Long gone are the days when ownership of a cell phone was for a few and hence a status symbol in society. Today, cell phone usage is widespread considering that many Ugandans report having more than one.

Smartphone and Internet penetration is also steadily growing mainly propelled forward by Uganda’s young population. It’s a widely known fact that not many of us can do without our cell phone in this day and age for one reason or another.

Enter mobile commerce – something that gives vendors unlimited opportunities to expand their markets even across borders. The consumer of today is also in a place of greater comfort, to the extent of being able to order a meal via a cell phone while in bed.

Services such as internet banking, electronic money transfers and online shopping are very welcome by the Ugandan consumer. However, not as much as mobile banking and similar offerings for the simple reason that convenience has been well and truly enhanced.

Different businesses have established a market presence online with social media being the key driver. As of June 2016 it was estimated that there were 2.2 million Facebook subscribers and the number has been climbing since then.

Mobile commerce is relatively easy and stress-free access. It is also safe as there’s little chance for fraud, robbery or violence; after all there’s no need to move with chunks of cash like before.

Well as it is much common for products that can be reduced to digital format to be delivered on the internet for example insurance services, financial services, travel services and telecommunications services. People also purchase items that include cell phones, fashion accessories like clothes, watches, bags, and make up, shoes and clothes online making business even more interesting as we no longer have to walk to stores for our next buy.

The writer is wondering whether enough public awareness has been done about the risks associated with online services.

However with the increase in the rate of cyber-crime, there’s still far too many of us who have yet to embrace this online commerce. Even when we could be considered backward, we still find such transactions especially purchasing tangible products online rather risky and dissatisfying.

A number of questions arise with this kind of transactions in regards to privacy, hacking, internet fraud not to mention that the purchaser doesn’t get the opportunity to touch the product. What if the vendor doesn’t disclose all information regarding the product after all images might not tell the whole story. How about instances where there’s breach of contract on product description such as color and size, date of delivery, and value for money. What if the purchaser makes an un informed decision? How well and quickly is the discontented party compensated?

On the other hand, electronic transfer of funds is where most Ugandans take great care. Customers are paying for goods and services using credit and debit cards. Recent estimates show that over 700,000 people possess these cards and their usage is steadily replacing cheques and cash transactions. But still the biggest number of Ugandans still prefers mobile payments for various transactions as reports show that the volume hit the UGX29.4 trillion as of September 2015.

With increase in mobile internet usage and electronic transactions there’s more that needs to be done to minimize the numerous risks associated with electronic business. Even though the government has done its best to ensure transparency in regards to these transactions through new cyber laws, enforcement is difficult due to insufficient financial and technological resources.

Perhaps more targeted consumer awareness, like knowing your consumer rights and obligations with respect to vendors on the internet, is the best place to begin?

Editor’s Note: This Article was provided by Flavia Zzimula Senyonga; Accounts Executive
at WMC Africa