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Growing economies, an emerging middle class and increased connectivity. These are three things that a number of African countries have experienced over the past few years. They also however represent a massive ecommerce opportunity. Microsoft 4Afrika, together with online payments company Skrill and a number of mobile operators, are looking to tap into it with the launch of a new portal.
Launched today at communications conference AfricaCom, the portal will enable Africans to use their mobile wallets to buy from global internet brands, access free educational content and use Microsoft software.
Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent, with cities enjoying strong levels of wireless and data coverage,”says Nilesh Pandya, SVP of emerging markets at Skrill. “It has the world’s most youthful populations and we know that it is the younger generations that are often first to embrace technology. Disposable incomes are rapidly increasing, making discretionary spend on e-commerce an immediate reality. These conditions deliver the perfect storm for a massive surge in consumer demand for digital payments.”
As Pandya points out though, many people across the continent remain unbanked,”and so have no means of paying for global online brands. Even banked Africans often find that global online merchants are reluctant to serve these markets for credit and debit card transactions due to perceived fraud risks.”
The new portal, which is set to go live in December, aims to change that leveraging Skrill’s payment technology, as well as its network of merchants, including video on demand business iROKOtv, music download and streaming business Spinlet and a range of social gaming providers.
By logging into the portal, people are also given access to special product offers and discounts on goods and services exclusively available through this purchase route and their mobile provider.
Ecommerce transactions reportedly do not incur any additional cost for the consumer and Skrill claims that the specific fees charged to merchants, relating to this market have been determined to reflect the opportunity for growth, tempered with the challenges inherent in a new market.
By partnering with merchants, Skrill reckons that it can ensure that their products and services are available in some of the fastest growing markets in the world.
Via the portal, Microsoft will be providing free access to One Drive, as well as Outlook email addresses so that users can register accounts with the relevant merchants. Microsoft OneDrive will enable consumers to store up to 15G online free of charge.
Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative meanwhile is providing free access to educational content, from basic numeracy games to courses on app development through its virtual academy. Entrepreneurs in Africa will now have the tools required to build online businesses that Skrill will enable them to monetise.
“As part of 4Afrika’s effort towards affordable access, this portal seeks to bring Africa’s offline economies online, enabling the continent to take part in the global digital revolution, which in turn, will drive innovation, inclusion, skills and trade,” says Frank McCosker, General Manager, Affordable Access and Smart Financing, Microsoft 4Afrika.
While its clear what the partnership will entail, the companies involved did not provide a name for the new venture or details around the various means in which it might be accessed.