How e-commerce addresses Nigeria’s unemployment challenges


It is no longer news that Nigeria shares the unenviable status of being among countries with the highest unemployment rate in the world. However, e-commerce can help change the narrative about opportunity, inclusion and balance in the Nigerian economic landscape, especially for Nigeria’s teeming youth population.

A joint research by the World Bank and Alibaba Group revealed that e-commerce can be a powerful instrument for employment for semi-skilled workers and women in developing countries and in rural areas.

The job creation figures of leading global e-commerce brands should be an encouragement for more focus and investment in this sector of the economy. America’s Amazon disclosed recently that over 200,000 small businesses on its platform have created over 1.8 million U.S jobs. The Amazon brand alone has over 100,000 employees on its payroll. Today, China has the fastest and largest growing e-commerce market in the world, accounting for more than 40% of the total value of e-commerce transactions worldwide. Simply put, more than 5% of employment in China is in e-commerce.

One might wonder how an industry that limits human contact holds such a huge employment prospect. A local example thus suffices. Alerzo limited, a business-to-business e-commerce platform commenced operations less than three years ago. Presently, it directly employs more than 3,000 people in its chain of activities. Jumia, a b2c platform, currently has over 15,000 sellers on its platform.

If well explored, experts have projected that the electronic commerce sub-sector of the economy is capable of creating about 23 million jobs. Tech enthusiast Samuel Elegba, is of the opinion that this is achievable given the exploit of e-commerce brands in recent years. “Things have changed globally. Technology is eroding every aspect of business. I visualise e-commerce companies becoming large employers of quality human capital in Nigeria within the next decade, and maybe the highest taxpayers if given a chance to survive by the government during their incubation period.

“Our league of e-commerce players have shown in a short period of time what they can do in terms of innovative solutions, human capacity development and employment. Cumulatively, they have created hundreds of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly,” he said.

Despite the fact that contact and face-to-face interactions are limited in the e-commerce service space, the interconnectedness of the industry requires that thousands of individuals work behind the scenes to ensure orders are processed seamlessly to customers’ preference and satisfaction. Aside from customer service representatives who interact with customers, take orders and customer complaints, the shipping clerks, order fillers, hand packers, packagers, keep records and ensure orders are properly packaged and in good condition for transportation.

Apart from managers who oversee the daily operations in warehouses, there are also the market research analysts who study market conditions to examine potential sales of products. E-commerce thrives on technology, which thus provides job opportunities for young software and web engineers who create programmes and also handle online stores’ technical aspects.

Also critical in the chain are the last mile delivery agents. The immense employment and growth impact of e-commerce on logistics cannot be overemphasised. The recent boom in logistics business in major economic cities of Nigeria is being driven by e-commerce. A crucial point to also note in the chain is that as e-commerce firms expand their operation in major cities and rural areas, they bring with them economic opportunities for these residents of local communities.

If given more attention, support and infrastructure investment, e-commerce will not only help in development of rural communities, but immensely reduce employment deficit in Nigeria.

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