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E-Commerce Connecting Afghan Women Entrepreneurs to the Global MarketIn 2020, 47.3% of Afghanistan’s population lived below the national poverty line. Poverty in the country increased sharply over the last decade due to a stalled economy and the rise of Taliban insurgency. It left almost 90% of Afghans struggling to live and unable to support their families with their current income. This combined effect of stagnating economic growth and deteriorating security resulted in poverty hitting record-breaking heights. The high poverty rate is especially dire for Afghan women. However, e-commerce is providing Afghan women entrepreneurs the opportunity to join the global market and push their communities out of poverty.

History of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Women suffered deeply during Afghanistan’s almost 40-year war. They ferociously and tirelessly fought for gender equality. During the Taliban regime from 1906 to 2001, women were denied access to basic rights such as education, employment, freedom of movement and healthcare. Essentially, women were either invisible in public life or subjected to continuous violence. After 2001, female activists achieved significant legislative progress. However, the patriarchal structures, religious fundamentalism, the Taliban’s remaining rhetoric and the all-prevailing insecurity of the nation still shape the country and hinder the progress toward equality.

The Successes of Online Commerce

Despite poverty, corruption and political instability, Afghan women all over the country found a way to break away from their conservative society through digital advancements. One of the ways women entered into the world of business was through the Afghan e-commerce site Click.af. Founded in 2016 by Masiullah Stanikzai, Click.af provides Afghans access to a domestic online market. The site started shipping globally last year. The main reason behind the expansion was to connect local designers and artisans to a larger base of consumers around the world. It also promoted Afghan-made products. When sellers register on Click.af, they can find technology, tools and infrastructure to help them grow and succeed. The elements include customer management, marketing and sales tools to manage consumers while showing their presence online and boost sales.

Real Stories of Female-run Businesses

Click.af inspires young women to be entrepreneurs. Currently, the e-commerce platform has enabled 45 Afghan women entrepreneurs to launch their own small businesses. One of these women is 25-year-old Maryam Yousufi, who launched the fashion line called Machum. Yousufi’s brand focuses on designing clothes that fuse Western style with traditional Afghan designs. Yousufi’s dream was to see her products reach global markets. She believes online platforms can give others a chance to try entrepreneurship and overcome conservative attitudes toward women. Through Click.af she was able to receive a credit to start a business.

Women entrepreneurs, especially those in the sector of social entrepreneurship, often disrupt patterns of gender inequality. They reshape dominant expectations, norms and stigmas. According to the World Economic Forum, Yousufi couldn’t even dare to believe that one day she would be able to sew clothes. Yousufi is now designing and selling clothes. According to Yousufi, the opportunity she found through e-commerce allowed her to make decisions in a country where others usually made decisions for her. Click.af is about selling and connecting, but it also shows Afghan women entrepreneurs that they have the right to choose a path for themselves.

Advances for Women Entrepreneurs

E-commerce is a powerful tool that is capable of bringing great benefits to female entrepreneurs. It challenges the old barriers of geographic isolation and restricted access to information and financing. Thanks to the expansion of e-commerce, people in Afghanistan today can shop with full information. They now have the knowledge of the pros and cons of the products instead of relying on word-to-mouth. E-commerce platforms, including Click.af, have also made it possible for shops to open 24/7. This resulted in a meaningful increase in sales for local sellers. More importantly, e-commerce is a necessity in Afghanistan since COVID-19 reached the country and mobility was consequently limited. During the lockdown, while most physical stores and public companies closed, online retailers were able to operate without violating social distance regulations.

Looking Forward

Although e-commerce ventures in Afghanistan still struggle to flourish due to issues such as security issues, capital investments and online payments, there is no doubt that online shopping will exponentially increase its presence in the next few years. Platforms similar to Click.af provide an important opportunity for Afghanistan’s war-torn economy, and more specifically, it demonstrates how empowering female social entrepreneurs is key for the country’s economic recovery. Click.af has been able to reframe the definition of success in a more inclusive manner, which includes and celebrates Afghan women who, against all odds, are taking a chance and jumping into entrepreneurship.

– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno

Photo: Flickr 

Solve Rural PovertyThe head of the United Nations International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, praised China’s efforts to meet its goal to solve rural poverty by the end of 2020 despite the socioeconomic complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He further highlighted the importance of China’s work toward achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development goal of eradicating extreme poverty worldwide.

Transitional Monitoring Period

The relief campaign, which began in 2013, will remain in place after achieving the intended poverty reduction goals. Officials plan to institute a transitional period to monitor economic progress and prevent backsliding among those most recently lifted out of rural poverty. The transition period is also meant to introduce a shift from addressing absolute poverty to the wider goal of assisting poor agricultural regions.

Access for All: Digital Transformation

Advances in digital infrastructure have transformed internet access nationwide. In 2018, China’s Information Technology Ministry announced its goal to expand internet access to 98% of underprivileged areas. China achieved this goal in August 2019, resulting in an 8% increase in the number of internet users. Moreover, rural and urban regions enjoy the same internet quality and speed. This improvement in internet access has spurred new technological development projects, including 5G, blockchain and advanced logistics systems in rural areas.

E-commerce for the Rural Poor

As a result of this trend, consumption through e-commerce has been a key tool in aiding the rural poor. The China E-commerce Poverty Alleviation Alliance consists of 29 e-commerce platforms that allow Chinese farmers, who otherwise struggle to turn a profit, to list their products for sale online. E-commerce tools with the alliance have resulted in nearly $300 million USD worth of sales of agricultural products from underprivileged regions. Live streaming platforms are another increasingly effective method for rural farmers to increase the visibility of their products and reach out to new customers nationwide.

Rural Resettlements

Another prominent program to solve rural poverty is the rural resettlement program. This system relocates populations who live in ecologically dangerous or remote areas closer to urban regions to grant them access to better job opportunities, quality healthcare and formal education in cities.

One example is the resettlement of the Yi ethnic minority in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province. Atule’er, also known as Cliff Village, is the mountainous and underdeveloped home of the Yi people, fostering little tourist attention or economic activity. The local government has resettled a large portion of the village to the more developed Zhaojue province and given villagers subsidized apartments.

Relocation Program Flaws

This relocation program and the rural poverty alleviation campaign as a whole, are not without flaws. Some relocated residents are unable to find work opportunities in their new city and must move back to their village since they can not afford the high cost of living. Even if some do gain access to economic opportunity in the city, many are concerned about what these relocations mean for minority cultures. Forced industrialization and urbanization is seen as a tool for the state to force non-Han ethnic minorities to assimilate and leave behind their traditional customs.

National-level disorganization has also drawn criticism. About 60% of citizens who should qualify for poverty-stricken status based on their income to receive welfare payments and subsidized housing from the state were not given the designation. Many other citizens were incorrectly recorded as poverty-stricken as a result of bureaucratic errors, misdirecting the benefits away from the millions of unaided rural poor.

China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

Aside from state-led initiatives, which tend to draw the most controversy, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also committed to solve rural poverty in China. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) is one such NGO that aided 4.19 million people and raised over 580 million yuan, about $91 million, in 2017 alone. One notable project is the “New Great Wall” Program which promoted increased access to education by providing scholarships and financial assistance to students from underprivileged backgrounds. The CFPA also engaged in the “Beautiful Countryside” Program to repair damaged houses, roads and infrastructure, both improve living conditions and promoting tourism in otherwise economically underdeveloped regions.

The Road Ahead

Despite China’s extensive steps, there is much room for improvement regarding respecting minority cultures and ensuring that the progress achieved thus far will be lasting. Thus, NGOs that build relationships with the local communities themselves are proving to be essential in the fight toward eradicating rural poverty.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Flickr

Drones in ChinaChina is a major industrial leader with a booming economy and population. However, upon closer examination, one finds that China has a rampant problem of poverty in its rural regions. Ironically, the areas most impacted are those that tout agricultural prowess. In fact, around five of China’s most impoverished counties are major cotton-producing areas. To help combat this, new and unconventional technologies are providing the solution to low agricultural yields and unsustainable farming practices. Meet drones — the latest in portable flying technology used to aid in the fight against poverty in rural China.

Here are three ways that drones and other networking and communication technologies have taken root in impoverished Chinese communities:

  1. Drones and satellite imagery: Drones monitor the well-being of crops from the sky and assist in spraying chemicals and other supplements. Drones can also take photos of crop fields and relay these images back to farmers. The photos can determine the exact amount of soil, water and other resources needed for their agriculture to thrive. This practice is dubbed as “precision agriculture.” With the help of technology, this technique is increasingly applied to crops like corn and soy in subsistence-based China. More than 55,000 agricultural drones are currently in use in China. They have sprayed pesticides over an estimated 30 million hectares of land, according to the director of the China Agrotech Extension Association.
  2. Boosting yield and incomes: In 2019, nearly 4,500 drones in the Chinese province of Xinjiang accomplished agricultural productivity for 65% of the cotton fields in the region. Although it may seem as though drones are stealing jobs from the average working farmer, their subsequent introduction actually raised Xinjiang’s cotton output by 400,000 tons. An increase of $430 million in revenue is another result of the use of drones. Furthermore, one drone can do the work of sixty farmers in one hour and can spray pesticides 50 to 80 times faster than traditional farming. Thus, an efficient agricultural and harvesting environment is created. Drones essentially stimulate economic growth and support the rural working class in China by removing time and labor costs from the equation, helping farmers escape poverty.
  3. New networks: Drones are well-suited to the rugged farming environment in China. They can fly high above a grassy region or traverse difficult terrains often found within rural regions. These drones have easy adaptability and control through cell phones. This is especially useful for farmers who cannot entirely survey those areas individually. Additionally, farming data from drones has allowed farmers to access weather and disaster warnings, allowing them to prepare in advance. Those features inspired the government to conjure up a new idea: internet towers. China’s Ministry of Commerce employed a widespread plan to apply e-business to over 80% of its villages to combat poverty. Farmers utilize so-called e-commerce service stations, with the help of these newly created network and cable signals, to reach new markets to sell their products. In fact, online retail sales of agriculture have seen a significant yearly increase of 25.3%, with rural areas constituting a majority of this percentage.

The innovative and real-life applications of drones are virtually limitless and present a new way of combating global poverty. This Chinese experiment shows positive results and could soon become emblematic of drone-based agriculture on a much larger scale. In turn, this will help farmers that struggle with low agricultural yields, integrate them into an increasingly tech-based economic environment and lift them out of poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Pixabay

Online Charitable Donation PlatformThe AmazonSmile Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization created by Amazon to administer the AmazonSmile program. This program allows customers to enjoy the same Amazon online shopping experience as the traditional Amazon online shopping platform, but now with the option of donating 0.5% of eligible purchases to various charitable organizations. The AmazonSmile program charges no additional cost to either the charitable organization or the customer. The new foundation from Amazon or rather, the online, charitable donation platform, represents a positive, philanthropic step forward for the company. This initiative has the potential to reach millions of Amazon users and hopefully, even more of the world’s poor will benefit.

How it Works

Signing up for AmazonSmile is a highly intuitive process for customers. It is available on any web browser under the URL: smile.amazon.com and it can even be activated from the Amazon shopping application. One of the program’s main features is that customers can choose the specific nonprofit to which they want to donate. Moreover, the online, charitable donation platform offers more than 1 million charitable organizations to choose from.

The charities included in the program must pass an approval process to guarantee that the customers’ donations only fund reputable organizations. Organizations hold valid registry and remain in solid standing with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) (also known as a registered nonprofit). Only then are charitable organizations eligible to register on AmazonSmile. Additionally, foundations must be public and located in either the U.S. or Washington D.C.

Yet, after all of this information, an important question remains — why are some Amazon customers hesitant to use this program when shopping?

The Problems with AmazonSmile

Enabling AmazonSmile seems like a simple way to help others. However, the program has already received some criticism. Since the donation is only 0.5% of a customer’s eligible purchase order, a customer would have to spend $5,000 on Amazon to donate just $25 to the organization of their choice. When taking a closer look at consumer spending, it is clear that this purchase-to-donation ratio is not necessarily skewed in favor of Amazon’s online charitable donation platform (and thus, the charities). For example, in 2018 Amazon Prime members only spent an average of $1,400 on purchase orders. Moreover, the purchase order value (on average) for consumers who were not Amazon Prime members was even less, at $600.

In 2015, the AmazonSmile Foundation donated just less than $13 million to charitable organizations. Although this figure undoubtedly represents a substantial amount of money, the fact remains that the company’s contribution was still less than 0.5% of Amazon’s total retail sales for that same year. The program donated about 0.00012% of Amazon’s total retail sales in 2015. Given Amazon’s extreme level of success, many people criticize the program for its minuscule donations (in proportion to the company’s total retail sales).

A Silver Lining

Regardless of its flaws, the AmazonSmile Foundation holds the potential to provide a simple way to substantially give back to charitable organizations. For those who want to make small contributions, often — transitioning to AmazonSmile is an effective way to accomplish philanthropic, retail goals while making a positive impact in the fight against world poverty.

Danielle Wallman
Photo: Google Images

5 Areas Developing Countries Lead the World
Upon initial inspection, developing countries face many obvious challenges, some of which obscure the progress being made. The realities of poverty can sometimes force this progress; after all, from the bottom, there’s only one way to go: up. Developing countries lead the world now in ways unforeseen perhaps a decade ago, and in some ways have even distinguished themselves on the global stage. Five areas serve to highlight where these countries are outperforming the developed world.

5 Areas in Which Developing Countries Lead the World

  1. Renewable and Sustainable Energy
    On the rocky fringes of a global landscape, developing countries lead the world down some of the most implausible of paths. One such pathway grows greener than others. According to World Bank, an international financial institution that finances capital projects in countries throughout the world, Mexico, China, India and Brazil are among the leaders in sustainable energy policies.In Scoring 111 countries on policies that support energy access, World Bank analytics called Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) took into account each country’s energy access, efficiency, and policies. Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania also received praise for their efforts.Perhaps one reason for this trend could be the falling costs of solar energy, allowing for developing countries to reach their most isolated residents. Whatever the reason, developing economies invested in renewable energy to the tune of $177 billion in 2017. That’s a 20 percent leap in one year.
  2. Election Technology
    In places like Nigeria, electronic voter identification takes precedence over traditional work, while elsewhere, in developed countries like the U.K., the digital jump still hasn’t been made.While the electronic “fixing” of an election may be possible, the likelihood of it working in a persuasive manner depends largely on the closeness of an election. And while elections in places like Kenya meet opposition and challenge, Africa still finds itself ahead in the popular vote, so to speak, when it comes to digital voting technology.
  1. Mobile Money
    Developing countries lead the way in the implementation and use of mobile money technologies as well. Remarkably, Kenya has hit the decade mark with its M-Pesa mobile money service, but it is not alone in this growing trend among developing nations.In a 2017 report by Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA), an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators the world over, 277 million registered mobile money accounts dotted sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2016. These services generated $110 billion of economic value and helped to support more than three million jobs.
  2. e-Commerce and Trade
    Commercial transactions conducted electronically online, referred to as e-commerce, might often be associated with advanced economies. However, developing countries also lead the way in this area, in nations like Columbia, Argentina and Nigeria.In fact, in Latin America alone, e-commerce is expected to see growth of nearly 20 percent over the next five years. What does this mean for a developing economy? It means growth opportunities and greater integration within the world’s markets.In terms of countries opening themselves up to trade, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines take center stage. According to the World Economic Forum, an organization that engages world leaders to shape agendas, these countries have now displaced the traditional powerhouses.
  3. Positivity
    A recent poll by Gallup International, a leader in economic and market research, shows that the external powers of money may not necessarily translate to intrinsic happiness. The poll found that optimism came from places like Nigeria, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.When asked questions about prospects for the future or personal happiness, confidence abounded in places like Mexico, despite grim financial outlooks for the country. Maybe money can’t buy happiness.

Despite lingering stereotypes and growing pessimism in our world, developing countries lead the world in several different areas, and while the change in perception may be gradual, reality dictates a much quicker realization: developing countries make strides every day, and in some cases, set the standard.

– Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

Mall for Africa
Mall for Africa is a patent-pending app, payment system, web service and platform that allows people from African nations to buy from U.S.- and U.K.-based e-commerce sites. This opens up local populations in Africa to products and stores they might not have access to otherwise. The app and site provide secure logins, delivery and accept local payment methods. Since its inception, Mall for Africa has joined forces with other companies and expanded its brand to give African shoppers even more options.

Chris Folayan is the CEO and founder of Mall for Africa. While studying for a business degree in marketing at San Jose State University, his family in Nigeria would send him detailed lists of things they wanted him to bring them when he visited. He started the business after he couldn’t board a plane because he had too much luggage with him. He recognized the demand and developed an app to bridge the gap.

The company works by shipping through the app and absorbing all the risks U.S. and U.K. e-retailers are wary of. The app takes care of payments in various currencies, security concerns and fraud, charge-backs, delivery confirmations and customs clearing. As a result, popular companies and brands —Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, Apple, Zara just to name a few—are now shipping to African countries.

Additionally, individuals can use the app for more than entertainment and commodities. In an interview with How We Made It In Africa, Folayan explains that it is also a tool of empowerment for the African people. It is how some schools get textbooks, computers and other supplies necessary for the academic year. Hospitals have ordered equipment that used to be unavailable to them. People have even started their own businesses now that they can gather the items they need.

Folayan went on to say that international brands are recognizing that the African consumer base is invaluable. This puts these consumers in a position to request stores to stock African brands. If this becomes the case, African designers will be able to use Mall for Africa to sell their goods abroad.

Since its humble beginnings in 2012, Mall for Africa has grown exponentially. GroceryDirect and FashionDirect connect African consumers to even more products and goods. These services are both powered by Mall for Africa. Even with these expansions, Folayan sees room for improvement in the app. Currently, it is available to people living in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. However, the founder hopes to include other countries in the future.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Google

E-Commerce in the Middle East
E-commerce — the purchase and sale of services through the internet — is a highly effective, low-cost way to increase revenue, generate employment, and reduce poverty in developing countries.

It was first introduced in the 1960s via an electronic data interchange (EDI) on value-added networks (VANs), then grew in the 1990s and early 2000s thanks to increased access to the internet and popular online sellers, such as Amazon and Ebay.

The internet makes e-commerce possible everywhere. It increases market efficiency, improves resource management and allows sellers to connect with buyers around the world at very low costs. E-commerce also employs maintenance workers, analysts and programmers, as well as opens up opportunities for self-employment. It also allows entrepreneurs to develop new products and expand into the market.

Needless to say, this has done wonders for the global economy; in 2013 worldwide e-commerce sales reached $1.2 trillion.

E-commerce in the Middle East, in particular, has grown by 1,500% over the last decade. The Middle East has one of the highest spending potentials in the world due in part to its widespread use of internet mobile technology. In the Middle East and North Africa, there are 110 million internet users, 30 million of which are shopping online already.

Electronic commerce brands often connect with shoppers via search engine optimization and social media. According to Paymill, Facebook drove 85% of worldwide social media-originating sales on an e-commerce platform in 2014.

The e-commerce markets in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are expected to grow the fastest globally in the next few years. The e-commerce market in the Arab World is currently the biggest, worth $7 billion, while Saudi Arabia, the second-largest market, is estimated to be worth $520 million.

Electronic commerce in the Middle East has generated substantial income and employment opportunities. Digital commerce firms are creating new jobs and major companies are giving opportunities to young people, which boosts the economy and prepares it for stable growth.

The Middle East’s improved logistics and relatively high smartphone and tablet penetration are set to increase substantially in the coming years. This gives it even more economic potential and has opened up a new era for regional e-commerce.

E-commerce in the Middle East reduces poverty by improving the flow of information and communication. It gives the poor access to information and can be used as a way of participating in the global economy. It also provides employment opportunities for young people and independent entrepreneurs alike. As it begins to reach its full potential, e-commerce will transform the entire region and prepare it for powerful integration into the increasingly virtual global economy.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Flipkart

The king of e-commerce in India is not Amazon but rather a locally formed competitor: Flipkart. Like Amazon, Flipkart began as an online bookstore in 2007. Today, it has more than 75 million and accounts for almost 50 percent of online purchases. Along with another homegrown company, Snapdeal, Flipkart has created thousands of jobs and access to higher quality goods at lower prices—a win-win situation for struggling communities in India.

The popularity of online shopping can be attributed to the increasing availability of smartphones. Within just six months, the usage of smartphones among total mobile phones grew from one in five to one in every four mobile phones. Thus, analysts believe that internet usage will grow by 27 percent in just five years and contribute to the doubling of income per person from $1,570 to roughly $3,000 a year by 2025.

The growth of the cell phone industry and e-commerce in India indicates a positive spike in the quality of life. In its analysis of poverty levels in 2011, the World Bank reported that about 21 percent of India’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day. In 2015, that figure dropped to 12.4 percent, meaning 97 million people have officially emerged from extreme poverty. Since Flipkart and its competitors expect a bright future, it is believed that these numbers will only improve.

With more people on the internet, Indian firms like Flipkart and Snapdeal plan to increase their sales seven times over by 2020. This growth is good not only for those in the e-commerce market but also for local businesses and low-skilled labor.

According to The Economist, one of the primary areas of job creation is delivery services. Although these services were already widely used, such as transporting groceries from local corner markets or delivering lunch, the explosion of online shopping has made the demand for deliveries even stronger. Delivery men can now make up to $200 a month—well above what is average for low-skilled labor.

Overall employment is predicted to rise by as much as 30 percent in the next three years. Other estimates claim that as many as two million jobs were created in 2015 by Flipkart alone.

Physical stores are also making progress through e-commerce. The Indian division of Amazon, along with other online distributors, has made it much easier for new businesses to reach a wider selection of consumers, thereby expanding their sales and revenues. As it goes, India is in the middle of an economic upward spiral that is both energizing and hopeful.

Emiliano Perez

Photo: Flickr

YudalaYudala made the first drone delivery in Nigeria during its Black Friday sale.

A group of spectators and several media organizations came with camera crews to watch the drone take off from the Yudala headquarters in Gbagada.

The drone delivered a Nokia smart phone to a customer who ordered from the Yudala website. It flew all the way to an Access Bank branch located along the Gbagada-Oshodi Expressway where the item was successfully delivered, according to Vanguard.

The customer who received the smart phone, Yetunde Lawal, said, “I am extremely delighted and indeed short of words to explain how I feel to be the first person to receive an item via drone delivery in Nigeria, all thanks to Yudala. This is an innovative concept in the evolution of e-commerce in the country, which I am sure other competitors will want to copy.”

Yudala continued to make drone deliveries throughout the rest of its Black Friday sales, which took place from November 26 to November 30.

Lawal said, “Yudala has met and exceeded my expectations, and I can only encourage all my colleagues, friends and family to shop and shop on Yudala. Black Friday is here, and I am glad that the Yudala offer will run till Monday.”

Companies such as Amazon are working to incorporate drone deliveries into their businesses, according to CNN. Drone deliveries are believed to be the future for online delivery companies.

Yudala is Nigeria’s first true composite online and offline retail chain. The word means “best wishes, peace of mind and prosperity” and is the first organization in Nigeria to combine an online platform with offline stores located in cities across Africa.

According to MSN News, Yudala has a strong ambition to control the pace and set new milestones for online and offline retail business. The company started up four months ago and has been very successful ever since.

They have been working on some powerful campaigns to break through to Africa, including “Neighbor to Neighbor Mega-Deals” and “October Mid-Day Madness,” according to Innov8tiv.com.

They have also entered into partnerships with other companies such as HP, Lenovo, Apple, Microsoft, Sony and Dell.

Jordan Connell

Sources: CNN, Innov8tiv.com, MSN News, Vanguard
Photo: Somtoo

giphy8
Online shopping or E-commerce in America has been growing at an extremely fast rate. With the increasing popularity of smart phones and tablets, more and more consumers are shopping online. Online shopping has many advantages over traditional approaches.

The first advantage is that consumers can easily access the virtual store from anywhere, at any time, through smart phone and tablet applications. Many companies are getting away from physical stores and moving into the virtual world. The internet has the ability to reach a wider range of customers and cut down on operating costs for companies.

The second advantage of online shopping is that consumers can easily compare pricing of the same product across different websites and different companies. Last but not least, E-commerce offers a more competitive pricing structure to satisfy the shoppers.

In 2012, E-commerce sales in the U.S reached almost $289 billion, a shocking number compared to $256 billion in 2011. This number is expected to grow to $361.9 billion by 2016. While one third of e-commerce sales come from travel and flight booking, the majority of purchases are from retail sales.

The leading categories in retail e-commerce are Electronic/Appliances (21.93%) and Apparel/Accessories (20.93%). With the holidays approaching, the e-commerce sector is performing better than ever.

Along with the growth of e-commerce, many internet retailing companies are contributing more towards the fight to end global poverty. One of these companies is Amazon.com. Amazon has implemented a program to support the cause, contributing up to $40 for every $1000 spent toward global poverty reduction.

Check out the Borgen Project Amazon Link. At the same time, many other organizations like Tom’s Shoes, offer free products and services to people in poverty around the world.

According to the numbers, between $17 billion to $28 billion can be contributed annually to global poverty reduction just by shopping online alone. To put this into perspective, the USAID annual budget is only $33 billion, UNICEF’s budget is even lower at $11.7 billion, and the annual short fall to end world hunger is $30 billion.

U.S consumers alone can make up for more than UNICEF’s budget and almost enough to cover the short fall to end world hunger. Consumers should strive to increase their awareness of organizations offer contributions and get enrolled. It is easy, simple, and comes at almost no cost to the online shoppers.

Phong Pham

Sources: Borgen Project, Statista, visual.ly
Photo: Giphy.com