E-commerce is booming in Togo

LThe alarm clock shows 9 a.m. that morning. Aline Lawson, who looked relaxed, had just opened her thigh store at Lomé’s central market, Assigamé. His first instinct is to turn on his cell phone. The young saleswoman has just opened a website to sell her products. For this e-commerce self-taught woman who has just been trained in digital entrepreneurship, bringing her activity to the Internet was necessary. Primarily due to the decline in sales of thighs on stalls, where traders have been helplessly watching the invasion of counterfeit Chinese thighs for many years. E-commerce is an alternative and offers some space to breathe. He now swears by selling his top thighs online in this tough competition. “It took me a long time to realize that I have to innovate in order to reach customers. From my training, I started by offering my thighs and other accessories online, especially through my website. After a few months, I can say that my sales have grown thanks to this new approach “, she reassures in a cheerful tone. Like Alina, more and more entrepreneurs from Togo rushed to violate the internet store.

In Togo, the e-commerce sector has a wind in its back and is even starting to enter into customs. More and more Togolese have integrated it into their daily lives. Aware of its importance in the country’s economy, the authorities are developing strategies to popularize it. This new agreement enabled the emergence of a new class of entrepreneurs, especially since the beginning of the health crisis.

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Pandemic, accelerator

Meal delivery, pharmaceutical products, buying and selling platforms, digital payment services … Today, several companies are in the forefront. Located in the northern suburbs of the Togolese capital, Kanyi Group is a figure in Togo’s e-commerce sector. In 2018, he launched the Kanyi Express logistics platform specializing in all types of delivery. “I was in the sale of local agricultural products when those activities started a few years ago,” confides Kanyi Koffi Anoumou, CEO. But realizing the gap in this new online business sector, I launched Kanyi Express in 2018. ” According to him, there is no doubt that this sector will play a leading role in the digital economy in Togo. He wants proof of that in increasing the activity of his structure during the pandemic. “Initially, we made only a hundred deliveries a month. Today, thanks to our logistics department, we make about 5,000 deliveries of all types of products per year, including meals, real estate and more. We even offer shopping instead of keeping our clients busy. The e-commerce sector is booming in Togo, and that will enable the emergence of new entrepreneurs “, summarizes the entrepreneur.

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Lomé, already attractive

The rise of the e-commerce sector resonates locally beyond the country’s borders. As a result, beginners who have already proven themselves in this sector on the continent do not hesitate to try the adventure of Togo. This is how Gozem, African Uber, founded Togo in 2018. The company for online reservations of transport services (motorcycle taxis and car taxis) has crossed the milestone of 2 million trips made at the end of 2020. “We are very motivated by the influence we managed to achieve in such a short time. And we are incredibly happy with the fact that thousands of users buy with Gozem in Togo every day “, Judge Emeka Ajene, co-founder of Gozem. From now on, the start-up has other ambitions by diversifying its service activities, especially purchasing and delivery.

Building ecosystem

If customer preferences are now just a click away, the challenges remain. Not only are online payments via bank accounts or PayPal, among other things, still not part of Togolese habits, the vast majority of which lack bank funds, but the country’s financial system is still unable to provide the necessary ecosystem. Therefore, it was necessary to innovate for the development of the sector based on mobile money. Therefore, to ensure fluidity in online transactions, reliable mobile payment integrator operators have been born in the sector that reassure all players, especially e-merchants and users. At least four offer their services in Togo, and Paygate Global is one of them.

To benefit from the services of this platform, which is considered the first integrator and leader of electronic payment solutions in Togo, all you need to do is have an account on its interface. The mobile payment services offered are for a fee that varies between 3% and 4% of the price of the online transaction. For Koffi Bonin, the promoter of this structure launched in 2016, the e-commerce sector represents a good future as it allows Togolese entrepreneurs to open up to the outside world. “We all need to win by promoting e-commerce in Togo,” he says. At Paygate Global, we now enable the purchase and sale of services and goods via mobile money for our customers. Our clients have electronic wallets to finance their bank account. This way, I can easily obtain and finance my international payment card for international online transactions, ”explains the CEO of Paygate Global. The company has executed, in less than two years of operation, 125,000 online transactions totaling 107 million CFA francs (about 163,000 euros).

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Laws governing the sector

In 2017, the country recorded transactions valued at $ 342 million. But according to a source close to the Ministry of Commerce, that number could double in 2020 with a coronavirus pandemic. Faced with this enthusiasm, the authorities decided to establish a regulatory framework to regulate the sector. This is to avoid using e-commerce for illegal activities. Thus, the country has started setting up its entire legal arsenal to ensure the security of online service platform operators as well as users and to reprimand all actions that could harm the digital economy sector.

Togo has successively adopted the law related to electronic transactions in 2017, then the law dedicated to the fight against cybercrime in 2018 and finally the law related to personal data protection in 2019. Now equipped with this legal arsenal, the country recently established the National Cybernetics Agency. security as well as a cyber security support fund. Authorities intend to encourage Togoans to engage in the sector with complete security. “Habits have started to change, even in the countries of the subregion next to us. The reasons given by some people who are still reluctant to accept this way of e-commerce are mostly reasons of trust and fear of fraud. But today in Togo there are regulations in the e-commerce sector. This reassures players, both platform operators and users. Therefore, we must now promote this regulation. It’s a whole series of laws that make up the regulatory framework for the sector, “recalls Sitou Yibokou, executive director of Togo Pride, a social impact association and promoter of Togo’s e-commerce week, the first edition of which took place last August. .

To boost the e-commerce sector, the authorities plan to establish a five-year strategic development plan (2022-2027). To achieve this, the Ministry of Trade is fine-tuning strategies in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) to promote the implementation of structural and innovative projects following a preliminary study on the sector conducted in 2018. The five-year plan dedicated to the development of e-commerce will aim, among other things, to strengthen the regulatory and legal framework, the capacity of various actors, access to finance for companies in the sector and the implementation of logistics.

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Connecting, another challenge

The issue of Internet access remains a thorny issue. According to the Hootsuite platform, about 1.7 million Togolese had access to the Internet in 2019 for various activities, including e-commerce. Despite the astonishing success of the e-commerce sector since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, the lack of infrastructure and its high costs remain a headache for the authorities. From now on, the only challenge to be taken to strengthen this sector remains access to the Internet connection. And the authorities want to put the package by 2022. Digital Economy Minister Cina Lawson announces that “about 90% of the population will have access to high-speed internet by 2022” and strategies have been defined to achieve this result. Not enough for sector actors. The latter believe that significant efforts are needed, especially with regard to the lack of infrastructure. “We believe it will be necessary to strengthen the existing communication infrastructure in order to positively impact the sector,” adds Bertrand Aquereburu, application developer. We will never be able to make this e-commerce sector one of the pillars of the economy if the main input, which is the Internet, is not available to everyone. “Small agricultural cooperatives would like to have websites to reach their customers via the Internet, but the problem of connectivity in rural areas is an obstacle to the development of the e-commerce sector,” he said.

In West Africa, Togo is not the least equipped country in terms of Internet connectivity, both in terms of fixed broadband and in terms of mobile internet penetration. Indeed, according to Togolese authorities, the Internet penetration rate has tripled, from 7% in 2016 to 21% in 2019. However, Togocom, a major Internet access provider that was once public and recently privatized, retains its dominance in terms of market share in providing Internet access, but the quality of the service offered remains desirable. The rise of the e-commerce sector begins with attracting foreign companies specializing in the sector, such as the French group Majorel, which has just been founded in Togo.

But will the arrival of foreign competition better serve this sector? For now, experts gathered during the first edition of e-commerce week, held in the Togolese capital from August 16-29, prefer to recommend cooperation between different actors to lay the groundwork for launching the post-Covid-19 period. Because if the notoriety of e-commerce around the world is well established, especially with the current health crisis, the sector is just beginning to structure in Togo.

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