marketplace for African artworks, offering affordable and original work from Rwanda and the East Africa region.
Their offerings include digital prints in a range of sizes, at prices starting from $25. This is an excellent opportunity to buy local artwork without the traditionally high cost or the hassle of taking it with you if you relocate.
Place your order online, choosing from the original artwork or the digital reproduction, and your order will be delivered directly to you.
This popular bookstore was established in 1998 in Kigali and has an extensive selection of fiction and non-fiction books, children’s books, travel guides, maps, textbooks, art materials, and stationery.
If you can’t find what you are looking for, they’ll order it in for you.
Ikirezi is open from 8 am till 8 pm and offers home delivery. Contact them on +250 788 560 358 to check stock and make an order.
Located in downtown Kigali, Techzone offers a wide range of products from phones and laptops to genuine spare cables (including Apple products) and power back-ups.
The team is available to show you their range and answer your questions via Instagram or Whatsapp, and they’ll arrange delivery to your door. Payment is via mobile money before delivery.
You can also contact the team for help with any tech issues, but you may need to visit them in-store to have them fixed.
Decorate your house with one or many of Irebe Baskets’ traditional woven baskets, while contributing to the livelihoods of the artisans who hand weave them.
Irebe Baskets have a wide range of products on their website, where you can also order and pay online. They will organize home delivery, too.
This female-owned, Rwandan start-up offers a variety of beautiful plants and planters, all at great prices.
Check out their range of products and place an order on Instagram or Whatsapp. They’ll deliver directly to your house, with a small delivery fee.
Vuba Vuba (mentioned above) has a dedicated space on their app for florists in Kigali, allowing you to order flowers and bouquets for delivery to yourself or even to someone else (if you know their address).
Bear in mind most options are roses or include roses, so this is probably best used for those you love.
How to Use Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups – including our own ‘Living in Kigali’ group – are a great way to get your hands on second-hand items, especially furniture.
Bear in mind that items sell quickly and can be expensive due to high demand. However, you’ll get good-quality goods and brands not often or easily found in Rwanda.
Facebook groups are also great for getting recommendations on craftsmen and women who can make bespoke furniture and decorative items to your exact specifications.
Bear in mind that doing so often requires a 50% deposit (largely used to buy the required materials), and delivery time can be anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks depending on the item.
How to Use Courier Services
Many online services and stores offer and arrange delivery, but courier services are an excellent option to purchasing from stores that don’t.
The best – Biras Ltd – will even go to stores to pick up and purchase specific items for you. Biras put you in touch directly with their drivers (all English-speaking) via Whatsapp and ask you to confirm the items and price before they pay. If the total price is high, they may ask you to pay the shop directly via Momo.
It’s an excellent option for last-minute groceries from supermarkets not currently available online.
How to Pay For Online Purchases in Rwanda
There are three common methods of payment in Rwanda:
- Cash on delivery
- MTN mobile money (‘Momo’)
- Card payment
However, not all stores will accept all three methods. Stores with dedicated online platforms such as Vuba Vuba offer all three payment options, whereas smaller stores using social media platforms use Momo and ask for it in advance of delivery.
Bear in mind that the cash-free options may charge you or the store a fee. If paying by cash, assume delivery won’t have change on them. Have the exact change ready or round-up.
How to Place International Orders
International shopping is not well developed in Rwanda, relying on air freight and limited local depots. Those who have tried have experienced long shipment times (often years), taxes on arrival (up to 50%), and even lost goods.
That said, quick and successful orders are possible via DHL. DHL has a dedicated online marketplace for Africa – DHL Africa E-Shop – hosting many international stores, including major fashion brands. It is also possible to order directly from Amazon by selecting Express Shipping and DHL delivery.
With both of the options above, make sure to track your item and expect at least a couple of weeks delivery time.
Online shopping in Rwanda is a relatively new but exciting concept, with the most popular online stores and services expanding quickly and becoming household names. Stores are regularly improving their online experience, whilst new online stores and services pop up almost weekly.
Give them a go and let us know what you think!