Nigerians should be able to shop online regardless of perception

Nigeria’s internet legacy seems to have left a complicated problem for citizens wanting to get into the technological age. In the last decade Nigeria has been synonymous with online scams commonly known as 419. The country’s electronic payment endeavours have been tainted by the perceptions created by these scams.

Speaking at the Jumia ecommerce conference in Lagos, Nigeria’s Minister for Communications Technology Omobola Johnson says that “Nigerians want to buy online” regardless of the fears. She reckons that the country shouldn’t miss out because payments from the country aren’t widely accepted.

Johnson says that most Nigerian credit cards are not accepted worldwide and there is still a fear among citizens that online payments will result in loss and possible scams.

Today the country is attempting negate all that perception by creating an ecommerce industry that is fast becoming the biggest in Africa. Building an ecommerce powered industry is quite tricky in a society that is mostly unbanked and prefers to deal in cash.

The Minister argues that the fact that most Nigerians make their money in informal businesses that are mainly cash only, presents a massive problem. She says in a cash based society, the amounts of purchases are quite low and this stunts the growth of the industry because there is only certain amount that customers can have on them at a given time.

She figures that it is important to build a cashless nation to help foster growth of ecommerce as well as help educate citizens about going online.

“Currently only 36% of Nigerians go online and it needs to be more than 60%. So we are working on a campaign to encourage Nigerians to go online and find various ways to shop, get educated and use it as a resource tool,” she says.

Johnson’s words are echoed by Jumia founders who believe that Nigerians want to be online and should be able access products that they need and want but are stopped by fear.

“For us our key challenge was to eradicate the fear of shopping online and educate people about ecommerce, and once we did that we saw it translate into more return customers,” says Jumia co-founder Raphael Afaedoz.

Tech is clearly Nigeria’s future says the Minister, explaining that the government is trying to foster innovators by attempting to raise venture funds for tech startups, and handing them over to the private sector to run.

“Tech is still new in Nigeria and we are focusing on driving local content in this space and we don’t want to miss out,” says Johnson. “Right now it’s a case of execution.”



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