Llewellyn le Hane
The pandemic changed the world forever and online shopping, delivery apps and contactless buying of goods and services has become the norm. We must embrace it, just like Kenya, Nigeria and of course South Africa have been doing for years. If we truly want to make Namibia future-proof and any kind of force to be reckoned with, our businesses and organisations must have a real, viable and well working online component.
An essential aspect of e-commerce is the payment solutions and how they can help transform Africa. Well, some countries are already well on their way when it comes to e-commerce, online payment systems and leveraging online sales to grow their businesses. From Kenya to Nigeria and of course South Africa, these countries are constantly paraded around like the poster children of success that they are when it comes to e-commerce. This is somewhat disenchanting when I look at what we are doing right here in the Land of the Brave – we should be keeping pace and certainly not be falling behind.
The market we are talking about – how much is actually spent online? Our continent needs to get a bigger slice of this pie. When one takes a look at the statistics, it is obvious that Africa is positioning itself to embrace e-commerce. Even though no African country is first in the global ranking, the desire to buy online is spreading rapidly on the continent. According to a report by Statista, e-commerce in Africa was valued at 16.5 billion dollars in 2017. Another report by the consulting firm McKinsey states that this value could well go up to 75 billion dollars by 2025. With a billion people on this continent and a huge percentage of these under 35 years of age, the online push will continue. There’s no reason why Namibia should not have a slice of the e-commerce pie.
One of the most important cornerstones, or perhaps even the very foundation of e-commerce, is having a payment gateway in place. This cannot be stressed enough. If you don’t have a simple payment solution in place, the convenience of online shopping is basically null and void.
Another imperative when it comes to online payment is trust, as with everything. This lack of trust can be traced back to various scams (e-mail phishing or advance-fee scam) and the uncertainty of ever seeing whatever is ordered online. This last point is closely linked to another issue: logistics and infrastructure. Today, Africa’s e-commerce start-ups and the broader digital ecosystem must navigate significant hurdles, from exceptionally low consumer digital trust, poor infrastructure and weak delivery logistics. Many challenges mean that, despite increased digital visibility in neighbouring markets, intra-regional and global e-commerce remain limited. Namibia must find a way to conquer each of these challenges: conquering these challenges could very well be a big business opportunity.
We need the sectors of banking, manufacturing, services and government to work together to make online payment and e-commerce a priority. The rest of the world can’t be wrong and isn’t. It’s not just a case of convenience, it’s a case of not falling hopelessly behind within the global economy. We need e-commerce to grow our embattled economy and rebound from the damage that Covid-19 has done to our economy and the global economy.
This needs to be a concerted effort whereby the public and private sectors move tech in all its iterations forward. This is the only way we can make it grow. And grow it we must – it will be to our own benefit, and a small nation like ours can become the powerhouse it deserves to be. We know we have the people, just look at all of you.
*Llewellyn le Hane is a director at Green Enterprise Solution