Amidst the evolving strategies and initiatives to halt the spread of coronavirus pandemic around the globe, shifting consumer behaviour to online trade channels and digital platforms can provide the needed incentive to keep people safe and by extension promote the growth of Nigeria’s e-commerce industry.
Keeping safe and staying alive is everyone’s most cherished watchword at this time. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in many of the countries including Nigeria is not abating despite concerted steps by governments, private sector players, multilateral organisations and other stakeholders to halt the rate of transmission.
In the face of the escalation of the pandemic, the Nigerian government and 36 state governments are strengthening enforcement and compliance of residents with the stay-at-home order aimed to check the movement of people.
By implication, Nigerians will stay at home for longer days, weeks or even months. Disruption in the logistics and supply chain that has already affected the availability of basic essential goods will also be disrupted further. The likelihood of a shortage of foods, water, toiletries, drugs, and other essential items may result in days to come, as existing products in the warehouses and those on the shelves at the supermarkets and malls may run out.
As farmers are unable to go to farms and producers unable to produce more products or push out inventories in the warehouses, zero productivity and deserted open market stalls would further impact negatively on the already weak national economy.
As the ongoing multi-stakeholder actions redouble to end COVID-19, it is salutary to mention the important role that logistics service operators have been playing in helping to keep people safe at home since the commencement of the presidential 14-day lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States and Abuja, on March 29, which has seen a further 2 weeks extension till the end of April.
Jumia has been at the forefront of e-Commerce operators in Nigeria that has implemented a deliberate strategy to promote the safety of Nigerians in the midst of COVID-19.
Aligned with its recent COVID-19 inspired campaign theme, ‘Stay Safe with Jumia. Shop from home and have it delivered contact-free!’, Jumia promotes ‘cashless’ payments and ‘contactless’ delivery of prepaid packages to curb COVID-19 in Africa. The ingenuity entails taking measures that keep customers, delivery agents and partners safe by leveraging on JumiaPay payment platform that enables consumers to make prepaid payments for products online and get them delivered without a direct body contact or cash exchange with the delivery agents.
Recently, Jumia has announced partnerships with brands like Reckitt Benckiser, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola to enable customers to have access to essential hygiene products at affordable prices during the lockdown.
According to Massimiliano Spalazzi, CEO of Jumia Nigeria, the company’s well-trained delivery agents enforce necessary standards during delivery of products purchased and paid for online, to the customers at home. They are instructed to call or text on arrival at the customer’s place and drop off the package at their doorstep, then step back to the safe distance limit and wait for the customer to take the package before leaving.
“The health and safety of our customers and delivery agents are our absolute priority. We are uniquely positioned to step up and be part of Africa’s response strategy in this challenging time. We have implemented a “contactless” delivery option, which eliminates any possibility of physical contact. Convenience, social distancing and cashless measures are woven into one solution to combat the current situation,” Spalazzi stated.
Other logistics firms like Konga, Jiji are encouraged to adopt Jumia’s contactless delivery model so the country can reduce person-to-person transmission of coronavirus while at the same time help to meet the surge in demand for essential goods and services already triggered by lockdown in most parts of Nigeria.
It is worthy of commendation to also note that through Jumia Logistics, the leading e-Commerce company has been enabling micro, small and medium businesses to stay afloat amidst the pandemic while at the same time ensuring people get their essential needs delivered to them in the comfort of their homes and keep safe.
Even ahead of the outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria, Jumia had responded to the challenges within the Nigeria logistics ecosystem by developing the appropriate technology and data-driven model. It did this by opening up its logistics and marketing services to third parties and partners including Gokada and restaurant, kitchen, ticketing and airline service providers.
Through its vast data-driven logistics and huge online marketplace, Jumia facilitates one big virtual meeting place for MSMEs, retailers and buyers to provide end-to-end contactless supply and demand chain.
Commenting on the Jumia Logistics, Country Manager for Jumia Services, Tolulope Geroge-Yanwah, said Jumia leverages major pillars to scale its third-party logistics service, and these include unparalleled physical and network infrastructure; and its people.
Others are its proprietary technology tools powering the entire network; its scale and its omnipresence – 25% of deliveries in 2019 was in rural areas, 50% in urban cities, and 25% in small cities.
Also, Jumia Nigeria through its point-to-point line hauls services has an established network that can handle bulk movements in key markets across different product categories. It also backstops for third parties by providing highly skilled and trained manpower in tackling logistics challenges.
A shift to the online trade channels can indeed, provide Nigerians with the needed incentive to keep safe and by extension promote the growth of Nigeria’s e-commerce industry in the midst of the increasing rate of coronavirus transmission.
Jumia beyond any reasonable doubt has proven to be the number one e-Commerce and logistics enabler and safest way to shop as the COVID-19 scourge rages. Its unwavering commitment to investment and innovation has also endeared it as the number one preferred online platform of choice that has played and continues to play critical roles in our socio-economic life as individuals, households, firms and government and the future.
These and many more are reasons the government should accord e-Commerce operators their right place, as done in other developed countries where e-Commerce platforms serve as the critical logistics and supply backbone during emergency situations including the time of lockdown.
In the wake of the rising spread of coronavirus, countries such as China, U.S., UK, Spain, Italy and others relied on e-Commerce channels for the logistics and supply of food, water, drugs, toiletries and essential needs to the people during lockdowns. In the U.S., e-commerce giant Amazon even implemented fresh employment of over 100,000 Americans as a result of increased orders for supplies occasioned by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Emmanuel Nwachukwu is a Public Relations Executive and Social Commentator based in Lagos