The barriers to e-commerce are being eroded thanks to Egypt Post, which is enabling online trade so that Egypt can serve as a gateway to Africa.
Despite its 100 million-strong population – three-fifths of whom are aged under 30 – and its 103-percent mobile phone penetration, the e-commerce revolution sweeping the globe has yet to reach the banks of the Nile. All this, though, is set to change, and change is coming from the unlikeliest of quarters: the 154-year-old governmental postal service provider.
“We are redefining the role of Egypt Post,” says Dr. Amr Talaat, Minister of Communications and Information Technology. “We aim to transform the Egyptian Postal Authority to become a services and financial hub.”
The barriers to e-commerce in Egypt are twofold: the first, prohibitive shipping costs, and the second, a strongly cash-based society, which makes online payments difficult, explains Essam Mohamed El Saghir, Chairman of Egypt Post. To address this, Egypt Post has agreed to facilitate e-commerce through a consolidation hub at the postal service’s logistical center at Cairo International Airport.
Of course, logistical challenges to e-commerce don’t just affect Egyptians. Difficulties in receiving goods have led to the e-commerce market across the whole African continent accounting for less than 0.5 percent of GDP, far below the global average of 4 percent. But Egypt is well-placed to tackle this issue. Mr. El Saghir, describes how he brought together his counterparts in a number of African countries to develop the Ecom@ Africa Initiative, positioning the postal network as a key enabler and facilitator of e-commerce, and enabling Egypt to become Africa’s e-commerce gateway.
“A big number of African countries signed with us and are now using this facility, from the U.S. to Cairo to African countries,” says Mr. El Saghir. “We enabled e-commerce not just for Egypt, but we’re now a huge gateway for Africa as well.” Egypt Post has now signed agreements with several U.S. e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, including Amazon, to open enormous opportunities in the Egyptian and African markets.
“The postal organization plays an evident role in the bigger picture of the digital transformation strategy and financial inclusion initiative of Egypt. Uniquely, Egypt Post enjoys the trust of the Egyptian people across all segments of society and has a very wide footprint of more than 4,000 offices nationwide; possessing an extremely strong brand identity. Due to its simple interface, Egypt Post, therefore, is well positioned to serve as one of the main arms for providing digital and financial services for our citizens as part of the digital inclusion initiative,” stresses Minister Talaat.
“The government is now working with the Egypt National Postal Organization to make microfinancing and other fintech applications available to every citizen through a digital platform as well as through digital offices, to allow people to buy and sell goods online,” says the minister, “We’re building an inclusive platform at ENPO to support small manufacturers and artisans market their goods online.”
All of this is part of the government’s plan to double the number of businesses selling products and services online by 2020, making use of e-commerce to provide job opportunities, increase competitiveness in the market, as well as raise business-to-business e-commerce volume from the current 0.5 percent of GDP to 1.5-2 percent.