The Nigeria Population Commission estimates that Nigeria’s population is over 198 million as of 2018 with more than half under the age of 30. The youth and adult population are either digital natives or digital migrants. They are expected to have access to the internet, own a smartphone and know how to operate a computer. This is the required knowledge to survive in the tech world.
This is not the case in an emerging economy like Nigeria where there is yet to be digital equity. Digital equity is the equal access and opportunity to digital tools, resources and services to increase digital knowledge. Digital tools include internet, computer and smartphones among others.
The lack of digital equity has no doubt limited eCommerce participation in Nigeria. The industry led by Jumia, Nigeria’s no 1 shopping destination, is worth more than $13 billion and is projected to reach $75 billion in revenues per annum by 2025. This is strengthened by fast-growing youth populations, expanding consumer power and increased smartphone and internet penetration.
These ‘beautiful’ figures are mainly derived from Nigerians who inhabit some urban areas because they have unrestricted access to the internet and they can afford a smartphone.
However, for the rural dwellers, they have little or no access to digital tools. What about the gender divide in internet usage? This does not recognize the rural-urban boundaries. It cuts across.
The GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2018 found that women in low and middle-income countries are on average 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which translate into 184 million fewer women owning mobile phones.
Bringing it closer to home, research by the Web Foundation reported that women suffer disproportionately from this digital divide. A survey of over 700 women conducted by the foundation in Lagos Nigeria found that while 66% of men had accessed the internet in the previous six months, only 36% of women had.
The rewards of digital equity is like a bottomless pit. The eCommerce industry will be worth more than $13 bn because every single locale in Nigeria will be covered.
But first, digital infrastructures have to be provided in all states of the federation. There should be no commune or locale that should not have a mobile and internet network in this country. The government owes Nigerians this responsibility.
Jumia is also making efforts to ensure digital parity in Nigeria. It has introduced various campaigns to enable Nigerians to shop online at the most affordable prices. One of them is the mobile week where smartphones are sold at very affordable prices.
With this, both men and women can afford to buy smartphones thus bridging the digital gap. Interestingly, Jumia is also going the extra mile to deliver orders to many rural communities in Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan. These places have limited infrastructures. This shows that Jumia recognizes the need for digital equity.
Closing the digital gap represents a substantial commercial opportunity for the ecommerce industry. It means more Nigerians will participate in the digital economy.