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African markets not ready for UK e-commerce, finds roundtable

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Despite the 2010 FIFA World Cup highlighting the potential of the South African market, UK e-commerce sites are struggling to take advantage abroad because of disproportionate technology, according to an industry roundtable hosted by UKFast held this week. Poor connectivity and inferior infrastructures are cited as the biggest issues.

Graham Vickers, director of , said: “We’re launching to South Africa this year and have noticed a dramatic difference. They are 10 years behind in terms of technology with broadband not arriving there yet.

“I think our sites actually intimidate users there as they follow a completely different buying pattern. When expanding overseas I think you need to get your feet on the ground and look at the way people buy there.”

Despite some businesses and consumers not being culturally ready for sophisticated e-commerce, hope for South African expansion has arrived in the form of PayPal’s recent partnership. On the eve of the World Cup, PayPal has announced that customers in South Africa can join the global e-commerce marketplace by selling to their customer base through their partnership with First National Bank.

Richard Pepper, managing director of which offers a worldwide service, added, “Our biggest customer is in Ghana because there is nothing like us within his country. There are no boundaries; we only restrict ourselves by adding the pressure of delivering a product quickly.”

Dave Rodgers, managing director of, added: “There are issues with delivering a physical product. While usability is important and geared to our knowledge of the internet, infrastructure is vital.

“If we send out a product in this country or throughout the EU we know that is has a very good chance of getting there because of the delivery infrastructure. However, if we are selling to South Africa or similar countries then we are faced with a delivery system that is either nonexistent or extremely poor.”

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