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African Online Supermarket Set to Boost Trade

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Online retailing and marketing strategies are revolutionizing how people around the world buy products and services – but so far they have not benefited most of Africa’s small businesses and traders. On a continent where trading for survival is the norm, very few people are reaping the benefits of selling on the Internet.

Not only has limited access to the Internet and the lack of high bandwidth in Africa impeded communication within the continent, it has restricted African businesses from taking advantage of the most profound change in global business for decades: e-retailing (also known as e-tailing or e-commerce).

But the African information technology pioneers of Ghana – a country that has already gained a reputation as an IT leader in West Africa (www.ghanaictawards.com) – are setting out to change this situation, and in turn to change the way people access African goods and services.

Pledging in its motto to reach “every African nook and cranny,” ShopAfrica53 is an online shopping portal similar to famous brands like Amazon or eBay, but focused entirely on giving African traders the ability to sell across the continent and to the world online.

The one-stop shopping site – taking its name from the 53 countries on the continent – can be accessed by Internet users, or better still, by the enormous number of mobile phone users not only in Africa but around the world.

The number of mobile phone subscribers in Africa surpassed 300 million in 2008 (ITU), representing a significant market in their own right. Research group Informa Telecoms and Media estimates mobile networks now cover 90 per cent of the world’s population – 40 per cent of whom are covered but not connected.

ShopAfrica53 works like this: merchants first fill out an online form on the ShopAfrica53 website. They are then contacted by ShopAfrica, and an account is set up.

People wanting to buy goods and services on the website use the African Liberty Card to ensure the transactions are safe and not at risk from hackers and fraudsters. The disposable pre-paid scratch card can be used on mobile phones and the Internet and is purchased from store outlets.

ShopAfrica handles the logistical hassles of shipping to customers around the world, facilitates payment transfers, and helps with record keeping for merchants.

ShopAfrica offers an eclectic selection of goods: apparel and accessories, books and stationery, groceries, handicraft, health and personal care, home and garden, machinery and tools, technology and entertainment. It promises to offer the “best selection of African products, anywhere, worldwide” – everything from building supplies, household items and electronics to processed foods and fabrics.

One Ghanaian merchant, Mohammed Salifu, promises to deliver in two days a “large brown cow for delivery or collection. The size, colour and weight of animal will vary. This merchant provides live goats, sheep, cattle for special occasions and festivities and can also provide a slaughtering service for clients.”

Then there is Vera Ami Kpogli, who is selling a ‘Beyonce’ Electric Blue necklace. Tse-Lee Fashions offers Batik/Tie and Dye Print Shirt in aqua and navy. And for the ‘king’ of the house, Ama Afrique Designs is selling Men’s Royal Rulers, sandals “worn many centuries ago by African kings.”

The potential of this service to boost incomes is considerable: in the United Kingdom, online sales now make up 15 percent of all retail spending, reaching £43.8 billion (US $66.12 billion) in 2008 (IMRG).

As has been seen with other countries of the Global South, trade in high quality goods boosts incomes. South-South trade grew by an average of 13 percent per year between 1995 and 2007. By 2007, South-South trade made up 20 percent of world trade. And over a third of South-South commerce is in high-skill manufacturing. Making finished goods, rather than just selling raw materials, improves workers’ skill levels and increases the return on trade.

The rapid changes to African countries – the tilt to being more urban than rural, and being home to a larger urban population than North America, with 25 of the world’s fastest growing cities (International Institute for Environment and Development) – means there is an urgent need to boost incomes and better connect traders and manufacturers to the global economy.

ShopAfrica53 could be the start of a very big thing for African trade.

Published: May 2009

Resources

  • The red dot logo stands for belonging to the best in design and business. The red dot is an internationally recognised quality label for excellent design that is aimed at all those who would like to improve their business activities with the help of design.
    Website: www.red-dot.de
  • BOP Source is a platform for companies and individuals at the BOP (bottom of the pyramid) to directly communicate, ultimately fostering close working relationships, and for NGOs and companies to dialogue and form mutually valuable public-private partnerships that serve the BOP.
    Website: http://bopsource.ning.com/
  • Business Fights Poverty: Business Fights Poverty is the free-to-join, fast-growing, international network for professionals passionate about fighting world poverty through good business.
    Website: businessfightspoverty.ning.com
  • Dutch Design in Development: As a matchmaker, DDiD puts together European clients, Dutch designers and small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries. The designers share their knowledge of European consumer tastes, product development, design and quality standards
    Website: www.ddid.nl
  • Afriville is a Web 2.0 service and an African Caribbean social network. Afriville is a community website along the lines of the famous MySpace. Users are free to message and post profiles. The difference is that the user is able to choose how closed or open the networks are. The site features a state of the art music management system which allows African and Caribbean artists to get straight in touch with their fans.
    Website: www.afriville.com
  • Business Action for Africa: Business Action for Africa is an international network of businesses and business organisations from Africa and elsewhere, coming together in support of three objectives: to positively influence policies for growth and poverty reduction, to promote a more balanced view of Africa, and to develop and showcase good business practice in Africa
    Website: www.businessactionforafrica.org
  • Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) is a membership community for the e-retail industry, whose vision is to maximise the commercial potential of online shopping
    Website: www.imrg.org

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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Will Niagara Falls Become The Northern Vegas?

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), May 16-29, 1996

Niagara Falls – Niagara Falls has always been a town that attracted big dreamers with even bigger schemes. The beauty of the Falls has intoxicated many with grand ideas. Towards the turn of the century, the inventor of the Gillette safety razor, King Camp Gillette, tried to transform the American side into a Utopian paradise, planning to house most of the US population in a community of beehive-style high-rises covering an area 135 miles long and 45 miles wide.

Given the long history of grand schemes to remake both sides of Niagara Falls, it is hard not to see the hyperbole surrounding the planned casnio, slated to open by the end of the year, as another over-hyped dream. Just as Gillette spoke of untold riches, the government-owned Ontario Casino Corporation also sees Utopia ready to be born at the edge of the Falls. As provincial tourism minister Doug Saunderson said last month, “The casino and tourist development will provide Niagara with a kick start into the 21st century… I believe they will move Niagara to the very top of the list of destinations for world travellers.”

Those expectations sound even more impressive if you believe the government’s estimates for job creation. In a city of 76,000, the government projects between 3,000 and 9,000 jobs will result from the casino and its spin-offs. With numbers like that, it is hard to find many people who will say no.

Everywhere in Niagara Falls’ tourist district roads are being ripped up. Tourists from New York, Japan and Quebec tread through the clouds of gravel dust to see the Falls. But it isn’t just the government which is dreaming big for Niagara Falls.

Three dreams are fighting in this town for the hearts and souls of its residents, and depending on your perspective, have their merits. One, a scheme being championed by a group of local church leaders, is to build a wholesome theme park based around the exploits of local heroine Laura Secord during the War of 1812. Another more flamboyant scheme that has been on and off again since 1993, involves building a $1.4 billion theme park dedicated to transcendental meditation. So far, the casino is winning hands down.

The casino on its own is helping to raise another dream, phoenix-like, from the ashes. In 1979, the DiCenzo family built Maple Leaf Village as a joint shopping mall/theme park attraction. Now it sits derelict, waiting for renovations by the Buttcon construction company to turn it into the temporary site for the casino.

The run-down Maple Leaf Village, with its old-world European facade resembling a castle, became known for tacky attractions like the JFK Assassination Museum, the Elvis Presley Museum and the Nightmares Therapy Centre.

Judy MacCarthy has fought plans to build a casino since they were first discussed. She helped put together a coalition of church groups called the Try Another Way Committee. MacCarthy’s dream involves a theme park extolling the virtues of Laura Secord, whose claim to fame was snitching on the American invaders, having them ambushed by Indians near Niagara Falls.

MacCarthy says the provincial government has shown some interest in the project, even sending officials from Toronto to meet with her.

As for the more ambitious transcendental meditation theme park, it looks as if the whole project hangs on securing enough funds to get it off the ground.

In 1993, Maharishi Veda Land’s chair, the effervescent magician Doug Henning, told the media that Niagara Falls had to make up its mind: choose between the transcendental theme park, with its centre-piece floating bridge, or the moral decadence of a casino.

Three years later, what many thought to be a project even less tangible than Henning’s metaphysical musings, seems to still have some life left. Tucked away on the 13th floor of a Bay Street office tower in Toronto, Maharishi Veda Land Inc. – Enlightenment, Knowledge, Entertainment – continues to run with a handful of staff. As three office workers scatter behind closed doors, a secretary tells me the theme park is still a go, but refuses to give any more details. But MVL has told a Florida newspaper it isn’t going to build a theme park on property the company owns there.

Ted Cook, the former vice-president of PCL Eastern, the construction company Henning contracted to build the park, says there was a change in attitude: “Henning’s position softened as time passed (over the casino). He became less opposed on moral grounds, and it was now ‘maybe we can make it work’.”

If there was an epicentre to the Niagara dream machine, it is the office of its mayor, Wayne Thompson.

Dean Iorfida is the mayor’s executive assistant. For Iorfida, the casino is a matter of turning a seasonal economy dependent on summer-time tourists into a viable year-round attraction. Even when they do come to Niagara Falls, he says, the average tourist’s stay is just four hours.

Iorfida is dreaming large, imagining the permanent site will include an auditorium, convention centre and amusement park. “Vegas has gone that way,” he says.

But he also wants to see the whole city transformed by the casino. “We have to spread it around or you get a black hole effect: too much in one location.”

As for the complaints that the casino will only add to the tacky reputation of Niagara Falls, Iorfida believes “the city doesn’t want anything that turns people off, but we can’t stop private enterprise. We are talking about one location, I don’t think it will be like Vegas where casinos try to out-garish each other.”

Many associated with the traditional tourist attractions in Niagara are banking on seeing some of the casino cash. Merchants on Clifton Hill, “The street of fun at the falls,” are hoping they can complement the casino rather than compete.

So far, the tourist trap, despite the shabby strip of Clifton Hill with its wax museums and fudge shops, or even the block after block of cheap hotels and motels, has been able to avoid turning into a seedier form of sleaze – it is still a family atmosphere. In fact, the declasse’ tone of the city hides an impressive stability and prosperity that makes the residents of Niagara Falls, New York jealous. For many opposed to the casino, it is this stability that is at stake.

Overhead is the dayglo pink and turquoise marquee of the Movieland Wax Museum, where one can see wax likeness’ of such luminaries as Jim Carrey. Guy Paone, the general manager of the museum, says he is happy about the casino, hoping it will bring year-round business.

“We get families down here,”he says. “If dad wants to go to the casino, then mom and the kids can come here.”

Paone isn’t expecting any business from the die-hard gamblers though. “The hard-core gamblers didn’t come here any way. You know how it is – in Vegas some people don’t eat or sleep.”

As for some of the doom and gloom about increasing crime scaring off the family tourists, Paone doesn’t buy it. “We are pretty tight on petty crime here. I don’t think the casino will affect the family reputation.”

Paone does have a sobering thought he leaves me with, “we are the suicide capital.”

All the hope has already spawned new jobs teaching the unemployed how to gamble. Frank Cricenti, black jack course co-ordinator at the National Casino Academy, joins a growing number of people employed in the lucrative business of teaching the unemployed casino skills. According to Cricenti, casino schools “are just popping up.” At government employment centres, staff are anticipating more than 100,000 applications to flood in chasing the 3,000 jobs being offered. Such a yawning chasm between expectations and reality means times are good for the adult education business.

At the 47-room Cataract Motel, the casino is an excuse to spiff the place up. “We have painted and renovated the rooms so that they look like they’re brand new,” says the motel’s manager, who will only give his name as B. John.

Other property owners are banking on the casino rescuing them from the slump. Eva Klein of Klein Developments, wants to especially unload her pricier properties. “There has been a little bit of change in the rental market, some casino people are moving into town,” Klein tells id. “We’ve had a high vacancy of higher-end rentals in Niagara Falls and we’re expecting these to be filled by a new influx from the casino.”

For Niagara Falls, the casino looks set to turn the city into a smaller, more Canadian Las Vegas. For a city desperate for more work, that doesn’t sound too bad. For the provincial government’s travelling road show, the next stop is to move the existing Windsor casino’s management over to staff the new casino at Niagara Falls.

Casino Calamity: One Gambling Guru Thinks The Province Is Going Too Far

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CASE STUDY 3: Id Magazine | 1996 – 1997

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Virtual Supermarket Shopping Takes off in China

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

An ingenious use of technological innovation and savvy trend-spottingis radically transforming the way people do their grocery shopping in China. Busy urban dwellers with time-poor lifestyles can now do their grocery shopping as they pass through Shanghai’s subway system and have their weekly shopping delivered to their home.

The country has experienced breakneck economic growth in the past 15 years, heading towards becoming the world’s largest economy. Much of this growth and new wealth has come from the transformation of China into the world’s manufacturing and exporting hub. But this also leaves an urban population of very busy people who need time-saving solutions to improve their quality of life.

China’s premier Wen Jiabao has now pledged to aid the world economy during the current economic crisis by boosting domestic Chinese consumption. And this new focus on consumption will open up opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“I believeChina’s economy can achieve longer-term, better-quality growth. This will be our new contribution to strong, sustainable global growth,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

And a big part of the boost in domestic consumption will come from modern retailers and supermarkets. Supermarkets were almost non-existent in China before the 1990s. The country sold food in a mix of small shops, open-air markets and through wholesale networks. It was a complex system overlaid with government bodies, marketing boards, brokers, wholesalers, distributors and government-licensed and government-run shops and vendors.

But this has radically changed as the country has moved to a modern retail system. Chinese cities now boast modern supermarkets, convenience stores, hypermarkets and warehouse clubs. There was just one modern supermarket in the country in 1990; by 2003, there were 60,000 (Chinese Chain Store and Franchise Association).

The supermarket model offers many benefits to anyone looking to sell products in the Chinese marketplace. Supermarkets are very competitive with each other and are always looking for new angles and new products to get the edge and win over new consumers. If they offer new tastes and variety, the chances are high they will attract more customers.

Supermarkets tend to offer a greater variety of food products than traditional markets. They are also cleaner, the quality control is better and more standardised, there is no need to haggle over prices and measurements and units for products are clearly labelled and controlled.

But supermarkets can also be criticized for monopolizing distribution networks, hurting small farmers by driving down prices and destroying independent retailers unable to compete with the economies of scale supermarkets can bring to bear.

In Shanghai- a city that has long been a retail pioneer in China- the Yihaodian online grocery company (http://www.yihaodian.com/product/index.do?merchant=1) is radically altering how people buy food by using “virtual supermarkets” in subway stations.

It is a convergence of several technological innovations to make something even better.

Shoppers download an app – or application – on to their mobile phones. This allows them to interact with large LED screens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LED_display) in subway stations which display images of products – from soap to noodle soup to nuts– just like in a catalogue. The shopper scrolls through the products and finds what they want to buy. Beside the images are barcodes. The shopper scans the product barcode with the phone and Yihaodian then delivers the products straight to their home within hours.

It is a very convenient service for busy workers trying to juggle the many demands of daily life.

The Yihaodian system is based on a similar technology pioneered inSouth Korea.

Yihaodian is riding a wave of growth for the company because of its innovative approach. It has seen sales rise by 28 percent each month and it hopes to make Euro 325 million (US $443 million) in 2011, four times its 2010 revenues. Proof of the value of investing in innovation.

Yihaodian is also showing how clever it is to offer a new way of doing things. It is pioneering a new business model while also recognising the reality of people’s busy lives in modern urban environments. Lily Yu, director of the company’s wireless application department, says it is about something bigger than just profits. “Changing people’s lifestyles is what we are striving for,” she told Monocle magazine.

Yu, founder of the Wireless Application Department at Yihaodian, joined the company in 2010 and leads the team to develop and introduce this technology and new way of buying products.

The only question remaining is this: how long before all retail will follow Yu’s lead?

Resources

1) Mobile Active: MobileActive.org connects people, organizations, and resources using mobile technology for social change. Website: http://mobileactive.org

2) How QR Codes Can Grow Your Business: A story on how to use these scannable codes. Website: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-qr-codes-can-grow-your-business/

3) Southern Innovator magazine: New global magazine’s first issue tackles the boom in mobile phone and information technologies across the global South. Website: www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Issue-1

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David South Consulting Online For Seven Years | November 2017

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When it first launched in 2010, the David South Consulting(davidsouthconsulting.com) website was beautiful but sparse. Designed by one of Iceland’s top graphic designers and illustrators, Solveig Rolfsdottir, it was basically an online CV (curriculum vitae). 

A lot has happened since: the new global magazine Southern Innovator was launched, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched, and the UN adopted an innovation and South-South agenda, and so did many other countries, including China. And the content of the website has expanded to reflect this. The entire archive of the influential United Nations e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions can be found here, as well as many resources chronicling the international development journey from the late 1990s.   

We even moved to a new studio and headquarters next to a bird sanctuary and nature reserve (matching our green words with green actions)!

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About David South Consulting.
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Services at David South Consulting. 
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