Put the black into Friday
OPINION - IN THE year that introduced us to physical distancing, masks and sanitisers, the Black Friday of 2020 will undoubtedly be like no other we have experienced as South Africans.
The usual one-day sales bonanza, which traditionally signals the start of the festive season, takes on a different form this year with many retailers going online and observing Black November rather than just Black Friday.
Thanks to the impact of Covid19, e-commerce in South Africa will be worth R225billion by 2025 – a 150% surge over just five years, according to Aluwani Thenga, the executive head: merchant services growth at FirstRand.
Data and insights company Nielsen is pointing towards a profound shift by consumers towards e-commerce. Nielsen found in May that 65% of South Africans shopped less at physical supermarkets as a result of Covid-19 while, among existing online shoppers, 29% increased their online shopping and 21% continued as before.
This represents a massive opportunity for online retailers to step up and deliver to a market which, until the surge in Covid-19 online spending, was sitting at just 1.4% of total retail sales in 2018, according to World Wide Worx’s Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study. e-Commerce penetration on the continent is estimated to be even lower, holding only 1% of the retail market.
This is due to a lack of infrastructure, traditionally expensive intra-African travel costs and expensive data costs in some parts as well as challenges in the last-mile delivery space.
However, our newly launched pan-African online marketplace BrownSense.Africa views these problems as solutions waiting to be solved, engineered and delivered to the continent, for the continent and by the continent.
Since its founding in 2016, BrownSense has been the go-to online platform that connects Black business operators and consumers, and it has been deliberate and unapologetic in placing buying Black at the centre of economic development agenda.
It has been reported recently that the founders of Amazon and Walmart have got $133 billion (about R2 trillion) richer in the pandemic while 20% of all small businesses have closed.
These may be US stats, but the situation here at home is just as bad, if not worse, so there’s never been a better time to buy from black business especially during the buying frenzy of Black Friday or Black November.
Our aim with BrownSense.Africa – an e-commerce and procurement platform – is to give Black-owned businesses the opportunity to access to markets beyond South Africa.
Covid-19 has highlighted the need for businesses to be agile in going digital, but it can be confusing and expensive.
We are providing Black entrepreneurs at all levels with the affordable and simple tools and ecosystem to enable them to scale their business through access to diverse markets domestically, and through the facilitation of trade across the continent.
BrownSense.Africa was designed to solve a several problems for Black businesses: accessing new and diverse markets, secure and professional warehousing, picking and packing, as well as a dashboard which they can use to view their business transaction over any period.
For the consumer, the solution is simple – shopping Black online often presents the snag of having to pay for multiple courier fees, thus making it expensive and convenient.
Our solution of an online mall with one payment process and single courier fees decreases bank fees and courier fees for the consumer, and keeps more money in their pockets.
Furthermore, through our BrownSense Verified vetting process of merchants, customers can be assured of transparency and integrity.
Intra-Africa trade liberalisation is gathering momentum through the AU’s African Continental Free Trade Agreement which presents a plethora of opportunities for small business in industries across the continent.
The agreement emphasises collaborations with industry and potential investors to identify priority value chains on the basis of which action plans for the implementation of AfCFTA regional value chains that can be developed. For us at Brownsense.Africa, we see collaborations as the most important factor for Black business to support one another.
Black businesses need to start taking up space in the value-chain of their businesses, and the easiest way to do that is to work in concert – this is what will create traction for us. The time is now and the time is ripe to consider growing Black–owned businesses beyond borders. As you browse for Black Friday specials, remember to shop local because a lot of small businesses are not going to survive much longer if we do not #CirculateTheRand.
Diseko is the chief executive: BrownSense.Africa