E-commerce, how far Africa has come

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On my study desk at home is always one of the most treasured properties I have ever owned. It’s lights blink in the dark when it’s on, sending me a signal of pride. I am happy I spent my last $40 on a One Terabyte desktop hard-drive. The price is not what makes it my favorite; it the way I got this item in 72hours some few summers ago during short vacation in London. I went online, did a search, found what I needed, paid for it, and got it shipped to my doorstep.  3 days later, an Amazon delivery man was knocking on my door, with  broad smile, pointing to a paper where I had to sign to acknowledge receipt.

Commerce has been a part of human interactions for centuries. We buy items and services we need and we sell the ones we don’t to make some extra cash, for other purposes. Now, in most parts of the globe, this interesting human focus is gone electronic. E-commerce is built on the foundation of some key circles. A fulfilment chain (or what you’d call delivery services), proper addressing, convenient e-payment options and of course websites connecting merchants to buyers.

Whiles more modern economies have figured out the above fundamentals of e-commerce, Africa is yet to fully close the circuit, especially the convenient e-payment and  proper addressing ingredients. Nonetheless, I must admit there has been an e-commerce boom in Africa in the past 3 years including some comprehensive Classifieds in Ghana. Though a good number of these go under by the month, we can point to some obviously successful e-commerce firms targeting the African market, the region most experts prefer to call the last frontier. Jumia in Nigeria and Ghana’s Swedish-owned Tonaton have succeeded in eating into the consumers’ lives to own significant mind-shares. The continent still falls short of giving its consumers the benefit of making purchases from locally produced payment methods and getting such purchased items at their door-steps. These probably are challenges the continent can look into solving by relying on mobile-payment technologies which have become a common resources in East and West Africa.

Buying and selling is as old as the  Adam and Eve story, from all indications, it’s safe to say this  will be with us for many more millennia to come. Maybe my hard-drive shouldn’t be the only thing I will cherish come next year, I will cherish my laptop, my tv, my phone, my bed, because I didn’t move a muscle before I got them into my room.

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