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OLX Believes Classified Ads Space in Nigeria is Booming – Masha

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Lola Masha is the country manager, OLX Nigeria

Lola Masha is the country manager, OLX Nigeria, the leading online classifieds player in the country. Lola Masha joined OLX Nigeria in February 2014 with the goal of building a world-class online classifieds business that stands out from its competition.
Lola, holds a PhD in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She is an outstanding individual with expertise in business development, entrepreneurship, operational transformation, strategy and product development, across numerous industries including technology and consulting. 
She has significant international experience and has worked with brands like Google and McKinsey Consulting. In this interview with Peter Ugwu, she shares her passion about the e-commerce space in Nigeria, discussing OLX’s ambition for growth in the market.

The Concept: OLX
OLX is the number one online classifieds site in Nigeria and in some markets globally. It is a vibrant platform for buyers to meet sellers to trade. We are an online marketplace operating in 40 countries in the world. We have about 200 Million monthly active users globally.

The Place of OLX in Nigeria’s e-Commerce Market
We are replicating our global achievements in Nigeria. Today, OLX is the leading online classifieds site in Nigeria by a significant margin. We have over 120,000 ads currently live on our platform across different categories such as vehicles, mobile phones, electronics, real estate that users have posted to sell to other potential buyers.

The Motivation behind Users’ Adoption of the OLX Platform
Trade is a universal need and it has happened for generations. What we do differently to facilitate trade is to provide a rich platform and excellent customer support to guide our users through the process.
At the end of the day, success is defined on the platform as being able to sell or buy a particular product. We continuously optimize our platform to ensure that our users are successful.

Challenges of Grooming/Expanding E-Commerce Platforms in Nigeria
The most important priority for us here in Nigeria is trust and safety. We need to ensure that our users feel safe and secure when they use the OLX platform.
When they feel secure, they are likely to return for more transactions. We are also doing several things to achieve trust through customer support; we review all ads posted on OLX to ensure they meet our safety criteria and requirements.
We are constantly ensuring that the ads that go live on the site are high quality ones round the clock.
Secondly, we educate our users on how to trade safely by providing safety tips on all our social media platforms. We also communicate safety tips through marketing campaigns; TV and radio commercials, radio shows and partnerships with media influencers to help educate the public.
As long as users follow our safety tips, we can assure them that they will have a safe and wonderful experience on our platform.
Some of the key safety tips are: never pay in advance; inspect the item carefully before making a purchase, meet in a public place to make the exchange and partner with us by reporting fraudulent users using the report button on the site, call or email. Simply, OLX is an online representative of what happens offline.
The same way when you go to buy a used car you first test-drive it, you get a mechanic to inspect its engine and other sensitive parts or when you buy a TV from a friend you test it to make sure it works. Users who currently follow all the necessary precautions offline, should replicate them when they use OLX.

The Alleged Nanny Employed Through OLX
What the nanny incident indicates and what became very clear to us is that Nigerians do not yet understand the difference between the online classifieds model and the e-tail model.
It also implies that we need to intensify efforts on user education, particularly on the online classifieds model, our business approach and the value the platform offers.
If this were to have happened in the United States or the United Kingdom, it would not be news, because people understand the classifieds model or if a driver was recruited via a traditional newspaper classified section and he steals, it wouldn’t make the news either.

The Foreign Investors’ Domination of Nigeria e-Commerce Space
It is never easy to build a flourishing e-commerce platform, but there are successful stories of Nigerian entrepreneurs building businesses from the ground up to enviable heights. I do not see foreign investments as a negative trend rather it is money coming into the country.
What is important is that Nigerians are able to leverage it to improve the economy that includes, creating jobs, building a stronger logistics sector, e-payment and other services required in the ecommerce eco system.
E-commerce is here to stay and any economy that values it does everything possible to protect the sector.
I think users see value in the convenience, the variety of products and access it has provided. It is a positive platform for the country and important that it continues to contribute to the economic growth of the country.

Regulations
We are fully open and in support of working with the regulators to ensure the ecommerce industry grows. It is in our interest to partner with the relevant stakeholders; the regulators, government agencies, competitors and other service providers. We must work together to make e-commerce a viable and sustainable industry in Nigeria.

Differentiating Electronic and Traditional Commerce Models
For online classifieds, one of the advantages is the access to a wide variety of goods and services conveniently.
The information you get using online classifieds compared to print classifieds is a richer set of features. If you are going to sell your car via the newspaper classifieds section, of course it wouldn’t be on the front-page but online, you can add richer content like colored pictures, detailed descriptions and so on.

OLX Acquisitions in Nigeria     
Yes, the acquisition of our competition shows that Nigeria is a priority market for us. OLX is committed to the market; we are here to stay and thrive.
If that means acquiring our competition, we are fully on ground to do so. It also speaks about the culture at OLX, we move very fast in getting things done to be successful.

Broadband and e-Commerce Growth in Nigeria
There has been a lot of progress in the last five years, which includes scaling up internet penetration in the country. I think at the moment the penetration rate stands at 38%, whereas it was less than 10% a few years ago.
However, we still have a lot of work to do in this sector. We recently partnered with MTN on the MTN APPtitude campaign to provide users the opportunity to download the OLX app free of data charges. This is an added advantage to our users, because we know data is still expensive in the market.

OLX’s Market Share Target
Our immediate target is to enhance consumer trade. Although we are leading the classifieds site in Nigeria, the market is still quite immature.  Our ambitions are to work with other stakeholders and lead the way to successfully grow the e-commerce space in Nigeria. With continued focus on delighting the Nigerian users, it is clear that OLX will continue to dominate the online classifieds space in Nigeria and across Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria Can Become Africa’s Internet Hub If… – MainOne

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Vremudia Oghene-Ruemu, MDXi’s product manager, Data Center in this interview assesses the data centre market in Nigeria, challenges confronting the line of business, the partnership with IXPN, MainOne’s Open Connect Service, among others. Excerpts

Data Centre Operations in Nigeria

The Data Center landscape in Nigeria is still new, gradually developing. We have a few data centers for our economic size and population, which means there is opportunity for more operators to come in.

We are gradually building a digital economy, which requires cloud-based services and applications and data centers.

A rising confluence of demand and supply factors is making Nigeria’s data center business one of the most dynamic ICT market segments in Africa.

As broadband adoption has boomed, demand for cloud services has emerged and is expected to surpass supply soon.

To cater to this demand, MainOne’s Data Center Company, MDXi is also building more Data Centers not only in Nigeria, but other parts of West Africa. We have started our second Tier III Data Center in Nigeria in Sagamu, Ogun State; we have a Data Center in Accra and should launch another in Cote D’Ivoire soon.

We believe that other players will follow suit and build to match the growing demand. Right now, South Africa has the largest data center presence on the continent, with North Africa following closely but Nigeria and other West Africans countries are expected to deepen Data Center penetration over the next few years.

Main Challenges Confronting Your Line of Business

The major challenge for Nigerian businesses right now is the high cost of operation. Data Centers have huge power requirements and usually recourse to direct connection to the national grid, which is a significant investment in addition to backups, which include huge generators with attendant costs of diesel ad maintenance.

Operators need to import equipment into the country, but do not have access to FOREX, as the Central Bank has refused to give telcos priority. It has been ingenuity and financial knowhow that has kept players like us going in this tough terrain.

Nigeria is yet to fully implement data domiciliation and a lot of government and enterprise businesses still hosts Nigeria’s data abroad, rather than patronize indigenous data centers.

The Federal Government needs to enable policy to drive our diversification from oil-dependent to services-focused; such as pioneer status for indigenous operators, tax exemptions, data residency and priority access to Forex will go a long way to help Nigeria’s data center operators and enable us be at par with South Africa and other climes.

In China for example, foreign operators are mandated to keep Chinese data within the country. Europe, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia have also implemented Data Domiciliation regulation.

Nigeria must also proactively protect its citizen’s data and mitigate huge security risks by repatriating all Nigerian data in-country. This will limit the country’s exposure to cyber-attacks, save us huge international internet transit costs and enable Nigeria’s data center capacity to grow quicker.

We need to understand that apart from glaring issues such as national security and capital flight; local data hosting has the ability to drive job growth and improve the lives of our teeming youth population.

Local data domiciliation has worked and is still working in countries with strong digital economies around the world. All you have to do is look around the globe to see what having data hosted in-country has done for local innovation, technology development and economies in general.

Partnership with The Nigerian Internet Exchange (IXPN)

This move is significant in many ways. As a data center provider, there are two goals. The first goal is to ensure that businesses that have high availability requirements can run their technology operations without breaking the bank.

The second goal, is to ensure that the infrastructure running these highly available services can be reached irrespective of the networks that users connect from.

To ensure that end users communicate effectively in this rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, network providers need to enable the exchange of user data in the quickest and most efficient manner using a process called peering. Peering is made possible by an Internet exchange point which in the simplest of terms is a physical meeting point where networks, content and service providers connect and directly exchange data.

This results in the significant reduction of costs and increase in speeds at which data is exchanged thereby leading to consumer friendly network subscription rates and superb end user experiences.

This is where our partnership with the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) is relevant. By hosting and partnering with the IXPN, our data center customers now have quicker, less costly access to local, regional and global connectivity via simple physical cable connections called cross connects.With these cross connects and close proximity to the Internet Exchange, our customers immediately have instant access to an ecosystem of network providers, cloud platforms, content providers and business partners while saving costs on expensive wide area network links and ensuring high network performance.

By combining our vast local, regional and global network resources with the IXPN’s capabilities, we can now directly connect and provide interconnection services to local operators, regional operators, global carriers, content providers, ISPs among others. Our data center’s value proposition is thus to ensure that people that host in our data center are able to reach their users seamlessly with great user experience and at lower costs.

Role of The IXPN

The Internet Exchange is the backbone of digital economies around the world and a key ingredient to growing the online economy in Nigeria.

The role of the IXPN is to ensure the local exchange of data between users by enabling peering between the networks that serve these users; hence the popular saying “keeping local traffic local”.

An example is a situation where an email from User A in Lagos to User B in Lagos needs to travel across User A’s provider network to an International location where User A and User B’s networks connect just because they cannot connect locally.

You can also view this practically from the standpoint of regional airport hubs which serve as an exchange point for passengers between different airlines served by that airport.

Airline passengers will definitely not fancyif they travel long hours to switch flights outside their country to reach a destination in their country just because a common airport that serves multiple airlines in the country does not exist. Routing internet traffic is similar to you flying to Ghana to get a connecting flight to Abuja, because there is no local interconnection point.

Mainone’s Open Connect Service
With Open Connect we are creating a powerful Internet ecosystem in the same physical location as the Nigerian Internet Exchange, and providing a platform for participants to exchange data in real-time at lightning fast speeds.

The idea behind Open Connect is that we are enabling owners of products, services and content with high response requirements become more service-oriented by bringing the networks closer to them. Being closer to the networks significantly enhances their ability to improve their end user experiences. For instance, today’s customer will seriously consider changing banks if they have an internet banking application that takes thirty seconds to open a login page, and takes several other painstaking minutes to conduct a transaction.

Main Benefits of Open Connect
Open Connect provides better network performance for the networks and their end users. It also ensures low latency connections which in turn enhance the end user experience while enabling local data exchange, local content and local hosting.

Before Open Connect, How Did Operators Connect?

In the past, operators connected Internet traffic via networks outside the country at interconnection locations where global content providers reside. This put more costs on internet providers, slowed down internet connections and put the end user at a disadvantage from a cost and user experience.

For voice services, interconnections were achieved through clearing houses some of which are present locally today. These methods of interconnection are no longer sustainable with the volumes of broadband traffic we are experiencing in Nigeria today via current explosion in content and smartphones.

The Nigerian Internet Exchange is currently enabling a limited amount of interconnection between operators today but we believe that a synergy between MDXi and the Exchange using Open Connect as a platform will take interconnections to the next level in Nigeria and West Africa.

With The Launch Of Open Connect Would You Now Consider Yourself A Carrier Neutral Data Centre?

We have always been a carrier neutral data center. For the benefit of your readers, a carrier neutral data center is a facility that allows its customers connect their hosted infrastructure to any network of their choice.

MDXi is structured as a totally separate legal entity from MainOne even though we are a subsidiary company. Customers in MDXi are free to choose any network provider that suits their business requirements and have done so since Day 1. As a result, customers in MDXi are connected to their various locations by over 20 different network operators and ISPs today.

Launching Open Connect expands our commitment to providing that open access, carrier neutral environment and bringing it closer to the Internet Exchange for all our customers to thrive.

Of What Benefit Is This To Over-The-Top (OTT) And Content Providers Across The Continent?

Until around 4 years ago, OTT operators like Facebook and Google hosted outside the continent because the infrastructure to host locally wasnot available and the traffic they generated in Nigeria was quite limited with low internet penetration.

This narrative is however changing as the facilities to host such infrastructure is now available on the continent. Africa’s huge population and rapid mobile broadband adoption is also a major business driver for these large players as they recruit these large number of users to their platforms.

Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent and we are beginning to see more content providers, producers and distributors develop significant interest in our local market. Five years ago we didnot have applications like Facebook Live, Instagram live and WhatsApp video. We also did not have Internet banking and the level of E-Commerce applications that require real-time online connections as we do today.

One of the key value propositions for content is a robust user experience. Accessing content hosted outside the country provides a significantly diminished user experience compared to content hosted within the country. By leveraging local hosting and Open Connect, content providers will improve their user experiences significantly, scale their products and increase user subscriptions which will lead to more revenue.

Plans to Build an Internet Hub in West Africa

By hosting the Nigerian Internet Exchange and leveraging our already active connections to the Ghanaian, Amsterdam and London Internet exchanges we have significantly expanded the reach of our network to other networks in the region and globally.

What is next is to ensure that our partnership with various internet exchanges and content providers across the continent continues to grow using products such as Open Connect to explore new frontiers for interconnections.
We will leverage our strengths as West Africa’s most connected data center to continually localize traffic, reduce transmission costs and improve user experiences which will catalyze the development of other industries such as gaming, content and media which are highly dependent on superior internet connections.

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Cheki Accounts for 60% Online Car Listening in Nigeria- Dara

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Gbenro Dara, chief executive officer of Cheki.com.ng has said the platform which accounts for about 60% online car listings in Nigeria is out to assist the dealers improve on their sales.

Speaking to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek recently, he said in the last five years the platform would remain on the forefront of innovation in the market.

Cheki.com.ng, he said, is experimenting on a virtual room, where potential buyers are exposed to a-360 picture view of the car.

“First, we are the biggest and oldest online car sells platform in Nigeria. Therefore, we have a database of five years, containing data of anybody who had thought about buying a car through online platform. We have 60% of them on Cheki.

“We can literally say we have idea of people who intended to buy a car in the last five years and others who went ahead to purchase. We also know the sellers and their locations: their monthly sells and number of cars they have online. Such data are valuable even to the Government for taxation.

“Tax has remained a big source of revenue for the Government. There is a saying that what you can’t measure you can’t manage. It is also important to the insurance sector to have better understanding of the market and how to price their products.

Association of Car Dealers Award Received in 2016
“This was as a result of an analysis done by an international (independent) organisation. They came to Nigeria assessing online classified companies and wanted to understand who drives which verticals most. They looked at the auto verticals and the horizontal classified and we stood out on the side of quality and range. We boost as the best in the array of inventories, covering the 36 States in the country. In terms of quality, we boost of the best in-house risk management platform.

Plans for Cheki.com.ng Moving Forward
“Two things are on my mind. First, to deliver on our proposition to our buyers by giving them quality cars at the right price. We want them to know they have people to trust or interact with on the platform. On the sellers’ side, we want to consolidate on them improving sells. We don’t want to just remain as leas generators, rather a sales’ partner that will help them tie up the loose ends.
 

Leveraging Technology To Assist dealer- Cheki’s Virtual Showroom
“Every company needs to be flexible. By this time last year, and for the trajectory we were bullish and busy with restructuring the auto space, thinking that brand new cars were going to be the key drivers. So, the change in Government, the direction on auto policy is not clear yet.

“Even investors in the new cars have rolled back their investments. In other words, not much activities are taking place. So, Cheki needs to be flexible and focus more on used cars and no longer our growth plan for new cars. It is not really too bad for the new cars segment, but not as much as the business in the used cars segment. Therefore, used cars are our biggest opportunity. We are consolidating all our activities around that”, he said.

 

 

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ESET Targets 90% Cost Drop On IT Security Solution for Undergraduates

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ESET Nigeria has given more details on the recent partnership with the National Information Development Agency (NITDA) which intends to take information technology (IT) security awareness to the grassroot.

Mr. Olufemi Ake told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek how the initiative will assist individuals, especially students (in tertiary institutions), cut their IT security solution budget by 90%, while enabling ministries, departments and agencies of Government and organization combat cyber threats.

Mr. Ake explains-
ESET MoU with NITDA, What It’s all About

NITDA is a key Agency regulating government agencies and Nigeria’s cyber space as a whole. Basically, one of their key objectives is ensuring cyber security; which is mainly to ensure that our cyber space is ultimately secured. How do we achieve this? Of course, they can’t do it alone. NITDA does not produce or solve IT security problems by way of offering products; they are focused on regulations. So, as a Company, ESET solves cyber security issues. Most of our solutions are geared towards endpoint security, access management control, data management and preventions. We also have encryption solutions to ensure that people do not gain unauthorized access to your files. All these solutions will not be provided to government institutions, corporate entities and individuals; we will be working with NITDA to make these solutions available.

The partnership with NITDA is critical in developing frameworks, standards/guidelines for government institutions to work with to ensure they keep the best level security at information/data exchange. We want the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to see these data as critical resources at their disposals and the need to protect them.

So, the MoU has a two-part strategy. They are, first, to provide guidelines to Government Agencies on how to remain secured in the cyber space. The second part is the ESET Secure School Initiative. We jointly introduced the project to the public last Friday. The initiative is supposed to provide millions of free copies of ESET internet security solutions to the majority of students in Nigeria. We are aware that not all students have connected devices- tablets, laptop or smartphones, but as many as that have, we want them to stay (secured online). Once they show interest as a school or individual, we will get the solution across to them.

ESET views grassroot awareness as one of the ways to improve cyber security in Nigeria. On that basis, we are focusing on the academic environment. This will importantly raise the awareness and consciousness among the academia as they are heavily involved in researches, assignments and therefore generate huge data. If such data are compromised it will adversely impact the economy in general. So, the best way of defense is needed to ensure they do not experience malicious attacks on whatever they are presenting to the world.

We also want to have their channel of data exchange across sectors secured. For example, e-library and e-learning centres must be protected against malicious attacks.       

 

What Motivated ESET Towards the Partnership?  How Would You Rate Nigerian Companies’ Awareness and Competencies In Managing Cyber Security Issues?

In fact, banks and telecos have taken the lead in ensuring we are secured; especially the third party users. The information been exchanged in these two sectors are secured to a very large extent. However, what drove us into this partnership is the fact that Big Data, Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and the new trends in the IT world are really pushing cyber security to the extreme. IoT will unleash data in an unimaginable scale. Currently, there are big data downloaded to phones, tablets, and what have you; the length at which these data travel is very fast, especially when they hit the social media. Imagine if your device is very porous and the data is actually having a malware, and it’s downloaded, not minding how important it is, as it travels it generally affect the others who share it. So, out aim is to ensure that each data transmitted through the cyber space is secured.

NITDA is Focused On IT Regulations in Nigeria. Data Breaches have Been On The Front Burner In Nigeria; many Companies Have Lost Data, Fortunes To The Malicious Attackers, Now, What Is The Arrangement To Tackle Issues Even At Corporate Levels.

Apparently, we know that NITDA is an agency set for policy formulation and enforcements, therefore, we have existing policies in place such as the Cyber Security Law of 2015. However, we still have a majority of the institutions not keeping to these policies. How do we work with NITDA in this case? We will obviously point out some areas or holes we discovered while working with some of these institutions. Some of the market intelligent reports we have shall be provided to NITDA. The data will reinforce their drives and give them more key trends in the market to give critical assessment. For instance, they should know the ratio of organisations that are not conforming to thee rules. So, when they are about to enforce a framework in place they would have proven cases to support every claim against/for a particular organisation. That way, NITDA shall have the required data to exact authority in its clime. At the global level, we work with research organisations like the IDC Insights, BMI reports and we conduct surveys in the market as well. Through that we ascertain the pain-points of these organisations and provide consulting advisories to them. From the report we shall provide NITDA can provide the organisations with list of vendors to choose from, not necessarily ESET. That is what makes the partnership interest. But we will be proud to provide solutions to these organisations.

How Will The Solutions Assist Organsiations Overcome the malicious Attacks. Are They Preventive or Post-Attacks Cure?

It depends on situations. We have a solution called ESET Threat Intelligence (ETI); it scans through the cyber space for malware threats coming to you environment. So, it depends on what the company wants. The solution first collects asset from the company like the IP addresses, logos and whatever asset the company has to protect online. We will then be on alert and warn you on a potential threat coming your way. If we are going to provide that to NITDA, then we are looking at gathering all the IP addresses of the nation, which is not possible. But NITDA as an Agency will advise institutions on the authenticity of the solution should they require the network monitored and provide early warning signal. Basically, we are using the partnership with NITDA as a channel to reach out to institutions, corporate organizations and individuals.

We also have thee endpoint solutions- computers, tablets or mobile phones. Once an attack is launched to your specific computer, ESET will automatically flag and block it. As NITDA is providing the advisory to the agencies, those that will patronize us will get special offerings unlike coming directly to us.

The Focus On Awareness At The Grassroot: Why The Schools?

We are focusing on schools, because of the importance of that sector to the economy. We don’t expect the students to have enough resources to cater for their textbooks talk more of cyber security solutions. But they need them, especially with the growing malicious attacks. So, through ESET Secure schools we are not just giving our anti-virus solutions, but will deliver messages to them on why they need to be secured. First, the solution works for everybody, but when it comes to affordability, students are the least to buy. It is our CSR package for the students. Even when you come back to buy you get a discount of 20%. This based on our research and surveys on what students can afford. Aside that, we will offer them quarterly IT Security remote training.

 

With NITDA’s Partnership in Place, Are You Going To Sign Agreement With Individual Schools too?

The MoU agreement with NITDA covers the two scopes of the initiatives. And the DG wholeheartedly, welcomes the ideas. With that students can come to us with their school Identity cards and get about 90% discount for the first buy.

 

 

 

 

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