Low internet penetration, bad road network and infrastructure deficit were among the hindrances identified to forestall e-commerce success in its early days in Nigeria. This was largely due to the fact that the majority of the country’s population lived in rural areas. This was – and still – the situation in major African markets. The only exceptions are North African countries, because they have over 70% urban population.
While internet penetration is fastly growing and driving online activities among the people in Nigeria, the road infrastructure needed to get items delivered at sub-hub locations are not growing at commensurate proportion. Though ecommerce brands like the market leader, Jumia deploy initiatives like Jforce, remote pickup stations and delivery hubs to take the services closer to the people, there are still mitigating factors such as extremely bad roads that make it impossible for delivery agents to access certain locations.
Irene Emede runs Fitfeett Collections Logistics in Benin. She is excited that residents, despite availability of local markets, are making use of online services for groceries and other daily needs. “The interesting thing that really amazes me is despite the local markets we have around here, we still have customers ordering groceries like Rice, Groundnut oil and Spaghetti. And you still see them going there to order for their clothes,” she stated.
Irene however lamented the negative impact the state of roads in the area is having on delivery of items to customers. “One of the major challenges we have is our bad road. For instance, the road that leads to Ugbiyoko to Ekenwa down to Barrack road is very bad and is not really helping us. Our delivery associates are not able to take their vehicles down there and for that reason, they go there for delivery by foot which is very stressful.
“So most of the items we deliver there are the little items that are easy to carry because they can’t carry large items on their heads simply because they want to make delivery and the bus drivers make things worse by charging them.”
Another negative side to this is the danger it poses to delivery agents, and safety of goods, considering the current state of insecurity across the country. (Name) explained that the company takes precaution by ensuring that items going to such locations are small and not high earned. “Most of the items taken to that axis for delivery are not high-value items and they are very small. This is for them to be able to overcome the insecurity over there in case of any that may come up.”
Interestingly, the deplorable state of roads has also created a market for electric car jack in the area, selling among female car owners. “We have this electric carjack that most of the females use simply because they don’t really have the strength to jack their car whenever their car breaks down on their way out,” she explained.
As e-commerce brands put in efforts to drive market penetration in Nigeria, a lot more will be achieved if relevant authorities can help with road infrastructure. E-commerce and logistics are inseparable and both occupy crucial space in the growth of the digital economy, which is one of the major economic goals of Nigeria.