To combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Senegalese government has accelerated efforts designed to support e-commerce in the country, opening up new avenues for enterprises to reach consumers. Initiatives include the creation of a public e-commerce platform, projects for internet infrastructure development and legislation governing data collection.
The idea is to encourage online shopping and ensure deliveries of essential supplies, as steps are taken to curb physical contact among residents.
Though the country has not implemented a full-scale lockdown, a curfew is in place, borders have shut and anyone taking public transportation, entering a store or a government building is required to wear a mask.
The country’s trade ministry, meanwhile, has developed and deployed an e-commerce platform, dubbed “E-commerce COVID,” designed as a portal that provides consumers with easy access to websites of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) selling basic and essential goods, including food, hygiene and health products.
“We want to ensure people have access to the things they need to ride out this crisis,” said Senegalese trade minister, Assome Aminata Diatta, in a press release. “We are also developing an ecosystem favourable to e-commerce and local production.”
One of the goals is to encourage traditional businesses to go online, and companies that provide payment, e-commerce and logistics services have shown interest in joining the platform, according to the country’s trade ministry.
The project also aims to reach consumers in urban centres outside Dakar, where the country’s e-commerce services are currently focused. The ultimate goal of the portal is to help create a national consortium of e-commerce operators and merchants.
“For this to happen, businesses have to move from a purely competitive mindset to a cooperative one. They should be willing to share a common marketplace infrastructure that benefits the whole e-commerce ecosystem,” said Ibrahima Diagne, chief executive officer of Gainde2000, the company that helped create the platform, in the release.
The trade ministry also said it was rolling out an online platform for mapping stocks of essential foodstuff, for its own market-monitoring initiatives.
The Senegalese government has over the past few years stepped up efforts to develop e-commerce and bolster internet connectivity in the country. After an e-commerce readiness assessment of Senegal by UNCTAD (the UN Council on Trade and Development) in 2018, the government rolled out an e-commerce development plan last year, launching initiatives such as Smart Senegal, which manages undersea cable, wi-fi and other infrastructure projects.
The government is also drafting legislation for personal data protection, a key component of a clear legal framework for the development of e-commerce and cloud technology. Clarity in data-sovereignty laws are often cited as a necessary ingredient for widespread uptake of cloud technology in a country.
Based on a variety of factors, including network infrastructure stability, availability of payment-system options and data sovereignty issues, Xalam Analytics has rated Senegal as “on the path to be cloud ready,” in a three-tier rating system also including “not yet ready” and “mostly cloud ready.” Most Africa countires fall in the “on the path to be cloud ready” category while only three sub-Saharan Africa countries (Kenya, Mauritius and South Africa) were designated “mostly cloud ready.”