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In Côte d’Ivoire, the largest GDP in French-speaking Africa, online commerce increasingly attracts merchants with its accessibility. Forecasts for this market – estimated at over 30 billion CFA francs – are quite optimistic. But in reality, e-commerce still suffers from low bank fees, high money transfer fees and restrictions that global online payment platforms like PayPal place on Ivory Coast users.
Vanessa is a merchant who pays neither the facilities nor the staff. The businesswoman has been selling her cocoa butter and shea butter cosmetics online for nearly ten years. All from your residence in Bouaké, one of the largest cities in Côte d’Ivoire, located in the center of the country. This seller depends exclusively on this trade. It has clients in Côte d’Ivoire, France and Canada, but faces transaction issues and fees that affect its profits.
“In Côte d’Ivoire, most of my customers don’t have a bank card. They pay with Orange Money, Wave, MTN and other mobile wallets, but that incurs costs. For my clients abroad it is even worse. They have to travel to send me money via Western Union, Ria or MoneyGram, with fees as high as 2%.”
Kader Diaby, creator of an online clothing brand based on organic materials, makes the same observation. His online business represents 30% of his monthly income, thanks in particular to clients in Nigeria, South Africa and France. A number that could be revised upwards if it had access to PayPal, one of the leaders in online payments in the world.
Unable to withdraw money with PayPal
Since 2014, PayPal has allowed Ivory Coast consumers with a bank card to make online purchases. But the service turns out to be useless for merchant accounts because they don’t have the ability to receive money on the platform. This limited access is explained by the cybercrime risks that increased in the 2000s. In question: the phenomenon of grazers – pros of Internet scams that mainly target Europe.
“I think it’s discriminatory,” says Mory, a businessman who offers online services to artists. “This forces us to create accounts that we live in Morocco or elsewhere. And when PayPal realizes the mistake, it locks our accounts and our money with it.” But the young Abidjan has no choice but to accept the deals through the American company if he doesn’t want to lose customers.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, e-commerce could account for 10% of retail sales in the largest African economies by 2025. In Côte d’Ivoire, this sector already contributes more than 9% of GDP, recalls Ivorian economist Yao Séraphin Prao .
Aware of the potential of this market, Idriss Marcial Monthe co-founded CinetPay in 2016: a payment and money transfer platform that works without a bank card.
“Before, I had an online business selling Internet domain names and traveling to collect payments from my customers. The cost of transport plus traffic jams was not feasible. on our website to allow our customers to pay us’, recalls the entrepreneur. This is how the solution to his problem has now become a solution that makes everyday life easier for e-merchants in a dozen French-speaking African countries.
For the president of CinetPay, development and security go hand in hand. “The fight against cybercrime led by the Ivorian authorities could pave the way for innovations that will revolutionize the e-commerce sector in Côte d’Ivoire”, he explains to France 24.
How to revolutionize the e-commerce sector when only 20% of the population has a bank account? With structural reforms of the banking system and a solid collaboration between the State and structures like Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, answers the economist Yao Séraphin Prao.
Arguments shared by Daniel Ahouassa, co-founder of APaym, an application that allows merchants to accept all types of bank payments. During the Ivory Coast Digital Forum (FID) held in Abidjan from 2nd to 3rd of September, he called on telecom players to take advantage of this market. “We need to work with banks to develop electronic means of payment and raise public awareness. We need to make it reliable and accessible,” he told France 24 during the event. While waiting for all these reforms to succeed, it is merchants who suffer from the lack of reliable online payment solutions in Ivory Coast.