By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke
Nigeria’s digital economy is currently getting the much-needed attention from government and experts because of its endless potentials to cause a radical shift in the country’s economy. These can be backed by the statement of Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment who said recently that there are indications that investments in the digital economy will generate $88 billion and create three million jobs for Nigerians before the end of 2021.
From the Minister’s statement, it can be understood that the digital economy will be key to the growth of Nigeria’s economy.
However, a major concern or worry for some stakeholders is that the participation in the digital economy is largely concentrated in the urban areas. Meanwhile, in the rural areas, their participation is quite skeletal largely because of the low internet penetration. To be more factual, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta said recently that 53% of Nigerians lack internet access and many of them are inhabitants of rural areas.
Nigeria’s Digital economy
So, what is the digital economy? According to Deloitte, “It’s the economic activity that results from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data, and processes.”
What is exciting about the digital economy is that it is unrestricted and borderless as it can reach anyone in any part of the world.
In Nigeria, we have seen huge contributions in the digital economy from e-commerce, fintech, aggrotech, and healthtech among others. These businesses have deployed digital technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the internet of things to solve crucial social problems and improve their bottom line.
In relation to e-commerce, Jumia has played a key role in accelerating Nigeria’s digital economy. The platform has encouraged and convinced Nigerians to buy things online, created jobs and generally encouraged trust in the online space.
Increasing rural participation
Business in rural areas is basically offline. This is probably because of inadequate internet access. Nevertheless, these areas cannot be left behind in the digital economy march. It is a goldmine waiting to be explored.
The first and only thing that must be done is for the government through the Nigerian Communication Commission to work with the telecommunication companies to identify and provide telephony services to underserved or unserved communities. If this can be done, there will be a steady increase in rural participation in the digital economy because businesses will move into these communities to do business.
In the meantime, some painstaking efforts are been made to increase rural participation despite the limited internet access.
Jumia, Nigeria’s No 1 shopping destination, has expanded its delivery services beyond Lagos to include Ibadan, Abeokuta, Port Harcourt and Abuja. In all of these cities, there are pockets of rural communities and their inhabitants who buy items online through Jumia Force (JForce) agents and are delivered to their doorsteps. Also, if you are searching for a hotel, Jumia’s hotel and flight services have over 9,000 hotels across the country. Therefore, whether you are in a rural or urban area you do not need to worry about where to stay. This reveals that Jumia is ready to send foot soldiers to these rural areas to educate, enlighten and at the end empower them to be part of the digital economy.
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