Expanding e-commerce under Alert Level 4 will help small businesses
Today (08 May 2020), I have written a letter to Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel with an attached submission, requesting him to issue additional directives alongside the Alert Level 4 Regulations to permit online retailers to sell all goods, the delivery of those goods directly to customers and for the importation of those goods to be allowed.
The e-commerce industry in South Africa represents an expansive supply chain of businesses across retail and logistics sectors, and provides an online platform for businesses, especially SMMEs to access and compete in markets where they would ordinarily not have been able to trade. The sector employees at least 40 000 people in South Africa, and given the fact that e-commerce can facilitate trade with minimal human interaction, it could potentially employ a lot more if allowed to expand under Alert Level 4.
Now more than ever, businesses need to be able to continue to trade safely and responsibly to ensure that we save jobs, livelihoods and the economy during the Covid-19 crisis. The e-commerce sector presents an opportunity for just that, as it offers business a means to innovate and adapt during these tough times, with even traditional businesses being able to pivot and continue to operate, even in a limited way, due to its ease of implementation. In this way it is an enabler of competition and access to economic opportunities.
This morning I met with two of the founders of Granadilla Eats, which is an incredible success story of an e-commerce company that has pivoted during this crisis. Prior to the hard lockdown, this company only sold swimwear, but now they deliver fresh produce and other food items right to your doorstep. Speaking to Josh Meltz and Hannah Duxberry from Granadilla Eats, I heard how they have implemented strict health and safety protocols during their packing process, together with contactless delivery, to stop the spread of Covid-19.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet Sameena Kariel and Abdurahman Kariel, the owners of Valota Farm in the Phillipi Horticultural Area (PHA). Valota Farm is one of the small businesses whose products, together with others from the PHA farms, are available to buy on the Granadilla Eats website, providing up to 80% of their fresh produce. Speaking to Sameena and Abdurahman, I heard how the e-commerce platform provided by Granadilla Eats, and their own e-commerce website, has provided Valota Farm with the opportunity to continue their operations and keep farming during this crisis.
The e-commerce sector has already shown that it is able to limit physical interaction and transact through electronic or card payments, making it one of the safest retail options for limiting the spread of Covid-19. We therefore see no reason why this sector should not be allowed to open up fully and sell all goods through e-commerce platforms. In doing so, we can significantly support jobs and increase economic activity in the Western Cape and South Africa during the Covid-19 crisis.
Spokesperson for the Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities
(Responsible for the Provincial Treasury and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism)
Tel: 021 483 4327
Cell: 071 087 5150