BY EMEKA AGINAM
In partnership with mobile network operators (MNOs), Microsoft 4Afrika and Skrill have launched e–commerce portal to bring Africa’s economies online.
By integrating with mobile network operators (MNOs), the portal enables Africans to use their mobile wallets to buy from global internet brands, access free educational content and use Microsoft software.
Accordingly, the e-commerce portal is expected to bring thousands of online merchants to the African digital consumer, via an affordable and transparent online payment system
Announced at the 17th annual AfricaCom conference, the portal would be fully live by December 2014.
However, this new form of partnership between mobile payment systems, network operators and merchants is the first of its kind in Africa.
Via the portal, Microsoft will be providing free access to One Drive, as well as Outlook email addresses so that users can register accounts with the relevant merchants. Microsoft OneDrive will enable consumers to store up to 15G online free of charge. Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative is providing free access to educational content, from basic numeracy games to courses on app development through its virtual academy. Entrepreneurs in Africa will now have the tools required to build online businesses that Skrill will enable them to monetise.
Speaking on the new development, Nilesh Pandya, SVP of emerging markets at Skrill, said that, “Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent, with cities enjoying strong levels of wireless and data coverage.
“ It has the world’s most youthful populations and we know that it is the younger generations that are often first to embrace technology.
“Disposable incomes are rapidly increasing, making discretionary spend on e-commerce an immediate reality. These conditions deliver the perfect storm for a massive surge in consumer demand for digital payments.
“However, a high percentage of Africans remain unbanked and so have no means of paying for global online brands. Even banked Africans often find that global online merchants are reluctant to serve these markets for credit and debit card transactions due to perceived fraud risks.”
According to Pandya, Skrill enables users to make payments instantly, cost effectively and securely. Using mobile wallets, users can buy products and services from Skrill’s extensive global network of merchants, including video on demand business iROKOtv, music download and streaming business Spinlet and a range of social gaming providers.
For Frank McCosker, General Manager, Affordable Access and Smart Financing, Microsoft 4Afrika, “As part of 4Afrika’s effort towards affordable access, this portal seeks to bring Africa’s offline economies online, enabling the continent to take part in the global digital revolution, which in turn, will drive innovation, inclusion, skills and trade.
“Africa continues to be a breeding ground for major innovations that extend to the world stage. With monetization being a priority, the offline economy cannot be ignored.”
By logging into the portal, consumers are also given access to special product offers and discounts on goods and services exclusively available through this purchase route and their mobile provider.
E-commerce transactions do not incur any additional cost for the consumer and specific fees charged to merchants, relating to this market have been determined by Skrill to reflect the opportunity for growth, tempered with the challenges inherent in a new market.
By partnering with merchants, Skrill can ensure that their products and services are available in some of the fastest growing markets in the world.
According to a World Bank study, in low- and middle-income countries every 10% increase in broadband penetration, accelerates economic growth by 1.38%.