The pains of doing business online in Africa

With an estimated population of 1.216 billion people, you will agree with me that Africa is a great continent. But, you also have the right to disagree with me, here.

As you know, the population of our entire world is estimated at about 7 billion people. This, we all know is a huge market for both online and off-line business concerns. It is obvious that we have moved from being a global village to a global family, simply with a click of the mouse. Therefore, no boundary, no limitations, endless possibilities, global reach and network, etc. Thank God, thank humanity for this is progress, despite the many challenges facing this planet.

We all have unique skills, talents, knowledge, and experience. God indeed is wonderful for not creating all of us the same. So, if you think of the right market to sell your products, goods or services, come to Africa. Of course, Nigeria is also the right market for investors of all sorts.

It has the right population, though insecurity is threatening the peace, unity and progress of our beloved country.

This is the optimistic part of this story. It is good to begin 2021 on a positive, optimistic level, despite the ravaging COVID 19 virus that has almost collapsed the economies of developed and developing countries.

Read Also: ANALYSIS: Business owners recount tales one year after COVID-19

Now, let us come down to reality. Our world has gone digital. But, most countries in Africa are still applying the go-slow methods of migrating from analogue to the digital age. Check out the internet penetration statistics in some African countries to get the gist here.

I agree, the internet penetration records of some countries in our continent are commendable, but they are still far cries compared to some developed countries. As I wrote in 2017, corruption, illiteracy, poverty, lack of social amenities, insecurity, lack of trust, lack of knowledge on what it takes to run a business online, are some of the factors militating against Africa and Africans.

Internet penetration is 28.7 percent in my beloved continent, compared to North America with 89 percent penetration level. This means North America with an estimated population of 579 million people is more digital than Africa, despite our wide markets.

However, in fairness, businesses are striving in our continent and despite the hardship unleashed on our world by the outbreak of COVID 19 virus, some individuals, nations, corporate bodies, etc, have made it and are still making it. Do some facts-check to confirm or refute this angle of the statement.

As we know, challenges could serve either as stepping-stones or stumbling blocks. So, while some have made it big-time, Coro or no Coro, others have fallen by the wayside. There are some Africans out there, who know little or nothing about online business even in this digital age. They are old school, analogue and therefore afraid to grow with time. To some of these persons, people who do businesses online are fraudsters, yahoo-yahoo boys, scammers or criminals. These persons have every right under the sun to think and behave the way they do, even if not correct.

Truth is that there are genuine and fake business owners everywhere, internet inclusive. Trust has also made it impossible to do business online. With the world becoming a global family, business owners do not need to meet physically to transact business. There are no limitations in this digital age to running businesses. Everything and anything could be sold online and money in local and foreign currencies transferred from one part of the world to the other.

But, my good friend in Lagos, Nigeria, who has a master’s degree from one of the oldest universities in our country knows little or nothing about running an online business.

We were discussing yesterday and he told me bluntly that he knows next to nothing about online business. So, he is comfortable moving his vehicle parts from one place to the other in search of customers.

In 2021, I am positive that more and more business owners will overcome the pains of going from analogue to digital in Africa. I get the feeling deep down that ten years down the line, the story will change for the better and internet penetration in Africa will soar.

Emmanuel Udom, editor, is a Lagos-based freelance journalist

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