Towards Electronic Commerce in Africa: A Perspective from Three Country Studies

28 February 2016

The challenges of globalisation and the information age are concentrating the minds of all African governments. Many of the issues that need to be addressed are similar but the situation in each country is different, both from an economic and a historical perspective, and the roads to the optimum realisation of the potential of ICT will be different. Studies in three African countries (Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa) have highlighted both the similarities and the differences. The similarities relate to the fact that all three countries have large and relatively impoverished groups of people, mainly located in rural areas, where the benefits to be derived from ICT have not been felt. However there are major differences in the sizes of the overall economies, in the level of expertise available, general infrastructure, and socio-economic and historical circumstances that manifest in different policy and development issues within each country. Recently, several assessment tools have been developed to assist countries and communities to determine where they are positioned in relation to the factors critical to the development of an information society and the consequent widespread use of e-Commerce. The intention is for policy-makers to make more informed policy decisions. The authors have applied one such tool to all three countries, in particular differentiating between rural and urban communities. Clear differences emerge and in particular it appears that more refined analyses of different demographic groupings within each country could help the e-commerce policy formation process.