Access to e-commerce technologies for business in Africa

Alexis Bafcop

Intrapreneur, Chairman and Co-founder of Mahali

Africa’s e-commerce sector will be worth $70 billion in 2025. But, before that is able to happen, it has to deal with the delivery problems holding it back – half of all online purchases never reach buyers, in most cases because they don’t have an exact delivery address.

Geocoding solutions can help by providing aliases for GPS coordinates in places where no street names or numbers exist. We already have solutions such as Google, SnooCODE or W3W, which uses three words to define a location (the Statue of Liberty’s torch, for instance, is at “toned.melt.ship”). Another option is uploading a photo of the house on OkHi. But these solutions aren’t especially user- friendly, so people are often reluctant to adopt them.

Mahali is more suited to local habits. All you have to do is tell the delivery person where to meet you, speaking naturally and using familiar landmarks. For example, “walk past Plateau Mosque, take the street Pharmacie Mazuet is on, then turn right after the Orange Money kiosk”.

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There’s another option to deal with delivery challenges. Smaller business who want to tap into the growth of the e-commerce sector will be able to use IoT technologies to track products, check for updates during delivery and monitor customer satisfaction. In the near future, sensors using this technology will also be able to guide drones carrying purchases, food and medicine.

The data from this user-built network is making geolocation more reliable in Africa. It will help in other ways, for example to ensure all children in a catchment are enrolled in school and to help direct paramedics during an emergency call-out. It will also feed a database that local start-ups and other businesses can use.

Aurélie Goncalves

Data ethics is an asset for banks