That the Boko Haram insurgency and Ebola outbreak in Nigeria should be associated with whatsoever positive benefit will be considered preposterous in many quarters, including mine. But that in fact is the case with Nigeria’s E-commerce industry which is experiencing significant growth as more people try to avoid public places and shop from the comfort of their homes. Of course this is not to say that E-commerce merchants are complicit in those twin tragedies, now that would be downright preposterous.
Preposterous is not the issue here however, prosperity is, which is exactly what the E-commerce industry is enjoying thanks in part to these national challenges that have presented them opportunities for further growth.
The logic is simple; with the pervasive fear of the Ebola Outbreak and apprehension over the Boko Haram insurgency, more people are turning to online retail platforms where they get what they need- from wares to accessories and gadgets, and even foodstuffs, ask ahiaonline.com. They also get these goods delivered at the convenience of their homes or work-places, can pay with their ATM cards via the internet or PoS, thus no need to even go to the bank to withdraw money.
This means the much feared crowded places can be avoided with its attendant risks and hassles inspired by Ebola and Boko haram, especially for the very cautious.
Not just logic though, facts on the ground also prove the increased patronage of online stores in this period of heightened caution and fear. Elias Schulze, CEO of Kaymu Africa whose Nigerian branch is the country’s leading online marketplace, some days ago told Ventures Africa “we have seen a consistent steady growth in the double digits between this last 5 week period over the 5 weeks before”. Kaymu’s burgeoning growth is not exclusive, other popular online stores like Jumia, which has the same owner as Kaymu- AIH Holdings, Konga, DealDey are all experiencing a similar trend in increased business, sources, who wished not to be named, revealed.
However, this is not to say that the E-commerce industry is only growing because of these national catastrophes. Online shopping has been on a rapid rise even before the new opportunities created by the current challenges, and will continue to grow after they are over, analysts say. With or without heightened public fears, the ease of doing business, the pervasiveness of smartphones which has aided the spread of internet connectivity, and the very fact that buying from the comfort of your home or office is appealing will continue to attract people to online shopping.
That said, despite the steady rapid growth of the E-commerce industry, and the contributory nudge of Nigeria’s current crises, the online market still pales in comparison with the physical market. Even in this period of the heightened fears of public places, the physical market still overwhelmingly dominates the retail sector. The traditional retail sector still dominates overall commerce by close to 70 percent.
This shows that despite the meteoric growth of E-commerce, physical commerce will not be losing its dominance any time soon. Perhaps E-commerce is not supposed to rise and consume traditional commerce but complement it.
Thus the former provides an alternative swift and easy way of doing business even as the latter maintains its time-old attraction of direct physical human interaction.
This complementarity is what we experience in the surge in patronage of E-commerce in this current period of heightened caution with online transactions providing a comfortable and efficient alternative for consumers desirous of such, without the traditional retail losing its relevance.
What is now desired is the replication of this complementarity in a larger scale. The growth of Nigeria’s E-commerce space is still greatly limited to the commercial hub of Lagos and the capital city of Abuja, representing just a fraction of Nigeria’s 170 million people.
The the boosting of E-commerce in the many parts of nigeria where it is struggling to gain a foothold is thus necessary, for the further growth of E-commerce as well as the creation of an efficient retail alternative for consumers during times of crises, as is now.