A vibrant e-commerce industry has the potential of stimulating growth and all–inclusiveness of the principal economy.
This series will include some tenets shared in the World Economic Forum’s publication on the action roadmap for Africa’ E-commerce Agenda. Eight (8) thematic areas have been identified for us to critically look at, and over the next few weeks we’ll look at them and see how it applies to our own prevailing e-commerce industry.
If e-commerce is to be seen as an enabler for the hitherto impossible ‘means of doing business transactions’, then Africa stands to gain greatly from it. In a continent where a majority of the population are excluded from the formal economy, e-commerce and its associated activities can engineer the inclusiveness we are seeking.
Online marketplaces in Africa are predicted to potentially generate about 3 million jobs by 2025
As an enabler, e-commerce should have the ability to bring everybody into the marketplace irrespective of their distance away from major market centers. With predictions of online marketplaces in Africa potentially generating about 3 million jobs by 2025, our women stand to benefit as they form a majority of the numerous entrepreneurial activities.
The bulk of those jobs are predicted to come from auxiliary service to the various ecommerce platforms or online activities which are on the increase these days. Right from website services to e-payment providers – and now booming delivery services, all have support activities which enable e-commerce to be viable. Also, the delivery-bikes and vans will constantly need repairs by a mechanics; thereby providing even more jobs. There are also direct consultancy services, such digital marketing on the various social media platforms.
However, ecommerce is in most cases seen as an aspirational service – and hence a reserve for only the well to do or elite in our societies. This is so because most ecommerce setups currently favour only a few who can afford the means of engaging on the various online platforms. As a result, only a fraction of the population is actually transacting business online.
It is common knowledge that the advent of COVID-19 challenged the ecommerce industry to stand up in the situation where people are restrained from face-to-face business transactions. The industry couldn’t meet the demand, right from the lockdown days till date, as more people moved online in search of goods and services.
The publications also points out that some common challenges facing the African ecommerce sector have to be consciously looked at, if we are to achieve any sustainable growth:
Trust is Low
There is clear evidence of low consumer trust within our ecommerce sector. As an ecommerce entrepreneur myself, I can testify that consumer confidence in the industry is low. I have on many occasions had to convince customers during online purchases. The concern about trust comes in various forms.
The first has to do with non-regulation. Consumer can’t see any agency or body responsible for regulating activities within the sector. As an industry that is heavily characterised by electronic transactions, consumers want to be sure who they should go to when things don’t go as expected. With numerous antecedents of fraud in the online space, customers expect such a body to help them identify genuine platforms or dealers in the space.
In the absence of a regulator for the industry – hence no specific standards being enforced, aggrieved consumers are not given any assurance of their issues being resolved if things go wrong. Consumers are left on their own to do all the needed due diligence the best way they can in identifying which platforms or online dealers to transact business with.
Secondly, experiences all around are that most products purchased online do not fit the online description given them. So, most consumers are disappointed after receiving their products. Such experiences are turning away consumers from repeated online purchases.
Also, there is an absence of recognition for the leader or leadership behind various online platforms. Unlike other industries with recognised leaders, most ecommerce platforms don’t exhibit their leader or leadership behind the platforms well enough to repose some confidence in consumers for them knowing who to hold accountable.
To be continued………