I think what truly will unlock ecommerce here is to build a super operating system, which handles all aspects of logistics, irrespective of the operator on the retail side. As an ecommerce operator, once a checkout process is completed, you do not need to worry about the delivery, a super platform in the demand chain can take it up from there.
Just something similar to how the inter-bank system works. You have your money in GTbank but can pick it up via ATM in Fidelity Bank, that’s what we need in ecommerce. A replica of such operating principle, with cost-sharing mechanism at the heart of it, is what we need in order to make ecommerce a very profitable venture in Nigeria, and by extension – Africa.
It needs a comprehensive unification model, where once a purchase is made on any ecommerce site, and internal communication is handled via a standard protocol, how the items get to the buyer shouldn’t concern the ecommerce site, but the super operating system that takes care of everything else.
At the end of every month or quarter, all players will balance their books, depending who gave out which purchased items from one point to another. Yes, you can buy a soap from Jumia, but the soap which finally came to you was taken from Konga’s stock, got the idea now? A lot of integration in the Distribution Centres (DC) and Fulfilment Centres (FC) will handle everything else.
It’s a complex operation, but I think I have it very clear in my head anyway. The financing of the super support network (operating system) can be shared by operators or a separate business entity can own and manage the space. It requires substantial investment to take care of the value chain, but it’s very realistic, and also minimises risks for every single ecommerce player in the ecosystem. When this type of system is implemented, overtime – the cost of distribution will drastically reduce, making ecommerce a very profitable enterprise in the continental Africa.