On the 24th of May to the 5th of June 2015, Tunisia will be hosting a conference on the importance of the internet, especially in doing business in Africa. It happens that Africa especially states in the Central African region have not adequately taken advantage of opportunities offered to them by the internet especially in e commerce and doing business online. Why is Africa still lagging behind in the e commerce sector? Is it a problem of inadequacy of legislation governing the sector? Is it a problem of inadequate infrastructure? Is it a problem of the actors involved in the sector?
A report was aired over the TV channel, Africa 24 on the 6th of March 2015 during which the Director of the group named World Wide Worx attested that poor infrastructure remains a disturbing factor contributing to the continent’s lagging behind in the e commerce sector. According to Director General of Jumia, Nigeria, Fatoumatou Bah of Sengal, distribution of internet devices remains low, thus those in need of the services which will make them partake actively in e commerce do not have access to these facilities. According to Fatoumatou, there is just 40 percent penetration access to internet in Kenya. In the whole of Africa the penetration is just 7 percent.
Government bureaucracy has equally led a lot of corruption in the e commerce sector. Most African states do not have adequate constitutional and legislative protection for investors and consumers in the e commerce sector. With such a scenario it is difficult to guarantee investors that their interests will be protected. In this same regard in an eventuality of conflict of interest between investors and consumers in the e commerce sector, there remain inadequate protective and preventive measures for both parties.
African states have not done enough to bring on board private actors into the sector. Apart from states like South Africa that give private actors the importance they deserve as equal investors and partners in e commerce, private actors in other states are considered more as secondary and tertiary actors while big governments remain the primary actors in the sector.
Cyber criminality remains a great cankerworm in the e commerce sector. Scammers keep on developing sophisticated methods to hack into accounts and online transactions. The continent is still to boast of adequate experts who can assist states in curbing the ills of cyber criminality, thus furnishing safety nets for online transactions especially the use of credit cards for effecting payments.
There equally remains the problem of accessing concrete information on the portfolio of online business persons. This puts consumers in a fix especially as transparency remains an issue. With such loop holes, e commerce will remain timid on the continent.
African states need to therefore do more to bring on board private actors into the e commerce sector. There is no gain saying that states in the Central African Region like Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and Gabon lag behind in encouraging state and private sector partnerships in the e commerce sector. This position is corroborated by the World Bank’s Doing Business Report of 2014. States especially in the Central African region like Cameroon, Chad and Gabon thus need to give more importance to private actors as primary actors and not secondary and tertiary actors as is the case. Additionally, there is equally the need to curb government bureaucracy which would definitely curb corruption in the e commerce sector.
Most African states need to also have adequate legislation with respect to the e commerce sector. State constitutions in Africa as well as legislation need to be clear on protective measures for consumers and investors in the e commerce sector. With such constitutional and legislative protection the interests of both consumers and investors will be guaranteed. Constitutional and legislative protections will also go a long way to solve issues evolving around conflict of interest between investors and consumers in the e commerce sector.
African states need to give more attention to training experts in cyber criminality. Apart from having a pool of experts in cyber criminality it is equally important to train forces of law and order, administrative officers, magistrates and lawyers on cyber criminality. The availability of experts in cyber criminality will go a long way to assist states in curbing the ills of cyber criminality, thus furnishing safety nets for online transactions especially the use of credit cards for effecting payments.
The state needs to equally partner with the private sector to verify online information of both investors and consumers in the e commerce sector. This will go a long way to strengthen transparency in the e commerce sector.
Chofor Che is an integral part of the Africanliberty’s Voice of Liberty initiative. He is also an analyst at LibreAfrique.org and Audace Institute Afrique . This article was originally published at LibreAfrique.org on 27 March 2015. He is also blogs at https://caclitacm.wordpress.com/