Things We Don’t Fund: e-commerce

People (at least in the UK) often complain that Christmas seems to be getting earlier and earlier each year. So I apologise for the fact that while it’s only just September, I’m mentioning Christmas already. The fact is, though, that in recent years the way I do my Christmas shopping has changed – gone are the days of standing in long lines of grumpy shoppers in aggressively heated shops; nowadays, I can simply browse the electronic shop windows, add something to my virtual basket and pay with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. The rise of e-commerce platforms selling almost anything imaginable has been one of the key online trends in recent times. Inevitably, therefore, we get our fair share of proposals from individuals and organisations seeking to set up their own e-commerce platforms in countries around Africa. Such platforms often intend to sell a range of products and may well increase the market of small suppliers and producers, helping to raise the incomes of them and their families.

An armoured personnel carrier - yours to buy online

An armoured personnel carrier – yours to buy online

Unfortunately, Indigo is unable to support such ventures. First and foremost, we are not specialists in online commerce and trade, so often don’t feel in a position to make decisions of this kind. Secondly, although the social benefits of such projects may be quite real, platforms like this have a profit mechanism built in to them and so might benefit from commercial investors who understand the market better than we do. This is related to a third point; projects in fields such as transparency and even health – where the benefit accrues to the population as a whole, rather than to specific individuals – may find it more difficult to raise funds initially and sustain themselves in the longer term. As a charitable foundation we feel it is our duty to support such initiatives over and above e-commerce and related commercial projects. We don’t doubt the benefit of such projects, but unfortunately neither are we in a position to fund them. Luckily, however, there are plenty of other funders out there who have the knowledge and expertise to be able to support start-ups in this field.

This is the last in a range of posts on things that we don’t (or can’t) fund. To find the other posts from this series, search for ‘things we don’t fund’ in the search bar on the right.