Thursday, December 9, 2010

E-Commerce in Africa

CBC's radio show Spark had a recent discussion of African E-Commerce (episode 130). Basically, individuals are increasingly using cel phones to conduct business transactions using texting services whereby they are able to communicate their inventories of goods, their demands for goods, and transfer funds between banks and individuals. Without cel phones, these transactions involved individuals traveling from village to village with their goods, incurring significant time costs while traveling between. These can be particularly high given that traveling to purchase some goods may require an individual to miss a day's wages. As such, cel phones serve the role of infrastructure in reducing the opportunity costs of engaging in transactions.

There are a lot of digital conveniences we take for granted in the Western world. Ok, let’s be honest and say we take most of them for granted. If we want something –anything– it is available at our fingertips. So what’s it like in places where the infrastructure still doesn’t exist to make those digital conveniences viable? Femi Akinde is the founder and CEO of Slimtrader, a company that is looking to change the way people in sub-Saharan Africa do business…all through their cell phones.

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