In a country where the rural population stands at almost 14 million constituting 42.7% of the total population,it is not surprising that the need for ecommerce expansion to such areas has been on the lips of many businesses. To prevent rural-urban migration, it has become imperative that better living conditions,access to essential items and basic amenities should be provided. Unfortunately, it is not the lack of products but rather the lack of a good logistics system that reaches the corners of our land which is the real issue. For many in the rural areas, being able to access the essential items and products they wish to buy is a real challenge. In the past, many rural settlers relied on their friends and family in the big cities to buy these things and bring them to them as and when they visited. This sometimes takes too long and the need for these products may not be there when the package finally arrives. With the adoption of ecommerce in many parts of the country, many rural consumers can now purchase their items online without travelling long distances. However, the problem of how these orders reached them finally persisted until ecommerce companies introduced effective logistics structures. An example of such logistics platforms is Jumia Services, a part of Africa’s leading ecommerce ecosystem. Below we take a look at how rural areas are benefitting from these logistics structures.
● Distributed Storage (Warehousing) for SME and Large Organizations – When we talk about rural areas, we may always be biased towards thinking about the consumers and what they benefit from ecommerce. However, one very important benefit of ecommerce to rural areas is that of warehousing for SMEs in these areas. For many individuals in these rural areas, getting access to their consumers who may be in different parts of the country can be challenging. For example a bead maker in Tamale who produces a large volume of beads will only be able to distribute effectively to his/her consumers in the big city if he can get a place to stock up these products. For food products and essential products, it is very easy to distribute all over the country once there is a central point. Warehousing by some ecommerce companies such as Jumia allows SMEs in the rural areas to sell more and have a safe place to keep items until they are sold.
● Delivery Services – From the warehouse comes the actual delivery. With many of the roads leading to rural areas being in bad shape, access to these communities is often difficult and very expensive. With the adoption of motorbikes and vans, many ecommerce businesses now deliver to the doorsteps of consumers. This ends up being far more affordable and convenient for the consumers as these riders use new technologies, maps and other apps to facilitate accurate deliveries to the right addresses. Consumers can also track their orders in real time and schedule deliveries at their own convenience.
● Payment Solutions – Carrying large sums of money from typical rural areas to the city to make payments has always been a tricky affair. Many people in rural areas ideally prefer to pay for goods and services in cash. With the recent covid-19 outbreak in the world, it has become very important that everyone embraces online payments. Paying for orders has now become very easy for everyone and rural folk do not necessarily have to travel to other cities or rely on other people to make payments. Once an order is placed, the consumer can pay for it instantly and get confirmations. Alternatively , they can pay on delivery when the item gets to them. Due to the very efficient logistics platform that is mostly directly linked to online payment portals, rural folk find it fairly easy to purchase, pay for and receive their items quickly and conveniently.
● Pick Up stations – This arm of the logistics structure has grown in Ghana over the past few years especially during the covid-19 pandemic. The availability of pick-up stations almost everywhere in rural areas today makes it easy for consumers in such areas to get their packages faster and pay reduced shipping fees for them. Imagine picking up your order just 5minutes away from your home instead of waiting for weeks and having to travel to the city to pick up that same order. All you need is order, pay for it and provide the order confirmation number together with a valid identity card and your item is yours.
● Job creation – Finally, there is one aspect of great benefit to many people in rural areas. Apart from various small stalls and shops being used as pick-up stations, many people in rural communities have found jobs in the logistics sector thanks to the expansion of ecommerce to these areas. Generally, finding a good job in Ghana seems difficult with many young people these days turning to entrepreneurship. There are many different opportunities along the logistics value chain that rural folk can tap into. Warehouse support staff, pick up station attendants and delivery associates are all needed in this space. All of such opportunities have been made possible by the successful marriage between e-commerce and logistics.
With internet penetration and smartphone adoption in Ghana continuously increasing, we are poised for a greater expansion of ecommerce to more rural cities. Data charges and strong internet connectivity coupled with the introduction of technologies such as 4 & 5G are making it possible for everyone everywhere to access the internet and enjoy the benefits of ecommerce. Logistics seems to be an integral part of this success story and several opportunities are there for everyone especially those in the rural areas. We must continue to play our parts and ensure the growth and development of ecommerce in Ghana.