Tapping e-commerce to grow intra Africa trade by Bob Koigi

In Africa, intra regional trade accounts for a paltry 15 per cent of all trading compared to Europe where trade between the region’s nations stand at 70 per cent and Asia’s 51 per cent.

While the ambitious Africa Continental Free Trade Area that seeks to open up borders to free flow of goods and services across the continent is promising great prospects for citizens and trade, experts have argued that technology is a key panacea to realizing this dream.

This week more companies continue positioning internet as a driver of intra Africa commerce.

Pan-Africa’s pioneer Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce platform for made in Africa products, AFRIMART, has officially been launched, offering prospects of catapulting the otherwise less exploited intra-Africa trade to higher heights of growth. This, coming even as players have launched an online platform that keeps tabs of the progress of the continent’s trade. This coupled with with closure of information gap and relaxing of protectionist policies by various countries would drive the success of the ambitious plan.

In matters ICT penetration, More than half the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by 2025, according to the latest edition of the GSMA’s Mobile Economy report series. This has been evident in the numerous efforts by individual countries in the region including Nigeria, Cameroon, Togo and Ghana  among others to boost access to ICT among its people.  Just this week community Internet service provider, poa! internet launched Kenya’s first village home Internet service offering unlimited Wi-Fi into homes around Ting’ang’a, Kiambu County.

Still this week, Diamond Trust Bank Uganda has announced that it will be offering Mastercard’s premium card payment solutions in the country, which includes the Mastercard Gold Debit Card and Platinum Credit Card. Mastercard has deepened its forays in digital payment solutions working with partners in different countries  including Tanzania, Nigeria and South Africa. A recent study revealed significant cost savings for African firms switching from daily cash allowance to corporate cards.

In mergers and acquistions, Africa.com has completed its acquisition of iAfrica.com, South Africa’s oldest news portal from South African media giant, Primedia (Pty) Ltd and telecom, MTN (Pty) Ltd.

GreenTec Capital has also announced its investment into Bismart Insurance from Kenya. Leveraging on cutting edge technology, the company provides a digital interface to offer insurance products and services across Africa.

In energy, GE Power’s Grid Solutions business has unveiled a whitepaper on the “Digitization of Energy Transmission & Distribution in Africa” that explores the opportunities and challenges faced in Sub-Saharan Africa as the new future of energy and electrification emerges.

In the telcos, Pan-African telecoms group, Liquid Telecom, and Telecom Egypt have signed a deal that will enable Liquid Telecom to complete Africa’s terrestrial fibre network stretching all the way from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt. To further grow connectivity, Liquid Telecom has been working with various players including China Telecom, Sudatel and Huawei.

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