E-commerce is still at an early stage of development in The Gambia. Nearly all transactions are carried out in cash, though mobile money platforms supported by mobile phone companies are increasing in popularity. Information and communications technology infrastructures are generally inadequate and even the use of debit or credit cards is highly limited. ATMs have been introduced by banks but are not widely in use countrywide. There is a growing demand for online goods but those who shop online pay expensively for DHL delivery.
Mobile phone penetration rate is very high and offers promising opportunities for e-commerce. The proportion of mobile phone users has been growing rapidly at an average annual rate of 40 percent over the past several years. The industries that currently make use of mobile technology are the banking and mobile phone sectors. All the major commercial banks provide some form of e-banking service, and at least two of the mobile companies (Africell and Qcell) offer mobile money transfer services. Besides these two sectors, the percentage of products or services sold online is almost zero, due to the lack of electronic check out options.
Current Market Trends: No new government laws or regulations affecting online businesses were passed within the past year. Goods are increasingly being advertised online, mainly through social media, but final sale or sales transaction are done in person. Reduced data charges would significantly boost the number of internet users and therefore, the number of individuals that can be reached via e-commerce. Trends to encourage more cashless transactions, such as establishing POS systems at retail shops, might also incentivize more Gambians to opt for online shopping. Currently, the number of retailers providing this as a payment option are very limited.
Mobile money will likely continue to be the area where e-commerce activity is concentrated in The Gambia over the next few years. Utility payments will also continue to integrate e-commerce infrastructure, since households can purchase pay-as-you-go energy tickets, locally referred to as the “Cash Power Ticket System”, at ATM points and via mobile money platforms.
Business to business transactions is seldom done via e-commerce platforms. The Gambian market is overwhelmingly characterized by cash transactions. Tax evasion plays a major role in determining the preference of businesses of cash transactions over e-commerce.
A limited number of Gambian businesses operate with a website which can be rated at an international standard. Among young entrepreneurs, few have started developing mobile-based e-commerce platforms, but the majority of these only serve to advertise goods and services online, listing a point of contact with whom buyers can meet to conduct the transaction in person.
Online payments are not common in The Gambia as many businesses which could be considered e-commerce only use their online platforms to advertise their goods, relying on cash payments for their final sales. Mobile e-commerce: Mobile banking has become popular among consumers. Consumers can pay serval bills including electricity top-up, school fees, mobile top-up, pay for groceries in stores. In addition, consumers have the option to make emergency ATM withdrawals and can make bank transfers both internally and externally.