Abstract: The purpose of this study is to begin to understand the African online consumer and to support players in the space to take advantage of the growing population and effectively anticipate their wishes. In order to effectively grow the sector, there is a need to better understanding the viability of e-commerce, related policies and challenges currently facing the sector. Data collection was done through interviews, surveys and literature review. The survey tool used allowed us to effectively collect data in a short amount of time but also presented some challenges. The time restriction also limited the quality of information collected.
Preliminary results show citizens in major towns in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are currently buying goods that can be delivered wireless such as airtime, as well as physical goods that can be mailed or delivered. Most of these goods were accessed on mobile platforms and mobile money was the dominant form of payment. Businesses reported similar trends with the exception of preferences by customers for cash payments and credit cards for larger or bulk transactions.
Although mobile and Internet penetration varies across the three countries, e-commerce trends emerging are fairly similar except for a few variations such as payment options and devices used to access online goods. There is a desire for improved usability as well as reduced costs of e-commerce payment platforms among both businesses involved in e-commerce and customers transacting on these platforms. Security was also an area of concern more so among businesses; despite its fairly low infiltration rate compared to other more developed markets, fraud is a growing phenomenon that will need better financial infrastructure and regulation.
In order to properly gauge potential in the sector, there is need to equip e-commerce players with detailed information on online consumers, challenges currently faced by online business, policy implications and infrastructure limitations. A more extensive study to supersede this first phase is proposed so as to address its shortcoming as well as expand the understanding of e-commerce trends on the region and continent.