Country Manager of OLX Nigeria, Lola Masha, in this interview with CHIMA AKWAJA speaks global companies’ attraction to Nigeria, the rise of the e-commerce companies and the role the Nigeria Cybercrime Act will play in curbing online fraud.
There appears to be a growing attraction of global companies to the Nigerian market, what is the reason for the sudden interest?
Several and I will start by answering the attraction to Africa as a whole. If you look around the globe and you look at growth rates across different markets, at the last assessment, Africa was growing at five per cent which is higher than the other regions. America, Europe and Asia markets are slowing down and Africa is the last frontier in terms of growth.
Global companies look for global markets and realise that there is so much potential in Africa. So, when you narrow down to Africa and where to begin your investment, Nigeria is the largest market in Africa by her Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Nigeria is also the largest in terms of population and even in terms of intellectual capacity which is not optimised fully.
But frankly speaking, in Nigeria, we are extremely creative, innovative and intelligent with all ingredients that you need to be successful, which I think is probably why we have seen increased foreign directing investment (FDI) in this country.
How would you assess Nigeria’s mobile and e-commerce growth?
It is phenomenal. Frankly, what we have seen is that over 60 per cent of traffic comes from mobile phones versus desktop and it also speaks of the spirit of Nigerians which is very innovative and adaptable and also willing to try new technologies. We found out that we had to step up our game and reach users on their mobile devices.
This was by building a robust mobile application that would encourage lots of users to download as well as a robust site where users could buy and sell easily just like they would on their desktop. You know we have to stay ahead of the game in capturing and riding on the mobile waves. The potential of the market is tremendous. Nigeria is an elementary large market and the opportunity is here and is very tremendous. We are constantly working to grow the market and to cement our position in Nigeria. Even though we are number one, we see ourselves as still growing and still emerging. It is still very early in the game but we always have to be aggressive and stay on our toes to ensure that nobody comes from behind to take over.
What is the value Of Nigeria’s online classified market?
Classified e-commerce is a type of e-commerce business model whereby we provide a platform where individuals buy and sell between each other. The difference between the classified e-commerce and the traditional e-commerce players are for example, we don’t have a warehouse, we don’t store the items, it is only a platform to buy and sell.
We did a quick assessment of the value of household goods that Nigerians have in their homes and we estimated N512 billion in terms of value of household used goods that Nigerians have in their homes and number of used cars was put at 15 million registered vehicles right now, which is about the population of some countries.
It is higher than what we have in Kenya where there are about three million vehicles and South Africa which has 11 million vehicles. We definitely have more registered cars on the road in Nigeria than what we have in South Africa and the market is tremendous and we are looking forward to capture the opportunity here.
What are the operating challenges in the Nigerian environment?
In terms of challenges, one is the fact that we don’t have a strong identification system when we are trying to fight fraud to improve trust and safety. It is important to keep an eye on who you are dealing with and I think that is an area that is challenging.
To surmount that challenge, we are hoping that the introduction of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) will help in providing some identity that is consistent across different banks and institutions for Nigerian users. But again, we are willing to work with all relevant stakeholders to have some robust identification and data sharing models for all our players to tap into.
In terms of challenges as a classified business, I think the first one would be educating Nigerians on how to safely transact on the platform. In spite of our efforts, I think we need to continuously preach the message to Nigerian users keeping in mind that we don’t have a culture of classified online. We have classified in the newspapers but it is not as wide spread as you find in other markets.
We have to continuously and essentially, always teach Nigerians how to publicly conduct safe trading using online classified, which is different from buying from an e-tailer (electronic retailer) company where you place your order and they have items in their warehouse which they package and deliver. We don’t have that. We constantly educate users that we are different from those companies and we don’t work the same way. These are the things you really need to keep in mind to successfully use the platform.
Can the cybercrime Act curb e-commerce fraud?
We have to continue to take steps to protect our users and make e-commerce safe. The first thing is to have the Cybercime Act which we have done and I think the next step is to successfully execute and implement them and we are very open to working with corporate regulatory bodies and appropriate government agencies to have the conversation on how to implement it successfully to protect e-commerce.
When we came into the country, we actually had a very neutral stand and we did not assume that Nigeria is any more fraudulent than any other market that we are operating in. So, we launched the exact product with exact features to see what will happen. Unfortunately, we were burnt. What we saw was that there was higher rate of fraud in Nigeria than we were seeing in other countries we operated in. We observed more fraud in Nigeria than elsewhere, so we had to take action to limit those users. We blocked them. We also do physical verification whereby if you want to post your cars on our platform today, we send our agents to inspect it to make sure that it is as you described. These are steps that we have to take to protect our users; it is expensive for us to do this frankly.
Find and buy cheap phone and laptop
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