LEVERAGING NIGERIA’S BOOMING E-COMMERCE SECTOR
Hauwa Abu Anaja
Nigeria has, over the years embraced innovative technologies in conducting commerce, notwithstanding setbacks such as irregular internet services, poor electricity supply and shortfall of digital infrastructure and policies that hindered early adoption of new technologies.
E-Commerce refers to the sale and purchase of goods over an electronic medium like the internet. It also involves electronically transferring data on goods and funds, popularly referred to as online shopping. E-commerce, also known as e-Business, or electronic business, is enabled by robust internet service and powered by digital technologies.
Recent data from the World Internet Statistics show that there are about six million internet users in Africa, at an internet penetration rate of 43.2 percent, growing steadily at the rate of 13 percent as at March 2021.
On a global scale, Africa accounts for 11.5 percent of the world’s internet usage with its over one billion population. Meanwhile, the continent’s expanding consumer spending is going digital and a large portion of it is in the form of e-transactions.
Furthermore, smartphone penetration in Africa is on the rise, with up to 34 percent in South Africa and 27 percent in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.
In the last five years, e-commerce has witnessed significant growth in Nigeria, with more Nigerians buying and selling online. The reason is not farfetched. Consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of the accessibility, convenience and ease of buying and selling online due to increased access to smart digital devices, with many new entrants in the mobile device market offering competitive prices.
A smartphone that enables a variety of digital activities can be purchased for around 12 thousand Naira, about thirty dollars, and many Nigerians can easily purchase such devices online on e-commerce sites.
In addition, telecom companies and internet providers, in their quest to grow their market, continue to offer competitive internet data prices and services, thus enabling an expansion of e-commerce gains and turnover.
Data released on the US Department of Commerce and the International Trade Administration, trade.gov, indicates that the current e-commerce spending in Nigeria is estimated at $12 billion and projected to reach $75 billion in revenue per annum by 2025.
With the burgeoning population of Nigerian youths tapping into the opportunities digital businesses provide, e-commerce is further strengthened with ripple effects on consumer power and smartphone penetration.
The ease of e-commerce transactions and management means that many young Nigerians who face challenges in acquiring capital to start a business or funds to run a business in physical locations can now leverage on e-commerce as a lifesaver, with as simple a tool as a smartphone or tablet.
The global Coronavirus pandemic also opened new avenues for e-commerce to thrive. With the social distancing campaigns and isolation measures put in place by governments around the world to curb the spread of the virus, many consumers have resorted to e-commerce for their daily transactions.
As the penetration of e-commerce and its acceptance grows, challenges remain. There are issues of acceptability and trust among consumers, many of whom lament the sale of substandard goods online and the advertisement of fake goods and services. There is also the fact that online selling, unlike the physical, does not give buyers the opportunity to appraise a product or service physically and appreciate its features before they paying for them.
In order for Nigeria to deepen e-commerce and reap its benefits, laws to protect both buyers and sellers in cyberspace need to be enforced. In 2015, the Nigerian Government enacted the Cybercrime law to, among other things, prohibit, prevent, criminalize and sanction all types of fraud in e-commerce.
The Cybercrime Act also set up the institutional framework for the enforcement of regulations to protect e-business transactions, company copyrights, domain names and other electronic signatures in relation to electronic transactions within Nigeria.
Despite these strides, a lot still needs to be done. The time has come to establish a statutory agency to oversee and regulate e-commerce services and operations, including the formulation of strategies to ensure the safety and security of personnel of Delivery Companies.
In addition, Telecoms companies must provide value for money in internet data services and sanctions should be enforced to penalize companies that do not match demand and quality. Furthermore, e-commerce sites must vet sellers thoroughly and regularly comb their databases for defaulters of Nigeria’s e-commerce laws, rules and regulations. E-commerce sites must also ensure that customers’ data are well protected and secured on their servers to prevent card transaction fraud.
Nigeria is on the threshold of a substantially huge digital transformation with the potentials of the e-commerce sector. All that is left now is the full enforcement of the Cybercrimes Act and focused implementation of the right policies and strategies in order to reap the limitless opportunities of employment and wealth creation for the country’s teeming youths.