Greetings Afrik-ITes!

Seems lots of people are asking about e-commerce these days.  OK, so
you want to send Eid Mubarek wishes to your best pals in Ethiopia.
A sheep would be nice, but the local Post Office simply doesn't have a
carton big enough...

I tried AltaVista and searched on +sheep +online +order, and to my
astonishment was rewarded with 28,060 hits.  Of course all the sheep
are about 5 centimeters high and crack into a thousand ceramic pieces
if dropped... hardly a gift for the first day of Eid.

Here's the ticket: Pull out your Mastercard and visit Ethiogift.

In completing the online e-commerce form, a simple address won't do,
since the sheep won't fit in the post box, and anyway not everybody
has a post box or even a conventional street address.  Directions such
as the following are required:

> Go down Asmera Menged towards Meganagna. Make a right at
> Hiya-Hulet Mazoria towards the Gabriel Clinic. Just after Quality
> Pastry on the right side, go two roads down and make a right onto
> a dirt road at the painted over red sign. Go down the dirt road to
> the end look for the last house before the T-junction. It has a
> green-blue door. The serategna is Tsegie, the gift can be left
> with her if Ato Daniel is not home.

The above is an example from the Web site at

It is, quite frankly speaking, the only Web site I have ever found
where you can order a sheep for someone, but perhaps you've had
more extensive experience in this area than I.

I gather ISPs throughout the continent are examining the major
constraints of e-commerce, among which are these:

* A relatively small percentage of Africans have credit cards, and in
some countries it is quite difficult if not impossible to obtain one from
a local provider, irrespective of one's wealth.

* Facilities for businesses seeking to offer credit card services to their
customers are similarly scarce in Africa, often only available to large
businesses.  Monthly fees for credit facilities are sometimes
prohibitive for African firms with low sales volume.

* Relatively few African consumers have direct, leisure access to the
Internet for online purchasing.

I'd be interested in hearing from others about additional constraints to
e-commerce in Africa.

With regard to the credit card constraint, my friends in Ethiopia use a
credit-card services firm that caters to very small businesses by
charging no annual or registration fees, taking only a (perhaps higher
than usual) percentage from each sale.  The firm receives payments in
behalf of Ethiogift, depositing funds (less the percentage) into the
Ethiogift bank account, which can be in Ethiopia or abroad (higher
fees if expensive non-USA bank transfers are involved).

I am not recommending this particular firm, though my Ethiopian
friends seem quite satisfied with them, but you may be interested in it
as an example of what is possible.  Visit

If you go to their "About" and "FAQ" pages, you'll eventually find
their list of other firms offering e-commerce facilities:

Jeff @ Washington

SETA Corporation Senior Analyst
USAID/M/IRM/CIS: Program Technology Transfer
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1325 G Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005 USA
Tel +1 (202) 219-0463
Fax +1 (202) 219-0518