By Silvia Nyambura
Growing internet penetration, spread of mobile technology and improvement of payment and delivery infrastructure in Africa are factors that are boosting E-Commerce on the continent.
Today, transactions are fast moving from traditional wallet to mobile phones, from laptops to tablets and so on. With a fast growing middle class across the continent, there is need to provide convenience, better prices and quality products and services.
Of the active internet users in some markets in Africa (those who access the internet at least once a week), 54% shop online in South Africa, 36% in Egypt while Nigeria and Kenya are behind them in 3rd and 4th places respectively. Uganda is 9th.
The biggest challenge with E-Commerce however is on delivery and mode of payment. There is need to reassure the consumers on fraud, product quality, the perception of higher costs, longer delivery times and making mistakes in payment.
These were some of the issues discussed at the 3rd Vodafone Power Talks held at the Kampala Serena Hotel today. The event which was themed ‘How online marketing is transforming Ugandan businesses’ had panelists from Uganda’s corporate scene who are running their businesses on the internet. They included Victor Ndlovu- Country Manager Visa Sub-Sahara Africa, Abdul Ssekalala- Enterprise Solutions Manager at MCash and Head of emerging products at CODE Sync, Evelyn Nakitende- Administration Manager at Game, David Gonahasa-founder and MD of Round Bob and Dickson Mushabe the Founder and CEO of Hostalite Ltd.
According to the panelists, integration of technologies in businesses today is inevitable. The use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) not only brings convenience to consumers but also helps management monitor their revenues and minimize losses.
“Using Point of Sale as a payment mode has helped us at Game Stores to minimize cash shortages as a result of avoiding counting bulk cash. We are also able to monitor customer traffic check on stock updates as well as reconcile our accounts easily,” said Evelyn Nakitende.
David Gonahasa of Roundbob said, “There is an emergence of virtual products and digital goods in Uganda. Our business uses web and mobile phone channels as platforms to sell travel destinations to customers. We also engage through social media and online advertising.”
Dickson Mushabe explained with 10.4 million internet users in Uganda and rising, there is need to tap into that market. Businesses need to define the product or service they offer, market it, develop supply and delivery channels and figure out how to get paid online safely.
“At Hostalite, we have authored online design and functionality of over 400 companies in East Africa and helped streamline the careers of young IT enthusiasts. The internet has helped grow our sales by 40%. In addition, we have tapped into foreign markets, increased efficiency and built customer satisfaction,” he said.
Also making his remarks at the event, the Vodafone Uganda CEO Allan Richardson said the internet has enable E-Commerce to catch up fast in Uganda and become more prevalent among businesses.
“Ugandans are still used to a cash economy and they want assurance that when they buy something they will get it. However over time as systems get better E-Commerce will be streamlined so that businesses can not only woo clients but also tap into a worldwide customer base. The cost of internet from my experience is a lot lower in Uganda than in other countries the challenge is access which again will be solved with time,” he said.
Nyambura is a senior journalist based in Kampala