BANJUL, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Business routine in The Gambia has been shifting rapidly amid a fast growing "digital economy" that enables people to access their needs more quickly.
"Although technology have been existing in the country for a reasonably long time, particularly in the areas of internet and telecommunications, little was expected by most Gambians that business will be improved by technology so soon," Gambian businesswoman Fatou Njie told Xinhua.
She said the interventions of digital economy are being seen in business sectors such as energy (electricity cash power), money transfers through mobile phones, online marketing and shopping.
Ansumana Sanneh, the director of country's Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), said recently that many consumers have started taking advantage of digital economy and e-commerce services to save time and energy.
"Nowadays, online shopping is catching on, replacing the day to day routine people had, such as driving to the local supermarkets or queuing at banks," he said.
He said that all major commercial banks in the country provide e-banking services while two mobile operators namely Africell and Qcell also offer mobile money transfer services.
According to him, the energy sector alone through digital payment saved over D150 million (3.2 million U.S. dollars) in 2017 just for electricity.
Sanneh said mobile companies also allow Gambians abroad to purchase cash power through money transfer systems for family use back home.
A research conducted by PURA recently indicated that the usage of mobile internet continues to register impressive growth -- the subscription has tremendously increased by 64 percent in 2015 from over 700,000 subscriptions to about 1.2 million subscriptions.
Meanwhile, in the banking sector, the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is becoming a dominant force in the industry.
It was introduced in the Gambian banking system a few years ago. It helps the customers of the commercial banks to do their transactions at any time with less queuing.
A secondary school teacher, Musa Sowe, after withdrawing money through his ATM Card at one of the local banks at Westfield on Sunday, was satisfied with the positive change the machine has brought about.
"I started using ATM Card few months ago, it is convenient and easy. Sometimes, I come to withdraw money even at late night. It helps me a lot in an emergency situation when I cannot wait for the working hours," he said.
Momodou Sabally, The Gambia's former director of budget, said mobile telephone and modern ICT like internet connectivity has become vital to business. He said The Gambia again leapt to the forefront by joining the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) consortium, thereby granting modern internet access to individuals and businesses at home.
"This development has greatly aided e-commerce in the country. Practically every business has an online presence and this has impacted on the speed and efficiency of service delivery," he said.
He added that the banking sector has become closer to their customers through e-banking services like customer email alerts about bank balances and real time transactions on their accounts.
"This is in addition to the Central Bank of the Gambia's introduction of the ICT-based clearing system called Real Time Gross Settlements (RTGS). At least one bank (Ecobank) has introduced an App for use by their customers," he said.
Sabally noted that small businesses have now started receiving online orders, citing Myfarm, an SME, that takes orders through its website and delivers agricultural products to the doorsteps of clients.
He said the cost of internet in the country remains too high for the users, one of the challenges confronting the digital economy in the Gambia,
"Lowering of charges coupled with faster internet speed could further transform businesses in The Gambia and therefore unleash greater economic growth since the Gambian economy is largely service-based with the service sectors accounting for more than half of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)," he said.
Although the new Gambian government has yet to make any major announcements with regard to e-commerce in country, many expect e-governance initiatives to become available online under the new government.