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Covid-19: E-commerce Business Opportunities for Millennial Entrepreneurs in Africa

The Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed a global economic earthquake that has shaken the world’s economic order as we know it to its foundation, leaving in its wake the looming specter of global economic recession. Even as the pandemic gathers steam across continents, Raoul Pal, a macro trader and the CEO of Real Vision Group has predicted that Covid-19 pandemic would become the greatest financial event of our lifetime.

Unfortunately, this apocalyptic prediction is already being fulfilled with uncanny accuracy. The United States of America; the world’s most powerful economy, has not been spared from the devastating effects of the Coronavirus. Just before the virus unleashed its lethal force on the world, the United States had about 164.5 million people in its workforce with unemployment hovering around 3.5 per cent (about 5.8 million as at the end of February 2020). With many small businesses on the brink and the devastating pandemic shutting down much of the economy, more than 10 million Americans have now been left without jobs. It has been projected that millions more will lose their jobs should the pandemic persist. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the FTSE 100 have plunged to their worst decline since 1987.

Europe is equally reeling under the unrelenting brutality and deadly impact of the Coronavirus. Economic activities have ground to a halt in Europe as the lockdown continues to be in effect. Germany; Europe’s economic powerhouse, has had it’s economy battered severely as a result. The recent grim report compiled by IHS Markit, captures in poignant details this sad reality. According to the report, the Eurozone composite PMI index of services and manufacturing, dropped from a reading of 51.6 in February to only 29.7 in March, its lowest reading since the survey began 22 years ago. Also, available data from the UK, paints a similar grim picture; its index fell from 53.2 to 34.5 during the period under review. In Sweden, the services sector activity has been hit almost as hard as other European countries with its index falling from 56.9 to 36.8.

Given this unpleasant trend in other continents of the world occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic, Africa is very much likely to experience a similar or even worse economic downturn. And a possible collapse in the livelihood of her citizens is eminent if the spread of the virus is not properly contained.

Nigeria and other major oil producing countries on the continent could lose as much as US$65 billion in revenues as oil prices continue in its downward spiral. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), has predicted that Covid-19 could reduce Nigeria’s total exports of crude oil in 2020 by between US$14 billion and US$19 billion.

In the deluge of this discouraging forecast and news and with more than 47,000 retail chain stores temporarily shut down in the United States alone, and many more in Europe, Africa and other parts of the world, online retail business is witnessing a boom. The enforcement of lockdown and social distancing measures to stem the spread of Coronavirus, has prompted millions of people to embrace online shopping in order to meet their daily needs.

The absence of brick and mortar supplies as a result of the imposed lockdowns is driving the exponential use of the services of online retail outlets. In recent times, there have been surges in Amazon searches for products such as pharmaceuticals, hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap. Similarly, online shoppers are increasingly converting on products that they need with longer delivery windows in order to avoid going to stores. The reality of the present is that e-commerce has come to stay. As more people adapt to shopping online, it is undoubtedly that online e-commerce outlets will continue to experience a boom. To cope with increasing demands, Amazon added 100,000 new jobs during this coronavirus period. As a result of increased demand, online grocer, Ocado has had to suspend new orders until it is able to clear the backlog of pending deliveries.

The Logistics/Delivery arm of e-commerce is flourishing and is a potential goldmine for enterprising millennials in Africa and across the world who may want to cash in on the rising demand for such services. As more and more people all over the world are on lockdown and prevented from leaving their homes, it therefore means that products and services will need to be delivered to them in their homes. Already, Cainiao, the logistics arm of Alibaba group has launched a Green Channel Initiative in response to the rising demand for protective clothing and medical supplies.

Millennial entrepreneurs in Africa and across the globe need to position themselves to cash in on this and other opportunities as they unfold. The exigencies of the present have provided untapped opportunities for African millennial entrepreneurs to explore and conquer. In this era of social distancing and imposed lockdowns, video conferencing has witnessed an exponential boom and should be harnessed. Video conferencing startup, Zoom has witnessed substantial increase in its activities with the company’s sales and share price already up by 50 per cent in 2020. Also, Teams from Microsoft, Skype, WebEx from Cisco are experiencing massive rise in sales with many of them offering special deals for their conferencing services.

Entertainment and gaming platforms are other areas that will require the skill of the millennial entrepreneurs. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and some other entertainment and gaming platforms have benefitted massively and witnessed increased viewership with online gaming platforms experiencing record volumes.

The transformative capacity of e-commerce, its untapped potentials in Africa and the endless possibilities, further deepened by the demands and exigencies of the present global reality are opportunities waiting to be harnessed. Therefore, the African millennial entrepreneurs urgently need to step up and fill this vacuum. As more businesses migrate online, the skills of the millennial entrepreneur will be in high demand to make such online experiences meaningful, worthwhile, memorable and profitable. Marriages, entertainment, performances, education and lots more have become virtual experiences waiting to be harnessed by the millennial entrepreneur. As much of the world grapples under the devastating impact of Coronavirus, online entrepreneurs have the opportunity to grow their income and business.

In late March 2020, UNESCO created a global education coalition comprising a network of companies, non-profit organizations and media organizations to facilitate and develop distance learning solutions for over 1.5 billion students (about 87 per cent of students worldwide) whose schools were closed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. To make this online experience a reality, the expertise of highly skilled millennial entrepreneurs was sorted for. Now is the right time for millennial entrepreneurs to equip themselves with high income earning skills to be better positioned to take advantage of the massive opportunities in this present digital ecosystem.

The possibilities are endless for experts in Digital Marketing, Coders/Software Developers, Software Testers, Graphics Designers, Virtual Assistants, Chatbot Marketing Experts, Branded Podcast Creators, Webinar Experts, E-commerce Agents, Social Media Managers, Online Events Marketers, IT System and Network Engineers and other experts in the E-commerce space.

African entrepreneurs need to think strategically and plan carefully ahead to rip the rewards. With brick and mortar businesses gradually becoming extinct, African millennial entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to build a new network of prospective customers or businesses leveraging on the right tools and skill sets.

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