For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria, eTrade is still an emerging phenomenon that holds many opportunities. However, like other African countries, there are challenges that must be overcome to become significant players in eTrade. Connecting and getting online is just the beginning of a digital process that will eventually give birth to successful business transactions if nurtured well. Accomplishment in eTrade involves engaging in the entire process successfully, from creating an online business, setting up online payment systems, ensuring the delivery of quality goods across the border to providing after-sales support services.
There are several challenges that SMEs in Nigeria and other developing countries deal with that hinder them from participating effectively in eTrade. It is essential to mention that there are also encouraging signs that SMEs in Africa will catch up with those in the developed world soon. Nevertheless, let us look at these challenges, proffer solutions to resolve them and finally, close the gap between the two worlds in eTrade.
About 60 million Nigerians, which make up 30% of the country’s population, are illiterate. Nigeria’s Minister of Education expressed concern over the country’s high rate of illiteracy, pointing out that some 60 million Nigerians cannot read or write. Nigeria will not achieve its development aspirations unless it checks this high rate of illiteracy. Women account for nearly 60 per cent of the country’s illiterate population. Therefore, to win the war against illiteracy, Nigeria must give priority to the girls and women. The most convenient approach is through the selective, thorough, and countrywide campaign against illiteracy, aiming at states and groups that have the highest levels of illiteracy, with girls and women as the primary target. If a minimum of 10 literacy centres are established in each of the 9,572 wards in Nigeria, with each centre enrolling about 30 learners in two sessions per annum, 5.7 million adults would be made literate at the end of each year under the national literacy campaign. Consequently, about 23 million people would become literate.
Access to the internet
Nigeria internet users hit 105 million, and it's broadband penetration reaches 30.9 per cent in 2018, according to a report from the National Communication Commission (NCC). 54% of this population accesses the internet, while about 12% have active social media accounts. The report says that 3 hours 17 minutes is the average amount of time Nigerians spend on social media. This is higher than the global average, which is 3 hours, 14 minutes. WhatsApp is the most active social media platform in the country, with 85% of users. The second is Facebook at 78%; Instagram is third at 57%, followed by FB Messenger at 54% and Youtube at 53%. This figure shows that SMEs in Nigeria have tremendous opportunities on the internet and the potential to participate successfully in eTrade.
If SMEs in Nigeria take advantage of the internet for eTrade, small firms can turn into global players. eTrade provides a method for those who have been traditionally marginalized in international business, especially young people, women, rural dwellers of least developed countries to become worldwide players. eTrade makes up 12% of global trade on goods, and this is on the increase. The benefits of eTrade are many; it permits a more extensive variety of exports in terms of products and markets. For example, a digital exporter in Nigeria reaches on average 28 countries, while a traditional one reaches only about three. It is also welcoming to new entrants. Newcomers account for 25% of online sales annually, while their share in traditional exports is around 2%.
Empowering women online
The digital divide is big for SMEs, and the divide is especially significant for women. eTrade is the only option for business in Nigeria and other developing countries to flourish. It is a solution to problems that entrepreneurs face. From computer literacy to logistics and marketing, we need to ensure that women and men have the knowledge and skills to eTrade.
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