The digital age; Africa’s greatest catalyst for development


How well do you know Africa?

Many people all over the world have been misguided with negative perceptions about our continent which is unmistakably rich in culture, heritage and tradition. A continent with so much promise and potential. Africa was once viewed by many as a continent of hardship, war, famine etc. All these are now in the past and considered as stories, fables or myths. Aside being the second largest continent in the world both with regards to size and population, Africa boasts of several amazing landmarks and achievements. The Victoria Falls located at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Did you also know that Africa has the highest proportion of entrepreneurs in the world? Polls suggest that 80% of Africans view entrepreneurship as a “good career opportunity”, and the continent has the highest proportion of adults who are starting or running new businesses.

The world has become a global village with digitalization at the centre of many developing countries’ agenda. Internet and smartphone penetration coupled with ecommerce in Africa seem to be a very fast means of growth for a lot of countries in the sub region. As a continent, we have never been renowned for digital innovation or invention. However, recent adoption of such technologies have opened the way for a great deal of economic and infrastructural improvements. Africa has a great potential for all round development and the current digital age may be our best bet at achieving this feat faster.

Jumia, the leading e-commerce ecosystem in Africa takes a look into ways Africa can leverage on the increasing levels of digitalization and e-commerce growth in the continent as a catalyst for development.

Some call it the digital age while many others call it the technological world. In today’s world, computers, smartphones and the internet lead the way. They have become such important tools for development in many countries. Africa is growing steadily because of the penetration of smartphones and the internet. How are these influencing growth in Africa? Why are they the greatest catalysts for development in our continent?

Ecommerce in Africa

First of all, let’s highlight the basic importance of technology, the internet and smartphone to us as Africans. One basic word comes to mind, CONVENIENCE. Today, businesses are running at such a fast pace which means people have less time to travel long distances to get things done. Meetings, communication, research and many other facets of a good business relationship are now done quicker through mobile phones, laptops and the internet. Mediums such as hangouts, skype, blue jeans, messenger and the like make it easier and more convenient to have conversations with partners all over the world by just clicking on a few buttons. Job interviews and feedback sessions are also more convenient these days via same mediums. This means that, companies can scout talents and skilled personnel from other regions or countries without actually travelling there or spending lots of time while doing it.

Secondly, e-commerce has become one of the most important growth levers in Africa and seems to carve a fast path to development for many African countries who have embraced this module of business. These days, online businesses have taken over with millions of them spread out in Africa. There are so many  online websites that deal with retail, food delivery, travel & hospitality, job search, real estate and car dealerships among others. The benefits are split in many folds. For sellers, it gives them a platform to reach many millions of customers searching for such products and services. A one stop shop where customers with varying needs can easily access and acquire what they need in a fast, convenient and safe manner.

Vendors who otherwise would have spent a fortune on acquiring a space to construct a shop and even spend more advertising now have a very affordable way of marketing their goods and services to millions of people online. The returns are overwhelming compared to actually operating a physical shop. If an offline shop reaches about 1,000 customers monthly, an online shop is likely to reach an average of 100,000 page views in that same time. Businesses these days because of digitalization have a bit more visibility and this has contributed massively to economic growth. Aside the financial benefits, this is a great driver of self employment and entrepreneurship as many young Africans now do not rely on Governments and white collar jobs for a source of income. They own their own profitable online businesses and this has reduced unemployment and crime among the youth.

For customers, e-commerce makes buying very easy. Imagine having to sit in the comfort of your home, place an order, pay for it and getting it delivered to your doorstep versus driving all the way to the mall to scan through millions of products before you choose one. The stress which comes with transporting it as well is something worthy of note. How about travel? Do you remember the days when you had to ask your cousin in another city or country to go round and check for the best hotels, facilities and prices before you finally chose one. Looking for the cheapest but most comfortable bit of accommodation or transport was a headache. Thanks to e-commerce, we in Africa now have platforms where we can compare prices, facilities and different hotels in a few minutes. Price competition among various online platforms also gives customers the best prices. This means that people save more money when they book online than actually going to these hotels. Hungry? Just grab your smartphone and go online. In a matter of minutes, you can choose from the menu at your favorite restaurant and get your meal delivered to your home or office. All these are made possible by e-commerce and the current digital age we find ourselves in.

Overall, e-commerce is a solution. Something Africans derive massive benefits from. Worthy of mentioning is the fact that aside the individual marketplaces in Africa, a few companies have gone a step further by providing a very innovative way of harnessing all possible needs of society and providing a one stop solution for it. An ecosystem that combines all the individual marketplaces and provides a one stop shop for every customers needs. Jumia is one of such companies in Africa. With offices spread all over the continent, Jumia is that online marketplace that allows you to buy household items, order food, book a hotel & flight, find a job, look for a house, buy a car and enjoy many other services all in one place. You don’t need separate accounts to do this. The convenience and safety is what will drive a fast growth in Africa’s quest for development.


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