20151027 From online shopping to poverty reduction 370x298This month the Coffey-managed GEMS4 project sponsored a summit that brought together entrepreneurs and e-commerce experts in Nigeria to discuss sales and marketing strategies for micro, small and medium enterprises. The summit was organised by one of Nigeria’s largest e-commerce platforms, Konga.com.

The initiative is part of GEMS4’s work to increase the use of e-commerce platforms by low-income traders and producers, especially women. Internet use is growing rapidly in Nigeria. In 2004, less than one per cent of the population was online. By 2014, 38% of Nigerians were using the internet. As online shopping becomes more popular, it provides a new way for low income female producers and traders to gain access to large markets.

Due to social, cultural and economic barriers, female-owned businesses comprise only 11% of all wholesale and retail small enterprises in Nigeria. 
E-commerce offers a way to get past some of these barriers.

For instance, in northern Nigeria many women are not able to move around freely and sell products at traditional markets. Online shopping platforms give them the ability to sell their goods to millions of customers without requiring them to leave their homes.

In addition to co-sponsoring the Konga.com summit, GEMS4 is working with online retail platforms to mobilise women to sign up as vendors and is providing training to women on how to use the platforms more effectively. The project is partnering with MIN, a website focused on made in Nigeria products.

In collaboration with MIN, GEMS4 recently organised summits in six states, for nearly 1000 participants, 55% of whom were women or women-owned businesses. The summits were used to explain the opportunities of e-commerce, familiarise participants with the MIN platform, and encourage them to sign up as vendors.

Representatives from government bodies provided participants with information on regulatory requirements for selling their goods, including on using brand names and getting correct certification for food and cosmetics products. Many of the participants had not known that they needed to register their products, or how they could do this.

In the coming weeks the GEMS4 team will work to get the 1000 traders and retailers it has met at the summits to register as vendors on the e-commerce platforms. So far, about 440 women have registered on the MIN platform, and 180 have uploaded their products.

GEMS4 is a UK-government funded project focused on the wholesale and retail sector. It will run until 2017.