Prepared by the researcher – Dr. Gihan Abd Elsalam Abbas – Lecturer of Economics , Faculty of African Post Graduate Studies , Cairo University
Democratic Arab Center
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Seventh Issue – November 2020
A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin. The journal deals with the field of Afro-Asian strategic, political and economic studies
The great progress that we are witnessing at all technological and digital levels has allowed the process of organizing the products displayed on the Internet, as different digital commercial platforms can direct users to the products they are looking for based on their data; Where a number of economic experts predict that e-commerce in the world has a bright future; Due to the large purchasing power of individuals and customers , and the widespread use of the Internet. The same applies to Africa, where there has been an increase in online buying and selling, and e-commerce has boomed, especially with the spread of the Corona virus, an increase in the number of Internet shoppers, and an improvement in electronic payment processes. The study found a noticeable improvement in e-commerce operations in Africa as a result of the increase in the number of Internet and mobile phone users, and the development of the financial and banking sector in Africa, but Africa still faces several problems in the way of developing e-commerce, the most important of which is the weakness of the electronic infrastructure , the weak confidence in electronic transactions , and the high rates of illiteracy in Africa.
In the midst of the successive developments taking place in the world, information and communication technology has emerged and its economic role has increased dramatically, as it carried with it the hope of achieving a breakthrough in all aspects of life, especially the commercial side, as this technology introduced a new model for economic activities, thus radically changing the methods of trade and business. . E-commerce has become the dominant Way in most commercial transactions, as it has contributed to making this world just a small village and a single market in which the opportunities given to all companies of all sizes are equal to penetrate global markets, as well as opportunities to promote goods and commodities easily, thus crossing all borders, The same applies to customers who are able to acquire their needs with just one click of a button and without the need to leave their places and incur high costs.
The study addresses a major question, which is : To what extent e-commerce is used in Africa, and what are the most important opportunities and advantages that it brings to the African economy, and the challenges it faces?
The importance 0f study derives from dealing with the phenomenon of trade Electronic technology, which is one of the features of the knowledge-based economy, and one of the most prominent achievements of the technological revolution Informatics in the contemporary economy. The importance of electronic commerce in Africa is increasing, due to the fact that it contributes to raising rates of economic growth, enhancing its foreign trade, advancing many local sectors, and integrating the continent with the economies of the outside world.
From this standpoint, this study aims to identify the phenomenon of e-commerce, whether in terms of its concept or different forms. As well as shedding light on the reality of e-commerce in Africa and its contribution to the gross domestic product, and focusing on the biggest companies operating in the field of e-commerce in Africa. And the importance of e-commerce for Africa, especially in light of the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area. In addition to disclosure of the challenges that prevent its development and growth. As well as addressing the extent of benefit made from e-commerce applications in Africa during the Corona epidemic crisis.
The study uses a descriptive methodology through exposure to the theoretical framework related to the concept of electronic commerce and its forms. As well as using the analytical method for statistical data on the E-Commerce Index , its components, and extending its contribution to economic growth.
From this standpoint, the structure of the study is represented in the first exposure to the concept of electronic commerce and its forms, then the applications of e-commerce in Africa and the extent of its contribution to economic growth, as well as exposure to the most important companies operating in the field of e-commerce in Africa. The study also examines the most important economic benefits that accrue to Africa from e-commerce applications, as well as the challenges it faces. The study concludes with the most important findings and recommendations.
2) The concept of electronic commerce: –
E-commerce is like any new phenomenon that is the subject of many definitions in contemporary literature, the most important of which are the following:
– E-commerce represents a form of commercial deals that involves dealings by the parties so that the exchange is electronic instead of direct physical dealings. Through this definition, it is clear that e-commerce is a commercial process, whether its object is a commodity, service, or work performance. E-commerce is also defined as the performance of business through the Internet, or the sale and purchase of goods and services through Internet sites , but this definition is a narrow definition to a large extent, so that e-commerce is restricted to the exchange of goods and services through an electronic means or an electronic medium .
– The concept of E-commerce refers to marketing products via the international internet and electronic programs without going to the store or to the company. Moreover, e-commerce includes communications between various companies at the local or international level, which facilitates the process of trade exchange and increases its volume .
– There is a more comprehensive definition of e-commerce, as it is believed that it is the implementation of everything related to the purchase and sale of goods, services and information for e-commerce. It is the implementation of everything related to the purchase and sale of goods, services and information such as (advertisements for goods and services, payment of financial obligations, technical support for goods. The transactions that customers purchase, the distribution and delivery of goods and the follow-up of procedures, the electronic exchange of data, including electronic invoices, bank transactions, automatic correspondence related to the sale and purchase operations). E-commerce can also be defined broadly as the implementation of economic activity from the sale, purchase and exchange of goods, services and information between the parties to the economic activity through the electronic field, using information and communication technology, media and electronic methods by creating effective links between the parties to the activity. And here falls under e-commerce several components :-
- A) Electronic Procurement : the implementation of the activity responsible for purchasing and providing goods and services, using information and communication technology, media and electronic methods.
- B) Electronic Sale: the producers and suppliers display their products and goods on the Internet, or use other electronic media for the purpose of direct sales to users, and the implementation of the sale process using the Internet.
- C) Marketing and Electronic Advertising : that is, displaying, promoting and introducing goods and services on the Internet, either on the website of the establishment, or on other websites specialized in advertising, as well as through the methods of search engines, using electronic messages, or using the SMS service on devices Cellular communications.
- D) Electronic Commercial Mediation: It is represented by mediation between the parties to the contract or facilitating the flow of information between the parties to the contract using electronic media.
3) Forms of Electronic Commerce :
The forms in which e-commerce can be implemented differ according to the nature of the sellers and consumers. Figure No. (1) shows the most important forms of electronic commerce as follows :
Figure No.(2 )E-Commerce Types.
Source : Doğaner, M., (2007). A study on the development of electronic commerce in Turkey and electronic trade from business to consumer. Master Thesis. ( Konya: Selcuk University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences).
- a) E-commerce between a business unit (company) and the consumer Business to Costumer (B to C) :-
Through it, the consumer who wants to satisfy his need for certain commodities seeks to search for them electronically, to put what he wants in his basket of goods on the website, and to determine the payment and receipt methods that suit him.
- b) E-commerce between a business unit and another business unit Business to Business (BtoB):-
It means buying and selling between companies, whether they are parties to a commercial process, partners, or in the form of electronic exchange. An example of this type of electronic commerce is the company’s use of Communication network to obtain its orders from suppliers and receive invoices, as well as make electronic payment.
- c) E-commerce between enterprises and government administration Business to governement (B to G) :-
It covers all transactions between companies and government organizations, where the government displays procedures, regulations, drawings and transaction forms on the Internet so that companies can view them electronically, and to conduct the transaction electronically without the need to deal with a government office, for example: companies settle their taxes online. As well as for the government to publish details of its purchases online, which enables companies to respond to them electronically.
- d) E-commerce between the consumer and governmental organizations, Custumer to government (C To G) :-
It refers to all transactions that bring together the consumer and the government, as the government seeks to develop the services it provides to the masses, whether in terms of obtaining information and data, or meeting some demands at a low cost, and the best example is: extracting car licenses and licenses.
3)E-commerce applications and its economic role in Africa :-
The process of using e-commerce applications in Africa has witnessed remarkable progress since the last ten years of the twenty-first century, as it is estimated that there are at least 21 million online shoppers in Africa until 2018. While this percentage is low compared to the other countries of the world. It represents less than 2% of the global total of Internet users in shopping, and the value of e-commerce operations in Africa was estimated at 16.5 billion dollars for the same year. This compares to a value of $ 7.5 billion, according to statistics from the United Nations Conference On Trade & Development (UNCTAD) in 2017. The value of these operations is expected to increase in the coming years, as in another report issued by McKinsey Global consulting, Company, indicates that the value of e-commerce operations in Africa could reach $ 75 billion by 2025.
The e-commerce index is measured from the business sector and companies to consumers through the e-commerce index issued by the UNCTAD ( B2C E-commerce index ), it measures the readiness of the economy to support online shopping in 152 countries, and the index consists of four sub-indicators that are highly related to shopping through Internet, and each of them is given one relative weight, as the index is calculated as the arithmetic average of four sub-indicators, They are as follows :-
- the proportion of the adult population over the age of 15 years who owns a financial account in any financial institution or have the ability to provide mobile money service through a mobile phone,
- the percentage of Population who uses the Internet,
- the index of reliance on postal services,
- the availability of secure Internet servers per million people.
B2C Index value ranges between zero to 100, and the closer to 100, the better the situation of e-commerce in that country. The value of this index in Africa reached 29 points in 2019, compared to 87 points in developed economies and 59 points for West Asian countries, while the global average for this indicator reached 55 points for the same year as shown in Table (1).
Table No(1) Regional Values for The UNCTAD B2C E- Commerce Index , 2019 .
Source : United Nations Conference on Trade And Development , UNCTAD B2C E-COMMERCE INDEX 2019, ( Geneva : UNCTAD , 2019 ) , P.6.
Despite the spread of e-commerce steadily in North Africa as well as the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, there are still three economies that largely dominate e-commerce operations. According to the 2018 UNCTAD E-Commerce Index Report, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya accounted for more than half of Africa’s online shoppers in 2017. Nigeria is the largest commercial market in Africa in terms of the number of shoppers and e-commerce revenue. And according to the 2019 edition of the UNCTAD B2C E-Commerce Index, things have changed dramatically as Mauritius, Tunisia and South Africa were considered the most willing to support online shopping in Africa .
Mauritius ranked 58 in the world with a value of the index reaching (68 points), and it is the highest ranked African country, as 90% of its population owns electronic accounts for buying and selling via the Internet, and the country launched an electronic portal for online shopping in 2018. I tried to connect SMEs with that portal, while nine of the ten least prepared countries are in Africa. Meanwhile, the rest of the top ten African countries are Tunisia (1.58), South Africa (4.54), Nigeria (2.53), Kenya (49), Namibia (3.45), Morocco (4.43), Tanzania (3.43), Ghana (8.42) and Senegal (7.42) .
Figure No. (2) UNCTAD B2C E-commerce index value in Africa in 2019, by country
– Factors that contributed to the growth of electronic commerce in Africa:-
Several factors contributed to the relative improvement in the performance of e-commerce operations in Africa, including :-
– The increase in the number of Internet shoppers, as the percentage of adults who use the Internet in general in Africa is about 25% on average of the total population, although this percentage is still low compared to other countries as it reached 86% in developed economies, and 79% in West Asia. While the global average for that percentage was about 57%. As for Internet users for shopping purposes, (UNCTAD) report stated that the number of Internet shoppers in Africa has increased annually by 18% since 2014. The rapid spread of the Internet via smartphones over the second decade of the twenty-first century has contributed to the growth of E-commerce for Africa . As shown in Figure No.(3) , there has been a remarkable increase in the number of Internet users in Africa, which has reached about 233 million as internet users in the year 2019 , and it is expected to increase to 476.5 million users by year 2024 .
Figure No(3) .the number of internet users in Africa during the period (2017-2024*)
Source : Statista. (2020) , E- Commerce , Africa , available at ::-https://www.statista.com/outlook/243/630/ecommerce/africa
– An increase in the percentage of People has official financial accounts, as that percentage reached about 40% in Africa, compared to about 93% in developed economies, 59% in East and South Asia, while the global average reached 60%.
– Electronic payment processes have improved: the electronic structure of payment processes has evolved in Africa in response to the development in information and communication technology operations, and these operations may take place regardless of whether customers have bank accounts or not, there are some companies through which goods are bought and sold with payment services activated. On receipt, which contributed greatly to the adoption of Internet buying and selling in Africa. Africa also has the largest share of adults who have bank accounts in banks, as well as mobile phone services provided with a money transfer service, as that percentage reached 6.42% in 2017 in Africa . Although most of those uses for moving money via mobile phone are concentrated in East African countries, they are also starting to spread rapidly in other parts of the continent. Kenya is one of the leading countries in the field of transferring money through mobile phones, relying on the M-PESA platform for exchanging money via mobile phone, which began there in 2007, and is currently used by more than 17 million people in their transactions. Cash. Family Bank Limited in Kenya and the financial technology company SimbaPay also collaborated to provide an instant money transfer service that enabled customers in Kenya to send money from a mobile app, and it was linked to WeChat service in China, which is the largest payment service in China and the largest money transfer system. Via cell phones, this step has improved the online shopping and payment system between China and Africa.
4) The most important African companies operating in the field of electronic commerce:
– Jumia Company : it is an online retail company based in Lagos, Nigeria, where its website was launched in 2012 and then spread to 23 African countries, and currently it is present in almost all major markets on the continent, and Jumia is also from One of the best funded e-commerce sites in Africa, and it has built an excellent reputation for being a hub for products and services that span across retail stores, food and electrical goods, clothes … and other goods. The Jumia One app is one example of how mobile technology has supported the growth of commerce. Electronic in Africa, which provided users with access to all of Jumia’s services, such as payment transactions, shopping and advertising services. PESA in Kenya.
– Takealot Company: located in South Africa, it is considered among the retail stores available on the Internet in an easy and smooth way to use, and its site was established in 2002, where customers can shop in many things from books to games, computers, televisions and others. In April 2017, Takealot registered a major investment of more than $ 69 million from Naspers, one of the largest digital companies in Africa, to hold a 5.53% stake in Takelot, and received a $ 100 million investment from Tiger Global investment firm Tiger Global. In 2014, Global owned 34% of it.
– Killimall Company : Killimall is the largest online shopping center in Kenya, and it is a relatively new company in the field of e-commerce, but it has succeeded remarkably since its inception in 2014. The site started in other countries such as Nigeria and Uganda. Electronics such as phones and computers The site also offers other products such as home appliances, clothes, books, health and beauty products, and all its policies are accompanied by after-sales services, and the possibility of return within a week of purchase, which makes it a good choice for many consumers.
– Konga Company : It started in 2013 as an e-commerce site in Lagos, specializing in health, beauty and baby care products, and turned into a major online retailer, often called (Amazon Africa). In 2015, Kango Corporation cooperated with Nigerian banks to launch the Kango Pay service, which is a safe and convenient way to pay online without facing the problems of lack of confidence in electronic financial transactions.
– Bidorbuy Company : It is an electronic store founded in South Africa in 1999, and it is one of the oldest online markets in Africa. One of the advantages of this store is that buyers can offer a price quote for products similar to an online auction. Antiques and rare collectibles represent one of the most important items Most popular in this store, as it acquires about 40% of all items sold.
5) The economic importance of E-commerce in Africa:-
The economic advantages accruing to Africa as a result of the growth of electronic commerce are numerous, the most important of which are as follows:
– Acceleration of the Continental Free Trade Area ( CFTA ) in Africa : –
The African Continental Free Trade Area, which announced its operational phase in 2019, was established on five main pillars or what is known as operating mechanisms to ensure the activation and success of the region. These mechanisms are: unified rules of origin, a special secretariat for the region that operates with a degree of independence from the African Union based in Ghana and a president for it has been chosen from South Africa, an electronic mechanism to monitor and remove non-tariff barriers, a new digital payments system for African countries and an observatory for African e-commerce. If these mechanisms indicate anything, then they indicate the priority given by African countries to accelerate the digital transformation of their economies and the electronic upgrading of their transactions by establishing an observatory for their intra-trade and an electronic system for settling payments. On the other hand, and in light of the growing interest in dealing through electronic communication, whether with regard to trade, payments, or the transparent exchange of information about rules and laws, the African private sector is also seeking, in cooperation with the African Union and to benefit from mutual preferences within the framework of the Continental Free Trade Area, to establish what is known as the platform The African Union for e-commerce, which would work to collect, store and classify African data within the continent and in African hands and maintain the security of that data, which is a new field that the countries of the continent have not yet penetrated and requires building an integrated African infrastructure linking African countries to facilitate electronic exchange between them .
On the other hand, and in light of the growing interest in dealing through electronic communication, whether with regard to trade, payments, or the transparent exchange of information about rules and laws, the African private sector is also seeking, in cooperation with the African Union and to benefit from mutual preferences within the framework of the Continental Free Trade Area, to establish what is known as the platform The African Union for e-commerce, which would work to collect, store and classify African data within the continent and in African hands and maintain the security of that data, which is a new area that the countries of the continent have not yet penetrated and requires building an integrated African infrastructure linking African countries to facilitate electronic exchange between them. It is undoubtedly an initiative that deserves all our pride. Certainly, this platform will contribute to achieving leadership in the African digital economy and supporting intra-regional trade by using information technology as a tool to facilitate trade..
– Raise the rates of economic growth :-
The development of e-commerce in Africa can contribute to achieving comprehensive growth in many countries of this continent that face great development challenges. Despite the improvement in the volume of operations that take place within the scope of e-commerce in Africa, it still contributes weakly to the gross domestic product, as that percentage increased from 0.04% in 2009 to 0.12. % in 2018, and despite the slight increase in that percentage, but It is still significantly low compared to the global average for that percentage, which amounts to 0.61% of the GDP for the year 2018 .
Figure No .(4) B2C e-commerce as percentage of GDP in the Middle East and Africa from 2009 to 2018
- Increase Business Efficiency  :-
One of the main benefits of e-commerce is that it increases the speed and accuracy of commercial exchanges, thus reducing business transaction costs for both buyers and sellers such as postage, deposit and storage costs. E-commerce platforms also reduce labor costs associated with sales support and order-receiving processes such as customer service, quotations, and product availability checks, all of which are in the interest of supporting the company’s level of efficiency.
3.2. Increase Market Efficiency :-
In theory, the concept of a perfectly competitive market is characterized by several main advantages, including the presence of a large number of buyers and sellers, which ensures that there is no possibility of manipulation to judge prices, at a time when these companies produce homogeneous goods, at a time when information related to the market and price is available to all. . With the possibility of entering and exiting the market easily. In fact, e-commerce achieves all the advantages of perfect competition apart from homogeneous products, which ideally focus on manufacturing quality rather than the nature of the market.
- Reducing unemployment rates :-
E-commerce contributes to reducing unemployment rates that are rising dramatically in Africa, providing the opportunity for many individuals to work from their homes and enabling them to work and develop commercial projects without the presence of capital to generate huge profits for them in hard currency. It also opened the doors to work for housewives and people with special needs. And retirees to work in this area from their homes, which made them an important role in the development process. , e-commerce will also provide many job opportunities that reach 3 million by the year 2025.
-Ease and flexibility :-
Shortening geographical distances and overcoming political borders by quickly obtaining the largest possible amount of information and products, in order to ensure the provision of goods and services quickly, and lead to effective communication with companies and customers, in addition to allowing individuals to exchange views and experiences about services and products through electronic communities on the Internet.
6) The Obstacles Facing the Growth of E-Commerce in Africa:
There are many obstacles that prevent the growth and advancement of e-commerce in Africa, while the number of start-ups entering the e-commerce market in Africa is about 264 companies operating across the continent, less than 30% of African companies are emerging in the field of commerce. Electronic companies are profitable; Because the rest of these companies face many problems that prevent their progress and expansion in the continent, including weak confidence, logistical difficulties, transportation and shipping difficulties …etc . Among the most important of these obstacles are the following:
- Poor Communication of Citizens with Internet Networks, only about 20% of the population of the African continent has an Internet connection. This coverage, despite its steady, witness agradual increase to reach 25% in 2019, but it still needs further improvement, both in terms of providing Internet networks and improving their quality, and reducing their high costs so that it can attract the largest possible number of African consumers .
- Weak infrastructure and logistics services : One of the biggest obstacles facing e-commerce in Africa is poor infrastructure, as weak roads which hamper the rapid transfer of goods. Hence, it reaches customers faster and more efficiently. Likewise, the lack of appropriate national address systems in most African countries, as companies rely on the addresses and descriptive features to some extent provided by customers during the initial stages of the online buying process, and most of them do not provide clear information about the exact location of customers and lead to delays in shipping operations .
An African Development Bank report on African economic prospects for 2019 indicates that “the costs of e-commerce due to poor performance of logistics markets may be a greater barrier to trade than tariffs and non-tariff barriers.” Although some African countries recorded better performance in terms of infrastructure and logistics, in a 2018 World Bank report, the Logistics Performance Index put South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire at the top of the four best performing countries in Africa. And some companies working in the field of e-commerce are thinking of faster ways to deliver goods and alternative transport methods, including the use of motorcycles, known as ( bodabodas, which have been used in countries such as Kenya and Nigeria to avoid crowded roads in dense cities in terms of population .
– Lack of confidence: Citizens are often afraid of buying and selling via the Internet, due to their exposure to cases of deception and electronic fraud, as cases of hacking through e-mail, or pre-collection of shipping fees and the price of goods without delivering them to buyers. Hence, many people do not feel safe putting their financial information – like credit cards, onto most store’s websites.
– Electronic Payment methods are limited to cash payment: Most Africans prefer to pay for their electronic purchases in cash upon receipt. About 90% of online purchases are made by the method, which is the method that suits most Africans, as only 10-15% of the population owns it. A bank account through which money can be transferred via the Internet instead of paying in cash, which does not help the progress and growth of e-commerce . A large percentage of the African population is still without a bank account, the International Monetary Fund estimates that only 20% of the population has a bank account. . Although there are some African countries, such as South Africa, that have the highest Internet penetration rate, and the highest percentage of people who have bank and financial accounts, compared to sub-Saharan Africa, they also suffer from the lack of use of credit cards and money transfer services via mobile phones.
– Fragmented markets: Africa has a very large number of countries of great diversity – culturally, economically and politically. This creates many barriers, whether in languages or culture, consumer habits, methods of cross-border payments …etc . This makes it difficult for e-commerce sites to easily expand in Africa and enjoy the economies of scale. To alleviate this challenge, African countries should continue with the steps of continental economic integration in order to harmonize the working conditions of most e-commerce companies.
– High illiteracy rates: This means that many individuals cannot participate directly on e-commerce platforms, due to their lack of ability to read or write; Consequently, it is more difficult for them to communicate via the Internet, which makes Africa need to continue investing in education vigorously to increase the number of people who can read and write and to reduce illiteracy rates that are in favor of economic development in Africa .
7) Uses of E-commerce in Africa during the Coronavirus :-
At a time when the repercussions of the Corona epidemic affect all economic sectors negatively, the e-commerce movement has rebounded significantly in Africa, and online shopping companies have been the most benefiting and profitable from the existing crisis. For example, (Jumia) announced a four-fold increase in all sales of grocery products and basic commodities in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year, especially the e-commerce operations that took place in North African countries such as : Tunisia and Morocco. As the imposition of the ban in most African countries, and the closure restrictions on commercial stores, have led to a preference for electronic dealings. And agricultural via the internet. Likewise, it has launched ( Farm Crowdy ), a Nigerian agricultural technology platform allowing people to invest in existing farms and capture a share of the profits, as well as expanding farmers’ access to markets within its network . Also in Nigeria, Applecart is seeing more online grocery store demand, as buyers stock essentials of goods to prepare for a potential market shutdown or movement in the country. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, online stores have confirmed that they are seeing slight increases in demand after The spread of the Coronavirus .
In South Africa, a survey conducted by Visa Company showed that 64% of consumers in South Africa bought most of their basic needs online for the first time due to the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, and that 53% made their first online purchase, most of which are concentrated in purchasing medicines from pharmacies .It should also be noted here that most West African countries have found severe difficulties in electronic business dealings due to poor internet networks in most countries in the region, especially villages and suburbs far from the capital .
It can be said that there are great opportunities for the growth of e-commerce in Africa, but there is a need to pay attention to internet networks and raising their speed and efficiency, in addition to services related to technological and financial infrastructure, postal and shipping services. Likewise, the need to raise the level of awareness among citizens of the importance of electronic transactions in the era of progress and technology , to enhance their confidence in those transactions that take place remotely, and work to develop an observatory of electronic commerce at the continental level to serve the objectives of African continental integration within the framework of the Continental Free Trade Area.
E-commerce companies operating in Africa must work to adopt development plans aimed at increasing the spread and expansion, and technological empowerment among the various providers of marketing services via the Internet, and the well-known e-commerce centers in Africa must be committed to supporting small enterprises that seek to market their products via the Internet. And using their leadership positions to continue paving the way towards supporting economic integration in Africa.
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