Uganda: Curfew, Facebook Closure Hurt e-Commerce

A combination of factors, among them curfew, closure of Internet and some social media sites has caused a 50 per cent customer reduction for e-commerce platforms, according to Mr Ron Kawamara, the Jumia chief executive officer.

Speaking on the sidelines of press briefing by the E-Trade Association of Uganda, Mr Kawamara said Jumia had registered a drop in clientele of close to 50 per cent since government imposed a blockade on Facebook.

"Our traffic has dropped by more than 45 per cent since the shutdown of [some] social media sites. We have had to go to other marketing platforms to reach our clients," he said.

During the briefing, the E-Trade Association of Uganda noted that at least 25 per cent of the employees in the e-commerce sector had been rendered jobless due to reducing customer orders resulting from shorter working hours.

The association has a membership that brings together boda boda rider apps, online market platforms such as Jumia and tour and travel operators.

Mr Ricky Rapa Thomson, the SafeBoda co-founder, said they had experienced a drastic drop in business due to a number of factors, among them shorter working hours.

"Boda boda riders' earnings are down by as much as 50 per cent due to the 6pm curfew, which affects close to two million riders. We request that curfew hours are extended to 11pm," he said.

On January 11, this year the government shutdown Internet and social media sites as Uganda headed into the January 14 general elections.

However, the Internet was later restored but had affected a number of sectors, key among e-commerce platforms.

Mr Kawamara also noted they were having a lot of challenges with customers who were ordering for goods on social media using network bypass such as Virtual Private Network (VPN).

"Our systems are designed to block any orders or contact reaching us from clients that are using VPN because our firewalls have been built to safeguard our clients' personal data such as banking details. We therefore can't rely on VPN or receive orders and inquiries from VPN users," he said.

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