Players in the Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector have called on the government to address the cost of data in the country to enable the ease of doing and unlocking key investment opportunities with the rest of the world.
E-Commerce is slowly witnessing strategic, though limited, growth as some businesses are now being conducted electronically despite high data costs in Zimbabwe.
Speaking to 263Chat during the just ended Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo, SMEs players said they are faced with high costs of data when they try to venture into online marketing and doing business.
Kumz Khumalo, of Zim Shopping Malls underlined the need for government to reduce the cost of data in Zimbabwe to aid the ease of doing business for potential E-Commerce SMEs.
“The cost of bandwidth is still very expensive in Zimbabwe. You find we might have a lot of potential clients and some prospective small companies who might want to do business with us, but because of the high data costs, they get turned off.
“That area, if addressed, will unlock potential in the SMEs sector and this will allow some of us to do business with the outside world,” he said.
Lupane Development Trust Market Manager, khayalihle Sibanda, said women are the most affected by the high cost of data as the SMEs sector is dominated by women.
“The paperwork required in exporting is unbearable and with the migration to online trading, we will save a bit more time and resources, but as women , we cannot afford to keep us with the high costs of accessing the internet and we are forced to resort to the traditional means which are not favorable for business,” she argued.
Many SMEs already produce and sell products, such as publicity materials and locally made handicrafts through “traditional” means of marketing and distribution.
Marketing and selling their products online could mean wider distribution of development material and diversification of revenue sources.
During the recently held Coordination Committee for Development and Promotion of African Handicraft (CODEPA), African countries were urged to establish departments which are in charge of Handicraft Development within their countries and join regional bodies in charge of handicraft economic integration, and have a bias towards the promotion of the use of the internet in doing business and selling products.
This augurs well for Zimbabwe’s economy whose continued improvement hinges on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) advancement.
The use of electronic commerce by business in developed countries has grown considerably in the past few years says Kundai Machaya from the National Handcraft Association.
“We have set up a substantial budget for our online market and we haven’t encountered much problems from that.
“Online marketing has been opening avenues for us in the SMEs sector and we have been engaging with potential clients from as far as the UK and Japan, so all it needs is proper planning,” he said.
In developing countries, thousands SMEs have gone online over the past five years, realizing the importance of the Internet for the exchange and distribution of services.
With the rise in e-commerce over the Internet and the subsequent decline in development aid over the past five years, SMEs may be able to tap into this new business modality to offset their operating costs.
However, various issues must be considered for e-commerce to be an effective tool for SMEs to generate revenue.
Issues such as costs involved in setting up shop online (both capital and non-capital); how the SMEs approach to e-commerce may differ from that of business; ease of use by consumers, sellers and distributors; time taken away from other activities; type of products that can be sold easily
If the projections for the upcoming years concerning the growth of e-commerce are true, then it is important for SMEs to realize the opportunities available for generating revenue online.