Like most industries around the world and particularly in Africa, the growing pandemic has brought about a new direction and fresh outlook to the prospects available in the online marketplace. For countries in West Africa, they have latched on rather tightly to online shopping as the pandemic sprints full circle leaving nothing to chance.
E-commerce is increasingly disrupting retail industry in Sub-Saharan Africa and it is corroborated by a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) stating that the number of online shoppers in Africa increased by 18% in 2014 and it is steadily rising especially as companies and stores have been hit hard in this virulent moments. It’s no new news that e-commerce is joined at the hip with entrepreneurship especially as most of these enterprises are online and not brick and mortar. The current breed of entrepreneurs are working smart and light by taking products to potential consumers at the click of a button.
There has been a paradigm shift in product sales as most businesses closed their door and consumers found alternative means by utilizing digital storefronts. Traffic on online platforms, caused by consumers buying of products and services took an unprecedented hike during the lockdown as they became the first resort in buying essentials while practicing social distancing and staying safe. Payments of purchased items was done via mobile money, and by virtue of this, one can safely posit that due to the staggering use of online commerce options such as mobile money as means of payment for essentials, there has been an improvement to the quality of life of people.
Interestingly, e-commerce and online platforms are rising to the occasion by adapting to the current crisis as Jumia; a pan-Africa e-commerce company adapted its digital retail network to curb the spread of the virus in Nigeria and other African countries by the use of their platform as distribution outlets of supplies to healthcare facilities and workers. Jumia also offered a reduction on its JumiaPay finance products to encourage digital payment over cash, a phenomenon which has increased in COVID regions by transacting ‘cashlessly’.
Crucially, the pandemic has boldly highlighted the value of ecommerce to keep homes and businesses functioning and economies running to some degree, especially as the virus make market visits unattractive as against the aesthetic beckoning of online markets. Other services like delivery apps, online services and virtual business seminars have also increased in this abnormal time.
There are more than 400 million internet users in Africa, and consumers in Africa desire the same thing as consumers around the globe with the drivers being convenience, speed, time-saving, comfort and affordability. The International Telecommunication Union statistics unraveled that the share of the population using the internet as a result of internet infiltration via Smartphone usage increased from 2.1% in 2005 to 24.4% in 2008. Previously, there was the problem of poor address system but tracing of consumers by delivery services has marginally improved with live locations offered by some applications and also improved digital addressing systems.
Out of this crisis, there’ll be an appreciation of online markets and subsequent investment which is comparatively smaller and offers a wider reach of people. Governments and other stakeholders can wade in by propagating the relevant ideals of e-commerce. Although Africa still has a lot of grounds to cover in online integration of service beyond essential commodities there has been a stark peak in the use of these avenues in seamless transactions.