Ranked first in the Maghreb, 4th in Africa and 79th in the world out of 151 countries listed by the 2018 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Business-to-Consumer E-Commerce Index report, Tunisia, on the strength of this good ranking, is now, in a position to assert itself in its local environment and in Africa.
According to this report, published in January 2019, Tunisia owes its performance to two major factors. The first concerns logistics, with an Internet penetration rate estimated at 66% (around 8 million net subscribers) and 1,450 merchant sites. The second relates to the growth in the number of online commercial transactions, which in 2017 reached a value of 166 million dinars, including 36 million dinars internationally, according to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce.
E-commerce in Africa: a strong potential
To return to the opportunities offered by the African continent for Tunisian e-commerce, Tunisia can take advantage of its membership of the three main African free trade groupings, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS – as an observer member since 2017), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA – as an adherent member since 2018) and the Continental Free Trade Area (ZLEC), whose convention it ratified in 2018.
It can also make the most of Africa’s lag in e-commerce, presenting itself as a market with high growth potential. For example, in 2017, only 21 million Africans bought online, representing less than 2% of the global total.
Another factor in the potential breakthrough of Tunisian e-commerce is the encouraging findings of a recent study on e-commerce in Africa.
Entitled “How digital marketplaces (e-commerce sites) can boost employment in Africa”, the study, carried out by the international strategy consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reveals that e-commerce sites could create around 3 million new jobs across Africa by 2025.
Marketplaces have a bright future in Africa
According to the study, Marketplaces – software platforms that bring buyers and sellers together – could also boost revenues and promote international economic growth in African countries, without disrupting existing businesses.
“Digital Marketplaces are a perfect example of how the digital revolution can create economic opportunities and improve social well-being in Africa,” said Patrick Dupoux, Senior Partner at BCG.
“While digital Marketplaces are often seen as disruptive elements in advanced economies, in the nascent economies of African countries, they can be huge catalysts for economic development,” said Lisa Ivers, co-author of the study.
Far from worsening employment conditions, digital marketplaces are boosting employment and incomes by creating demand for new fields, such as digital developers or markers, in addition to outlets for traditional trades such as artisans, shopkeepers, drivers or logistics agents, the study points out.
Prerequisites for successful e-commerce in Africa
Among the obstacles that can hinder the expansion of these Marketplaces, the study cites the infrastructure deficit, lack of regulatory clarity and restricted access to certain markets, it points out.
The study believes that public-private partnerships, and even partnerships between e-commerce sites and African governments, can unlock the potential of online marketplaces to stimulate economic growth on the African continent.
Digital Marketplaces also stimulate demand for products and services currently located in places beyond the reach of conventional trade networks, and further integrate new categories of people into the workforce such as women and young people who may currently be excluded from labor markets, the same source points out.
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