Africa’s e-commerce potential can be unlocked through enhanced connectivity, local content, and targeted policies vital for growth, according to a new report.
In a collaborative effort between the GSMA and the United Kingdom’s Department for Business and Trade, a groundbreaking report titled “E-commerce in Africa: Unleashing the Opportunity for MSMEs” was unveiled during the 2023 Mobile World Congress in Kigali, Rwanda. The GSM Association (GMSA) is a non-profit industry organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
Africa’s e-commerce potential
The report sheds light on the immense potential for e-commerce in Africa, emphasizing the need for improved connectivity, localized content, and strategic policies. The report is based on interviews conducted with 1,500 MSMEs utilizing e-commerce in various African nations, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Experts from these countries, as well as Rwanda, Senegal, and Tanzania, were also interviewed to provide a comprehensive market understanding.
Enhanced connectivity is key to Africa’s e-commerce growth
Recent years have witnessed a significant improvement in connectivity and the adoption of mobile technology across Africa. However, the report reveals that, in 2022, only 400 million out of the 1.4 billion people on the continent engaged with e-commerce services, indicating substantial room for expansion in the sector.
Daniele Tricarico, Senior Director of Central Insights and M&E at GSMA, emphasized that e-commerce adoption is on the rise. Market forecasts project nearly 600 million online shoppers in Africa by 2027. However, the report highlights several challenges faced by MSMEs, such as the need for capital, training, logistical obstacles, and trust issues affecting the uptake of e-commerce services.
The report identifies various barriers, including limited financial resources, digital skills gaps, regulatory challenges, low digital payment adoption, and issues related to logistics and delivery. It also addresses factors such as smartphone penetration, digital literacy, and the trustworthiness of online purchases as impediments to e-commerce.
Recommendations for boosting Africa’s e-commerce sector
In response to these challenges, the report offers a series of recommendations aimed at fostering e-commerce growth in Africa.
The report suggests providing financial products and reskilling opportunities to assist MSMEs in embracing e-commerce. This will enable them to enhance operational efficiency and drive business growth.
One critical recommendation is to improve connectivity, particularly in rural areas, and make smartphones more affordable. This will facilitate broader access to e-commerce platforms.
To boost trust and security in online transactions, the report encourages the review of policies and laws for better consumer protection and business clarity. Shifting from cash on delivery to digital payments and improving reliable and affordable delivery and transport systems are also suggested.
Supporting female entrepreneurs in e-commerce
The report emphasizes the importance of supporting women entrepreneurs, who often rely on social media to promote their businesses. Targeted interventions, including upskilling, can further empower them in building successful e-commerce enterprises.
Partnership with UK’s Department for Business and Trade
Jamila Saidi, Head of Digital Commerce at the UK’s Department of Business and Trade, underscored Africa’s potential to drive global e-commerce, cross-border trade, and digital entrepreneurship. The collaboration between GSMA and the UK Department for Business and Trade aims to address these opportunities and challenges.
A vision for Africa’s economic advancement
In a fireside chat at the report’s launch event, Lucky Philip, CIO of the Rwanda Development Board, highlighted technology and services as integral to Rwanda’s aspiration to achieve upper-middle-income status by 2050. He emphasized the importance of a robust regulatory environment and the country’s efforts to attract and retain investments.
For further insights and access to the full report, please visit this link.
For more trade news, visit our dedicated portal.