Although multinational companies like Jumia, Afrimalin, and young Cameroonian entrepreneurs drive eCommerce in Cameroon, consumers encounter numerous challenges getting their goods and services properly handled and delivered. And although Cameroon is among the top ten African countries in terms of eCommerce penetration, these issues make it difficult for eCommerce to perform at the rate it could.
Lack of Promotion
Many Cameroonians simply don’t believe in buying online. They worry about the security risks that come with these transactions. The number of people buying on sites like Jumia, Afrimalin, Amazon, and eBay is rising, but it will take time for eCommerce to fully penetrate the market the way it has in other countries. The sector needs to advertise and educate its clients on eCommerce’s advantages and safety.
The single biggest obstacle to eCommerce in Cameroon is the lack of payment methods. In a country where millions don’t have bank accounts, they have little or no access to debit cards. And even for those who do have accounts, not every financial house issues cards. PayPal exists but has restrictions for users in Cameroon. This is extremely limiting for obvious reasons: if you cannot pay for your products or services online, how can you use eCommerce at all?
Internet Access, Speed, and Cost
Recent reports by Cameroon’s Telecoms Regulatory Board indicate less than 50 per cent of Cameroonians can access the Internet. The number gets even lower as you move into rural areas where fewer users have access to smartphones and broadband. Broadband can cost $20 a month, about a quarter of what some people earn. Added to these are the risks of internet shutdowns. However, access in the more metropolitan areas of Cameroon is growing, and this is leading to an uptick in eCommerce. In the cities of Douala, Yaounde, Buea and Bamenda, young people with internet access are fuelling the growth in eCommerce.
Transport and Infrastructure
The postal system on which eCommerce relies on is limited with few alternatives to move parcels to remote areas. And although Jumia has signed a partnership with Cameroon’s postal service, bad roads and poor infrastructure are still a big problem. This leads to delays in product delivery, further hampering the trust in eCommerce as a reliable way to purchase products and services. ICT infrastructure needs to be improved to advance eCommerce.
Funding for eCommerce Startups
There are Cameroonian innovators building solutions to challenges in eCommerce. WeCashUp is a universal platform that can process transactions in Cash, Mobile Money, and cryptocurrencies for users without a bank account. Sappho is another Cameroonian startup that specializes in home deliveries. These startups can expand their operations if they get funding, which can help to alleviate some of the issues facing eCommerce in Cameroon.
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