Electronic commerce, or simply e-commerce, involves engaging in trade or conducting a business over an electronic network; usually the internet. E-commerce operates in all four of the major market segments: business to business, business to consumer, consumer to consumer, and consumer to business. Amidst various challenges, the e-commerce sector in Ghana seems to be thriving healthily and growing in leaps and bounds.
There are various ways through which websites, which runs as an online marketplace by facilitating transactions between online shops and potential customers – most of which run as classifieds, manage to stay afloat in this relatively new-to-technology part of the world. The vast majority of internet users in Ghana are mobile internet users. This bears upon websites who endeavour to reach out to as many potential users as possible to make their platforms user-friendly or risk losing potential buyers as well as sellers. Mr. Louis Mensah, the Managing Director of Kaymu Ghana, outlines some of the advantages of engaging in e-commerce as including:
- the opportunity to sell to a larger market without the costs of a physical store -rent, utilities
- being able to do business at all times of the day, rather than the regular 9 am to 5 pm, and having access to potential customers and goods and services all over the country.
The sector is not without its own challenges though. Some of these include the attitudes of some buyers, as well as sellers. According to Mr. Mensah, despite showing initial interest, a number of them seem unsure of the feasibility of doing business online and would rather deal face to face with business partners. Another challenge he outlined is that of delivery services; a lot of people either give wrong delivery addresses because of ignorance or assume they can best direct the delivery agent from a certain point. A very major challenge the sector faces though is in relation to the limited knowledge of the use of technology by a large number of the Ghanaian populace.
A key way to address these challenges is to create the structures to suit your business model. This is because what people may believe to be the traditional systems that exist and work so well elsewhere may not fit with our cultural persuasions. It then behoves on us to create those that will fit seamlessly into our existing systems. It is a tentative process that encourages spreading feelers to test the terrain, rather than going all in and inevitably collapsing.
The e-commerce sector in Ghana is likely to grow even bigger once people begin to trust that their online transactions are safe. However, a great deal of patience will be needed as only time and a great deal of consumer sensitisation will help achieve this.