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Op-Ed

Navigating The Evolution: The Future of Retail and E-commerce in Nigeria

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By: F. O Elegba 

Tracing the evolution of e-commerce in Nigeria is a compelling journey that mirrors the nation’s technological evolution. Rewind to the early 2000s when the internet began to weave its way into the fabric of everyday life, Nigerians still had a lackadaisical approach to shopping online, then. e-commerce pioneers emerged, navigating uncharted digital territories.

In those nascent years, online transactions faced skepticism due to concerns about cybersecurity and a lack of trust in digital payments. Yet, trailblazers persisted. Platforms like Konga and Jumia took the bold step of creating online marketplaces offering a variety of products to a population hungry for convenience. The mid-2010s marked a turning point as internet accessibility expanded. With the proliferation of smartphones, more Nigerians could connect to the digital realm and this shift in connectivity was a game-changer, providing the momentum needed for e-commerce to gain widespread acceptance. 

Simultaneously, innovative payment solutions emerged, addressing the trust deficit. The adoption of cash-on-delivery options bridged the gap between traditional and online shopping, gradually building confidence among consumers to make the leap into the digital marketplace. As the last decade unfolded, a surge in local startups disrupted the e-commerce landscape. Entrepreneurs harnessed the power of social media, creating platforms tailored to the Nigerian market. 

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This localization trend not only diversified product offerings but also embraced the cultural nuances that define Nigeria’s diverse consumer base. The COVID-19 pandemic, though challenging, accelerated the ecommerce boom. Lockdowns and safety concerns fueled a surge in online shopping, pushing both business and consumers to embrace digital transactions more than ever before. 

As Nigeria embraces the digital era, the landscape of retail and e-commerce is undergoing a transformative shift. With a burgeoning population and increasing internet penetration, the future promises a dynamic blend of traditional retail and tech-driven shopping experiences. Having traversed the diverse landscapes of both local and Western retail experiences, I foresee an intriguing future for Nigeria’s retail and e-commerce sectors- a future where the convergence of tradition and technology paints a vibrant picture. In Nigeria, where community bonds are strong, brick-and-mortar stores remain integral. 

However, the digital wave is unmistakable. With a deep understanding of the local market and Western retail dynamics, I believe that e-commerce will be a catalyst for change, providing unparalleled convenience to a tech-savvy and young population. The future isn’t about the demise of brick-and mortar stores, rather it’s a harmonious convergence of physical and digital realms. Retailers are likely to embrace innovative technologies, such as augmented reality and AI-driven personalization, to enhance in-store experiences and stay competitive. The Key lies in adapting global best practices to the unique nuances of Nigeria. 

As digital payment solutions gain traction, we’re witnessing a shift towards cashless transactions, marking a pivotal moment for the e-commerce landscape. This digital evolution is not about replacing traditional markets but rather enhancing and expanding their reach. I see the potential for innovative technologies to redefine the in-store experience in Nigeria. Augmented reality and AI driven personalization can be seamlessly integrated to cater to diverse consumer preferences and elevate the overall shopping experience.

Yet, success in this evolving landscape hinges on more than just technological advancements, it requires a deep understanding of local intricacies and commitment to building trust. Cybersecurity measures must be robust to reassure consumers, while business practices should be transparent to foster confidence in online transactions. In this narrative of change, the fusion of local insights with global perspectives becomes paramount. As someone with dual experiences, I advocate for an inclusive approach that embraces the tapestry of Nigeria’s cultural diversity while leveraging the efficiency and innovation from Western practices. 

In the coming years e-commerce is poised to play a pivotal role in reshaping consumer behavior, the convenience of online shopping, coupled with evolving payment solutions, will drive a surge in digital transactions and as logistics infrastructure improves, the scope for nationwide delivery networks will further boost the e-commerce ecosystem. In conclusion, the future of retail and e-commerce in Nigeria is a harmonious blend of tradition, technology, local wisdom and global innovation. 

A tale of synergy- striking the right balance between traditional and digital strategies, coupled with customer-centric solutions by bridging worlds and adapting strategies with cultural sensitivity. Nigeria can unlock its true potential of retail landscape in the exciting chapters that lie ahead, and as stakeholders we must embrace innovation, adaptability, and inclusivity to thrive in the exciting time ahead.

Op-Ed

PaySpace: Payroll integration as a business advantage

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PaySpace Director, Warren van Wyk (Image: Supplied).

Business silos have their purpose, but they are not effective. Connect the dots, and the results pay handsomely. This wisdom can revolutionise payroll operations and employee relationships. What should companies know about integrating payroll (or other operations)?

The case for integration

In Charles Duhigg’s award-winning book Habits, he tells the story of Tony Dungy, the first African-American head coach to win the Superbowl, the peak of competitive American Football. Dungy’s success hinged on a central principle: keep practising the team until their plays became reactions. The team that doesn’t have to think to respond is quicker than the one that does. The more integrated the team is, the better it performs.

Sports teams are a fitting comparison for organisations. They rely on their players’ individual skills and talents, yet those players don’t succeed if everyone is isolated and there are significant delays between them. Businesses call these ‘silos’. Silos are not bad. Like a talented player, a silo creates a safe space for people and processes to flourish. But if they are too isolated, they quickly lose their effectiveness.

The answer is integration, says Warren van Wyk, Director at PaySpace, “Silos are important but have their limits. It’s tempting to try and remove those silos, but that is often the wrong approach. It’s much more effective to integrate silos by connecting them through special channels. The concept works well in business, and it works incredibly well in modern technology.”

Today’s digital systems thrive through integration, often called the ‘API economy’. An API (application programming interface) is software that translates instructions between two systems. For example, rather than multiple applications having copies of a database, they can all draw information from a central database via its API, cutting down on duplication and confusion.

Integration forms the modern digital economy’s backbone, along with the cloud and broadband internet. When businesses integrate their primary systems, they produce substantial benefits.

Payroll that works for everyone

Payroll systems offer a practical example of this dynamic. Payroll is typically isolated. Though it might share some connections with other business systems, such as HR and finance, the information is often added manually and usually by a handful of people who crunch payroll runs at monthly intervals.

This is labour-intensive, prone to errors, opens opportunities for fraud, and stops payroll from becoming a living part of the organisation. Yet payroll is crucial to every company. Miss a salary run or miscalculate remuneration, and you quickly have angry employees. Isolated payrolls also drag down the speed of leave applications and are often marginalised in financial discussions.

“An isolated payroll system is not a benefit,” says van Wyk. “Even if it works, I can guarantee it is still inefficient and lacks visibility. Many CFOs and other finance professionals have a very hands-off relationship with payroll, which doesn’t make sense as it’s often their biggest and most complicated expenditure. But the reason they end up there is because it’s easy for payroll to fall into a silo rut.”

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Getting payroll integration right

Integration overcomes the silos and marginalised operations in a business. It can be a complicated journey but with great benefits. Smooth the transition with these tips:

  • Look for an HR, finance or ERP platform that offers payroll integration options. Outdated and legacy software struggles with integration, while new-generation cloud-native platforms are natural. These platforms can partner with other modern software, such as cloud-native and multi-tenant payroll platforms with native API capabilities.
  • Embrace APIs. Some providers work around integration shortcomings by using flat files or other tricks. However, an API approach is the only truly effective and long-term way to invest in integration for payroll or any other business area.
  • Involve the system’s users. The departments and people who use those systems are crucial to helping plan and design the relevant processes and data. Manage integration through collaboration, not dictation.
  • Take stock of in-house skills. Larger enterprises with substantial IT skills may have some of what they need for integration projects. Using these skills will help reduce project costs and improve delivery times. But integration is specialised—don’t make the mistake of thinking in-house technologies can do it all. They will need complementing partner skills and experience.
  • Explore Integration Platform as a Service (iPaas) Tools. These toolsets enable you to rapidly build powerful applications, data and API integrations from a single interface in minutes using a low code integration platform. This could result in substantial savings if you have the in-house technical skills that are not necessarily specialised back-end sleepers.
  • Vet your integration partner. An integration partner brings experience and skills to the table. They should be able to demonstrate their project history and provide reference sites. Select partners that do their homework, especially towards understanding the specific systems you want to integrate.
  • Go cloud-native. Genuine cloud-native systems support integration, digital workflow design, and business process management. The best sign of a cloud-native system is a single-instance, multi-tenant platform, meaning one cloud software serves multiple customers. This model powers SalesForce, Slack, Microsoft 365, and other cloud-era giants. Cloud-native software is more affordable, faster to integrate, and future-proof.

Not sure where to start? Contact specialists such as PaySpace to discuss your payroll integration options, and start making this crucial business silo a team player in your enterprise.

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Op-Ed

Sam Tayengwa: Navigating the Future of Insurance in Africa

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Sam Tayengwa, CEO of TransUnion Rwanda and Head of Growth Africa Regions (Image: Supplied).

With more than 400 million people between the ages of 15 and 35, Africa has the youngest, fastest-growing, and arguably most digitally savvy population in the world. Given the rapid evolution of technology and research from The TransUnion Trends and Outlook Report for Personal, Commercial, and Life Insurance in 2023 showing that 47% of Generation Z indicate a willingness to purchase life and health insurance online, the potential of this market segment cannot be ignored. Companies therefore need to think smarter when it comes to delivering online insurance solutions while at the same time educating the market on how best to benefit from digital offerings.

By using data more efficiently, insurers can improve customer experiences while managing risks – especially when it comes to people who have no credit profiles. But data means little if insights are locked away inside it. The right data at the right time is essential to make trust possible. Operating in over 30 countries, eight of which are in Africa, we have proven ourselves as a partner who empowers our customers with the information needed to make more accurate predictions when it comes to managing risk, especially amongst the influx of ‘young’ consumers entering the insurance segment for the first time.

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Adding further complexity to insurance markets across the continent is the continued cost of living crisis. Consumers are desperately trying to weather the economic crisis and looking at ways to manage inflationary increases, as well as fuel, food prices, and interest rate hikes.

TransUnion research has found that 67% of consumers surveyed in East and Southern Africa indicated that they have reduced their discretionary spending. But even with these cutbacks, at least one in three people are unable to pay any of their bills and loans in full. This makes the insurance value proposition, which many consumers view as a luxury expense, even more difficult to sell.

Market forces

Challenging conditions are creating a profitability challenge for insurers who have been forced to reassess their marketing and underwriting plans while looking internally at how to cut costs. Invariably, this has led to an increase in premiums for existing customers.

Digitalisation across the policy lifecycle and meeting the online expectations of the young population require insurers to rethink their approach to technology. So, while it is essential to adopt the latest innovations to digitalise more traditional insurance practices, it is not just about technology. Insurers must make sure that the human touch points remain in place to build a personal connection with their customer base.

On the flip side of this, new technologies and the use of non-traditional data sources are seeing insurers able to make the policy-writing process more accurate, efficient, and equitable. Now, insurance policies can be more effectively tailored to deliver on individual requirements as opposed to an ‘off-the-shelf’ policy.

Addressing critical needs

However, it is not enough for insurers to embrace advanced technologies and provide more innovative platforms to sell life and health products. It is also essential to transform people’s skills across Africa, especially when it comes to their awareness of insurance and how essential it is.

Part of this entails moving with people as opposed to leaving them behind. Insurance of the future is all about financial inclusion and how no person can afford not to have policies in place. The financial literacy gap when it comes to insurance and the means to buy it must be addressed. Currently, people are not catching up to the technology. This means insurers need to take a step back, review what they are doing, and ensure that they are doing their part to educate the market.

Data identity

All this combines to reflect just how important the consumer is in the relationship. Insurers have realised that it is the end-user who holds all the power in today’s uncertain market. They demand fast, easy, safe, and personalised experiences especially when it comes to essential products and services like insurance.

Consumers expect service providers to know who they are, what their likes and dislikes are, and what their most pressing concerns are all based on the data they provide. Think of this as an individual data identity that translates into a comprehensive data profile of a person – their digital DNA. This data identity influences the opportunities and experiences available to an individual. In this age of data availability, consumers can also access ‘their’ data and decide what to share with whom.

At a top level, the insurance industry faces uncertainty as regulatory bodies discuss and define methods to explore the concepts of fairness and equity in the use of consumer data for insurance transactions. And yet, this presents the insurance sector with a great platform to help drive financial inclusion. Fundamentally, the sustainability of an efficient insurance market is having a comprehensive customer view that will result in an improved insurance experience.

With data identities in place, insurers can access demographics, behaviours, preferences, financial relationships, and even the assets of individuals. All this combines to empower the insurer to develop extensive solutions designed to protect individual and household assets. The result – an improved experience across the insurance lifecycle.

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Op-Ed

Middle East Crisis Brings African Leadership Into The Spotlight

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Middle East in Crisis & Conflict: A Primer, Author Taufiq Rahim (Image: Supplied).

As the world grapples with the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, it has opened the door for African leadership on a global stage. The new best-selling book released this month, Middle East in Crisis & Conflict: A Primer, by leading geopolitical strategist Taufiq Rahim, serves as a critical tool for experts and leaders alike, and covers the wide-ranging geopolitical, economic, and social ramifications of this enduring conflict.

For leaders with global aspirations, understanding the dynamics of the Middle East conflict is paramount. It’s not just about the immediate consequences; it’s about comprehending how this crisis reshapes alliances, trade routes, and cooperation among nations. Africa, in particular, stands at a crossroads, as the continent’s leaders must navigate the shifting landscape of international relations.

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The Middle East intersects with Africa’s economic future, especially as the Global South consolidates into a formidable bloc. While the immediate focus is on the localized violence in Gaza, there are broader consequences already unfolding. The shifting alliances due to the conflict that is already emerging, will reorient around how African countries will engage the Gulf, the Middle East and even the broader Global South. 

In comparing the ripple effects of the Middle East conflict to the Russia-Ukraine war unveils subtle yet impactful consequences. While the latter disrupted grain imports and energy markets, the former exerts its influence in even sharper ways. Particular attention is paid to the rise of extremist activities across Africa. Yet it is the clear gap of leadership in the West amidst this crisis that is strengthening the growing consolidation of BRICS nations, as well as the need for investment and trade routes that connect the Middle East and Africa directly. Political solidarity is giving way to economic solidarity. 

In response to these challenges, African leaders must seize the opportunities presented by the vacuum left by Western powers. By providing leadership and resources in humanitarian efforts, Africa can assert its continental power projection. Moreover, this moment offers a unique chance for African businesses to expand into regions traditionally dominated by Western brands.

Taufiq Rahim has a personal background from East Africa, which has enriched his perspective on these issues. His professional journey, spanning investment, technology, and global development, provides valuable insights into the economic impact of Middle East conflicts on Africa, and the broader implications in a shifting world order.. By drawing on his experiences, Rahim illuminates the path forward for African leaders amidst current global events.

In conclusion, the Middle East conflict’s repercussions are already reverberating across continents. Africa must rise to the occasion, leveraging its strengths to navigate these turbulent times and forge a brighter future for all.

 

About the Book

Since the devastating attacks by Hamas on October 7, 2023, and the subsequent bombardment by Israel of Gaza, there has been an escalating crisis in the Middle East. With an overflow of news, images, and social media, it is hard to make sense of it all. Middle East in Crisis and Conflict: A Primer distills the information, insights, and implications you need to navigate ongoing developments.

Rahim comprehensively but concisely threads together the current moment and the wider context. Drawing on a background working across many of the countries affected and in different spheres–humanitarian, political, and business–he highlights the main facts, stakeholders, and historical moments in one highly readable volume. The Primer is certain to be a leading starting point for experts and observers alike for the events of October 7 and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict overall.

About the Author

Taufiq Rahim is a Strategist, investor, and writer  who focuses on the intersection of global geopolitics and transformative technology in a changing world. He first began work in the Middle East in the rural communities of Syria in 2003 and is currently building platforms within the 2040 World nexus. Taufiq Rahim’s deep ties to East Africa and his extensive professional background make him a trusted voice on issues of global significance. Through his work, he continues to advocate for meaningful solutions to complex challenges facing our world today.

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