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E-COMMERCE EXPO AND CONFERENCE: ACCELERATING E-COMMERCE VIA FINANCIAL INCLUSION

E-COMMERCE in Zambia and Africa continues to be an unsolved riddle. Zambia has seen a significant increase in mobile phone usage as well as internet accessibility.

 According to the 2018 National ICT Survey conducted by the Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), access to the internet has dramatically increased from 12% in 2015 to 17% in 2018. 

The survey showed that smartphone users increased from 13.5% in 2015 to 29.6% in 2018 and that ownership of mobile phones has significantly increased. This increase has been coupled with access to social media which is driving this growth.

According to McKinsey, e-commerce is expected to become one of the biggest industries in Africa, with the continent positioning itself to generating yearly e-commerce sales of up to USD $75 billion by 2025. 

However, Zambia seems to be far from catching up with e-commerce innovations across the continent as the country is not reaping as much as it would due to its low adoption rate in adapting to e-commerce services despite the increase in internet coverage and mobile phone adoption as indicated by the 2018 National ICT Survey. The shortlist to the problems facing the industry in Zambia include but not limited to:

  • Internet accessibility cost
  • IT literacy
  • Lack of trust between consumers and the e-commerce businesses
  • Delivery 'nightmares' due to logistics and postal system challenges
  • Cultural inclinations as most people prefer to buy products and services from the traditional physical stores than buying from online stores due to low levels of trust between the e-commerce suppliers and the consumers

In order to mitigate some of these highlighted challenges above, Zambia will hold its second Annual E-Commerce Expo and Conference on October 5, 2019 at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka. The event will be held under the theme: “Accelerating E-Commerce via Financial Inclusion”. 

This highly anticipated event will cover content such as online banking and payments, fintech, digital marketing, mobile banking, cyber security, Internet access, last mile delivery, mobile applications and e-Commerce Websites, with a special interest on those that promote financial inclusion.

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CONFERENCE

The Zambia E-Commerce Expo and Conference (ZEEC)’ was established with the sole purpose of promoting e-commerce in Zambia and Africa with a view to fast tracking economic growth. 

This event will bring together regulators of businesses, businesses that offer e-commerce services, businesses that use e-commerce services, Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that use e-commerce services and individuals that are looking at starting an e-commerce business.

 The expo and conference will also bring together service providers and end-users in one room in order for them to engage in meaningful conversations about the present and future of e-commerce in Zambia.  The following are some of the objectives of this highly anticipated conference:

  • Create a platform were e-commerce ideas and innovations are actively discussed and acted upon.
  • Assist businesses, especially SMEs and individuals wishing to venture into e-commerce business, to understand what services are offered by which players in the sector and how they can access these services.
  •  Use the platform to link SMEs and businesses to e-commerce service providers
  • Create a complete platform for individuals and businesses/SMEs to learn about e-commerce and have on the spot access to the main players in the e-commerce space and for those players to onboard them.
  • Develop a platform where e-commerce service providers can get feedback and customer input to improve their service provision as well as a basis to develop new products.
  • Create a platform where government agencies can interact with stakeholders and get feedback on how they can improve e-commerce business.

 SPEAKERS AT THE CONFERENCE

The 2019 E-Commerce Expo and Conference will be graced by various local and international speakers who among them include Zoona Co-Founder and Group CEO, Brad Magrath, who is the keynote speaker, Chipimo V. Malekani, Country Manager for MasterCard, Betty Wilkinson, FSD Zambia Chief Executive Officer, Brian Sitamulaho, Associate Director Risk Advisory, Delloitte and Roy Muyelu, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Probase.

Conference Organiser Japhet Mesa said this year’s conference will be exciting as it has attracted a lot of positive response from last year's event and it has incorporated some of the suggestions which were made.

“The E-commerce Expo is a great opportunity for businesses to come and showcase what they are doing in the e-commerce space. It is a great opportunity to raise brand awareness among industry professionals and the key decision makers that matter,” he said.

Mesa stated that the event will be preceded by an award giving ceremony that will seek to recognise and reward businesses and individuals that are taking the lead in promoting e-commerce in Zambia.

He said the awards will also encourage other would-be industry players to continue being innovative and forward thinking in creating solutions that enhance e-commerce adding that the awards will also promote competition, which will then spur Innovation and in turn increase business to business engagement while creating employment at different phases.

CATEGORIES FOR THE AWARDS

The E-Commerce awards have been divided into the following 12 categories namely:

  • Financial Services E-Commerce Website of the Year: This award recognises an exceptional banking, financial services or insurance sector website.
  • Travel & Tourism E-Commerce Website of the Year: This award recognises an exceptional E-Commerce website that sells travel or tourism including flights, travel, holidays, cruises, short breaks, accommodation, and tourist attractions.
  • B2c E-Commerce Website of the Year: This award recognises an exceptional e-commerce website retailing direct to the consumer.
  • E-Commerce Startup of the Year: The future growth of Africa lies in the ability for it to churn our as make successful startups as possible, even as we are still searching for the first African Unicorn startup. This award recognises the startup that is making strides to advance E-Commerce adoption. This award recognizes an exceptional E-Commerce company less than 18 months old.
  • E-Commerce App: In Africa, mobile is king. This award recognises that the biggest contribution to ecommerce adoption in Africa has come from the use of mobile phones and therefore this award recognises the app that is contributing to ecommerce growth. This award celebrates an app which has delivered exceptional results for an e-commerce company.
  • Innovation Award: This awards celebrates an innovative tool, product or service that has changed e-commerce for the better or delivered outstanding results.
  • Delivery / Logistics provider of the year: Last Mile delivery has been a thorn in the growth of e-commerce in Zambia. This award recognises the company that is making strides in solving this massive challenge. This award recognises an exceptional logistics/delivery company supporting the e-commerce industry.
  • Fintech Innovation of the Year Award: This awards celebrates a fintech innovation that has had profound effects on e-commerce.
  • Financial Inclusion Initiative: Financial services are an integral part of e-commerce but many are still unserved and subsequently left out of the e-commerce ecosystem. This award recognises the financial service provider whose services are improving e-commerce adoption. This award recognizes the institutions or individuals making an impact in advancing financial inclusion.
  • Best Data Service Provider of The Year Award: Data services are essential to the growth of commerce in Africa. This award recognizes the best data provider of the Year as reliable data services have the ability to accelerate e-commerce growth in Africa.
  • Best Online Insurance Service Provider Award: This award is presented to the company that has the most innovative, competitive, and accessible and user friendly online Insurance service.
  • Pioneer Award: e-commerce faces untold difficulties in Africa and Zambia in particular. The inaugural Zambia E-Commerce Expo and Conference were held on 28 June 2018, many doubted whether the country was ripe for such an event, the success of the event proved the critics wrong. This award is for those who dare to dream and believe in the impossible

The awards are being held in collaboration with various partners, which include but not limited to Governmental organisations, Non-Governmental organisations, private entities and hosted by the Institute for Finance and Economics.

The selection process for the awards will be in three phases. The first phase will be public or self-nominations. This is where the general public will nominate their favorite in one or more categories. Businesses/individuals can also nominate themselves. 

In phase two, the nominees will be subjected to public voting. Finally, a select panel of judges which is comprised of industry experts will cast their votes for the 10 shortlisted candidates left after ranking the public vote. The combined weighted votes of the public and the Judges will then result in the ranking of the top three candidates.   

The entire budget for the hosting of the expo and conference and awards is projected to cost in excess of ZMW 200,000 and ZMW 150,000. Beyond the Awards, Expo and Conference, the Institute for Finance and Economics will continue to provide information, education and awareness about e-commerce. After the event, participants should expect to have access to a pool of e-commerce resources and business advice via the Institute of finance and economics. The Institute for Finance and Economics will be able to provide the following:

  • Give advice on e-commerce and connect SMEs to the appropriate e-commerce specialists and advisers
  • Link Businesses and SMEs to the appropriate e-commerce business partners, banks, and services providers
  • Offer business resources on e-commerce, such as comparative information on merchant service rates, EFT options, various Mobile money rates and other e-commerce centric financial and economic data
  • Link individuals interested in starting an e-commerce business and SMEs in e-commerce to financiers