Untapped Potential of Online Commerce

A young woman residing in Addis Abeba, found herself captivated by the potential of online platforms to transform lives and unlock new economic opportunities. Armed with unwavering determination and a keen eye for a niche market, she embarked on a journey that would defy convention and rewrite the rules of entrepreneurship, driven by a passion for cosmetics and a desire to create her own path.

The woman approached a local cosmetics shop in her neighborhood with a bold proposition to leverage the power of digital channels to reach a wider audience. She offered to sell their products through a Telegram channel she would meticulously manage, with a modest markup to generate a sustainable profit.

Impressed by her entrepreneurial spirit and clear vision, the cosmetics shop owner readily agreed to her proposal. With no initial capital to invest, she relied solely on her resourcefulness and the power of social media. She quickly garnered a loyal following on her channel. Customers were drawn in by the convenience and reliability of her service, along with the quality of the carefully curated cosmetics she offered.

Understanding the importance of a seamless transaction process and efficient logistics, she leveraged Telebirr, Ethiopia's mobile money platform, to facilitate secure and effortless payments with her customers, then partnered with local bike messengers to deliver orders directly to customers' doorsteps.

In a remarkably short time, the informal e-commerce venture blossomed into a thriving online shop, generating substantial profits and gaining recognition within the local community. What started as a humble endeavor born out of passion and ambition morphed into a testament to the boundless opportunities waiting for those bold enough to embrace innovation and take calculated risks.

Ethiopia is now witnessing a digital renaissance. Technological advancements are shaping its economy, nurturing entrepreneurship, and creating a vibrant digital space. Over the past decade, the transformation with digital platforms playing a pivotal role in driving economic growth and empowering individuals.

A journey that began with smartphones became ubiquitous with simultaneous expansion of internet infrastructure fueled its revolution. The emergence of platforms has been a game-changer, offering consumers unprecedented access to array of products and services. Companies with online market place and food delivery services that are at the forefront, providing convenient experiences.

However, amidst this burgeoning space, hurdles in fully tapping the potential of digital space exist. Until 2023, only one website was legally registered with an e-commerce license in the country leaving out the current online markets unrecognised by the Ministry of Trade & Regional Integration. Limited internet penetration, particularly in rural areas, remains a significant barrier. Logistical constraints and inadequate infrastructure in certain regions, can also hinder timely and efficient deliveries. A lack of widespread digital literacy prevents some from fully embracing online shopping platforms.

However, these are not insurmountable. There lies vast opportunities for innovation and growth. While informal online retail sales currently account for a fraction of total transactions in the country, the potential for expansion is immense with young and tech-savvy population that are comfortable embracing digital solutions.


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