THE IMPORTANCE OF A CONNECTED NIGERIA
by Paul Okwuchi
MSME Cloud Services
It has taken a long time coming with many bumps on the road, but finally it seems that online services has taken a firm hold in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria.
At first glance Nigeria may not appear to be a prime location for a rapidly growing online/cloud service revolution, due to barriers ranging from poor infrastructure, relatively high internet access costs and online safety concerns to name a few. However, widespread innovation has led to unprecedented growth figures online businesses especially in the e-commerce sector in Nigeria.
Three years ago, e-commerce landscape was very different in Nigeria. In October 2011, Naspers’ Kalahari.com.ng website closed down after trading for less than two years. The primary reason was simply because there were such a small number of potential online customers. But towards the end of 2014, Nigeria saw resurgence in e-commerce activities, with market forecast of $1.3bn this year. No single company has been responsible for this growth increase, but rather a diverse range of factors have worked in unison to make online services more available, cost-effective and safe to other MSME’s and individual users.
MSME’s are taking note of success in cloud based services in Nigeria and are actively seeking to subscribe and invest in this business. The most prominent examples of online services gaining substantial investments are Jumia, Konga and with the introduction iKooba cloud based ERP platform specially designed to support and manage MSME businesses and financials.
Jumia and Konga are top online businesses in Nigeria, with Jumia currently selling over 100,000 physical items ranging from clothing, mobile phones, books to groceries. These items are mainly stored at a warehouse near Lagos and several smaller storage sites in other Nigeria cities they deliver to. The main way online retailers like Jumia and Konga quickly deliver to their customers is by moped or van, with Jumia owning a fleet of over 200 mopeds.
Naspers have re-entered the Nigeria e-commerce market with their investment in Konga, after their last foray ended abruptly with Kalahari.com.ng closing. Naspers initially invested $50m into Konga in March 2013, with Swedish investment company AB Kinnevik also investing $25m early this year. The most recent $50m funding into Konga has been led by Naspers, who now control more than half of the company.
Jumia has seen a mix of investors; from financial giant JP Morgan to global media company Millicom and London-based hedge fund Summit Brothers. The $35m investment from Millicom and $26m from Summit Brothers is a ringing endorsement of e-commerce in Nigeria. This massive inward investment is indicative that the country is ready to do business on a global scale.
Therefore, for Nigeria to fulfill its expectations to become one of the global ‘Next Eleven’ economies, the online service sector must have a fully formed policy framework, backed by government, which encourages startups to combat the issues MSME face in the industry. However, substantially more investment will be needed to combat a number of issues that the Nigeria online MSME’s face, from the lack of infrastructure to giving Nigerian MSME startups the capital and resources they need to hire the most qualified staff.
MSME Video Conferencing
As video conferencing technology improves and become ubiquitous in Nigeria, the financial and technological barriers to using it in business offices have all but disappeared. Though it is easier and cheaper than ever to use, videoconferencing still presents unique instructional challenges and opportunities.
Foundationally, videoconferencing facilitates the meeting of individuals and participants in real time and in different locations. While this is also possible using various software programs, the inclusion of video increases the sense of “presence” and bridges well the expectation of physical attendance and physical distance. The technology itself has changed over time and now is Internet-driven, which increases accessibility for individuals and MSME’s in remote locations. Early videoconferencing that used actual video connections required expensive technological overhead for both sending and receiving. That is no more an issue given the accessibility of the Internet today.
What is still evolving is the quality of real time picture and sound connections and group-to-group visual scans. When video cameras were used, the picture capture was manipulated and controlled by a camera technician and then automatically controlled by the meeting host. Now with accessible cameras in commonly used device such as iPads, phones, tablets and laptops the visual is immediate but not necessarily extensive. Therefore, the sense of group requires additional technology to make it inclusive, which the newer platforms are offering. The uses of videoconferencing have also evolved over time in Nigeria as MSME’s find it more important and cost effective.
MSME’s & Social Media
Social media continues to grow with new applications appearing every day. Its indefinable nature speaks to its ability to define how we engage, sell, buy create and live in Nigeria.
Because it appeared quickly, social media has developed a reputation by some for being a passing marketing interest, and therefore, an unprofitable one. The usage today, however, shows a different picture. Here’s a look at some of the ways social media marketing has supported MSME’s in Nigeria:
- Increased Brand Recognition. Every opportunity you have to syndicate your content and increase your visibility is valuable. Your social media networks are just new channels for your brand’s voice and content. This is important because it simultaneously makes MSME visibility easier and more accessible to new customers, and makes you more familiar and recognizable to existing customers. For example, a frequent Twitter user could hear about your company for the first time only after stumbling upon it in a newsfeed. Or, an otherwise apathetic customer might become better acquainted with your brand after seeing your presence on multiple networks.
- More Opportunities to Convert. Every post you make on a social media platform is an opportunity for customers to convert. When MSME’s build a following, they simultaneously have access to new customers, recent customers, and old customers, and they’ll be able to interact with all of them. Every blog post, image, video, or comment you share is a chance for someone to react, and every reaction could lead to a site visit, and eventually a conversion. Not every interaction with your brand results in a conversion, but every positive interaction increases the likelihood of an eventual conversion. Even if click-through rates are low, the sheer number of opportunities you have on social media is significant.
Online services have taken a firm hold in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria. The nation is now properly maximizing utilization of all available and useful technology resources in every areas of affairs. MSME’s, organizations, individuals and public sectors are fitting into a connected environment to make business processes faster and ultimately make life easy for everyone.