Nothing prepared the world for the pandemic outbreak in 2020, but with this misfortune came a myriad of lessons for African businesses navigating the ecosystem despite unfavourable economic conditions. Sitting at the core of this list is Digitization, the proverbial holy grail, an evolution that began long before the outbreak of COVID-19.
One of the best things to have happened to our African economy is the advent of the internet. Through the mid-’90s to the late 2000s, we saw a steady shift in digital trends, from basic phones used in sending out SMS to the entry of the smartphone era. Over decades, these smartphones have continued to adopt various models as new brands joined the boom, yet one of its greatest strengths remains its contribution to the growth of Africa’s business sector. A clear illustration is the use of social media; a powerful resource that allows users to connect with a global audience in a few clicks. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other social media
platforms are evolving with new business models daily to encourage e-commerce at your fingertips.
Now, if this advancement in technology attempted to dispel the idea that you must own a physical store to run a business, the pandemic cemented it. At a time when everything seemed to be crumbling as businesses faced a rapid decline, the choices were to either swim or sink. To survive, these small businesses needed to innovate and innovate they did.
According to a study published by Mariam Saleh for Statista, an online survey was conducted in 2020 and 2021, resulting in the finding that there is a booming demand for e-commerce in Africa since the COVID-19 outbreak. 81% of consumers in Nigeria are shopping more online since the beginning of the pandemic, while Kenya and Ghana registered a 79% increase in online purchases. In South Africa, online shopping grew by 68% and over half of consumers reported that they were buying more groceries and clothing items online.
These figures are largely achievable because of social media. In no less than 10 minutes, an individual can set up a business profile, put up photos of their products, and find an audience interested in making a purchase. A large chunk of these findings was fundamental to the birthing of Showlove, another product of the pandemic outbreak. This platform seeks to explore digitization as a tool for spreading kindness and reclaiming connections through gifting; and what better way than by creating a community of small and medium scale businesses to enable a seamless buying process. As such, Showlove can be described as a merger between e-commerce and digital gifting, all operating in a socially-enabled environment that encourages requesting, giving, and receiving gifts without hassle. There never was a better time for Showlove to exist than now, in the wake of the pandemic, where human connections are more integral than ever.
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In a nutshell, although the Covid-19 outbreak is remembered as one of the darkest times in recent history, ironically it was a time that birthed a digital revolution like never before. Many businesses are reaping the benefits of digitization and are scaling their business more than ever. If there’s something we have learnt from the pandemic, it is that there is always a silver lining. For people and their businesses, we can agree that challenges are often a sign of the need to innovate.