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Sierra Leone News: Online shopping now available in Sierra Leone

The world is a global village with global markets and international retail opportunities due to the advancement of technology. Shopping used to mean going to a market or store, browsing among a variety of products and paying for the purchase at a cash register counter. All that has changed thanks to the internet and online shopping. The e-markets and online shopping websites have significantly impacted retail sales – except in Sierra Leone, where Internet access is minimal, expensive and unreliable.
Online shopping is a form of electronic commerce, which allows consumers to directly buy goods or services from a seller over the internet using a web browser. Consumer find a product of interest by visiting the website of the retailer directly or by searching amongst alternative vendors using a shopping search engine, which displays the same product availability and pricing at different e-retailers.
For those in Sierra Leone who want to shop online… at retail sites like Amazon, Walmart, E-Bay, Alibaba or Costco, there are some opportunities. Amazon and Alibaba, the two big giants of the e-commerce industry are competing against each other to win the crown for the leader of the global e-commerce market. Amazon has been around since 1995 and started as an online bookstore whereas Alibaba started off in 1999.
In Sierra Leone, CaravanBox, and Aramex are two local businesses engaged in online shopping and shipping activities. According to the Country Director of CaravanBox, Sullivan Kallon, shoppers do not need credit cards or US dollars. He said that they can easily ship goods from the US to Sierra Leone and customers only pay for shipment and handling after the arrival of the goods. “When the goods arrive, we call the customer and they come to the office here in Tengbeh Town and pick it up,” he added. “It’s very customer-friendly and easy to do.”
He said they mainly advertise on social media and through word of mouth. “So far people have ordered watches, shoes, car parts, household items, phones, computers… and anything else available online. If it’s for sale online, we can get it here,” Kallon said.
In 2017, an estimated 1.66 billion people worldwide purchase goods online. During the same year, global e-retail sales amounted to $2.3 trillion USD and projections show a growth of up to $4.48 trillion USD by 2021. And, 79% of U.S. consumers shop online, up from just 22% back in 2000 according to TechCrunch.com. Mobile shopping, the fastest growing segment in e-commerce is worth $3.2 trillion USD in 2017, a jump of over $1.5 trillion since 2013. (Source: ReadyCloud 2017) Also, 71% of shoppers believe they will get a better deal online than in stores.
According to an internet café owner who is doing an online business, they have three types of shipments which take from three days up to three months. He said they normally weigh the goods by kilo, noting that the shipment depends on the individual physical case.
Kallon of CaravanBox said, “It’s a way of allowing people in Sierra Leone to shop online – without the hassle of changing money, using a credit card or trying to import things themselves.”
According to Alice Sesay, “Online shopping is necessary and as long as I have the money I will buy most of my products from Amazon because I think they will be quality products.”
“I have never shopped online,” according to Susan Turay. She said the world is now a global village and people in Sierra Leone will soon jump into online shopping.
By Mohamed J. Bah
Monday September 03, 2018.

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