E-Trade Association requests government to lift Facebook ban to enable job creation and economic recovery

The E-Trade Association of Uganda represents companies and organizations that use the power of the internet to drive job creation in the country. It consists of some of the most innovative companies in Uganda that are growing employment and attracting investment to the country.

In partnership with other key industries and job creators, including restaurant owners, tour operators and the boda boda industry, the E-Trade Association humbly requests adjustments to current policies which will stimulate faster economic recovery and new growth and jobs. 

The E-Trade Association commends and supports the government actions to contain the spread of Covid 19 in Uganda. We also note with pride the E-Trade Association members and their integrated ecosystem of online marketplaces, ecommerce platforms like Jumia, transport hailing services like SafeBoda, logistics and online payments have been part of governments coordinated strategy in fighting the pandemic. Some examples of how we are helping are the following;

  • Our companies have sensitized large groups of people across Uganda via our respective platforms, our suppliers and drivers. We have provided our customers with masks, sanitizers and educational materials to stop the spread of the virus.
  • We give Ugandans access to make purchases online and by doing so we support social distancing, eliminating physical contact and thus reducing person to person infection.
  • Our integrated logistics network enables us to deliver everywhere in Uganda. When Ugandans order online, we deliver to them and more people avoid crowding shops, markets and restaurants.
  • Even when restaurants and grocery shops are closed, our delivery agents continue to pick up and deliver groceries and food to people. This is an essential lifeline especially for the old and sick people at home on self-quarantine.
  • By enabling people to pay online or via our mobile apps, we reduce handling of cash which can further reduce physical contact as well as person to person infection. Countries such as China and South Korea have restricted use of cash to great impact in fighting Covid 19.

It is from this position of partnership and support that the E-trade Association of Uganda and its partners are raising critical points of action to resuscitate our economy.

The current 6pm curfew on boda bodas and delivery motorcycles leaves e-commerce companies, thousands of restaurants and businesses, and hundreds of thousands of boda boda drivers in serious financial peril. According to SafeBoda Co-Founder Ricky Rapa Thomson,“Boda drivers earnings are down by as much as 50% due to the 6pm curfew, putting the 1.2 million boda boda youth and their families in serious financial trouble”.

Besides their own livelihoods, boda bodas are also key facilitators of many other types of economic activity, including the movement of essential people and goods in our towns and cities. Vital sectors of the economy, who have now faced these challenges for over 300 days, are on the verge of collapse, leading to further increase in unemployment and poverty.

“Boda boda operators not only represent the section of society which has been hardest hit economically by Covid 19 but provide an essential service disproportionately affected by continuous tight restrictions,” said Charles Mwanguhya, Corporate Affairs and Communication Managers for Tugende Limited.

“It is not just that many boda operators must stop working by 5pm in order to reach home by 6pm, which reduces their earning time,” Mwanguhya added. “There are millions of Ugandans who rely on bodas for their own transport to get home from work, get to a clinic, or conduct key household responsibilities like buying food, who are faced with a challenge of how to manage after 6pm.”

Restaurant business is down more than 56% due to the delivery cut-off of 6pm and night curfew of 9pm. “It should be noted that despite the 9pm curfew, restaurants are forced to close by 7pm or earlier in order to allow their workers enough time to clean up, close, and travel back home before curfew time. This means restaurants are devoid of  the lucrative dinner business and as a consequence, many restaurants have laid off staff to minimise losses and many have closed business”, added Nazira Moosa, owner of a group of fast food brands.

Further, the government’s ban of Facebook, the biggest social media platform on the globe, has also gravely curtailed e-trade and negatively impacted thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs. “Without facebook it has become extremely difficult for customers to access our platforms, and this together with the 6pm motorcycle curfew are great impediments to the growth of business and the economy in this unprecedented period”, said Ron Kawamara, CEO Jumia Uganda.

It’s important for Ugandans and the government to be mindful that the use of VPN to access Facebook exposes individuals to the risk of data breaches and bad actors stealing data for illegal activities. For any Ugandan using VPN today, the data on your phone or device is not safe or secure.

For companies across the country, Facebook is the single biggest channel of customer acquisition and communication. “From the perspective of usage and customer acquisition, a ban on Facebook in 2021 is equivalent to banning all TV and Radio stations in say 1995. It is a catastrophe for businesses, especially SMEs!”, Ron Kawamara concluded.

“As a business owner social media has always been my direct link to market” says Nazira Moosa. It has been impossible to market promotions that would benefit the customer since the ban of Facebook. The industry is existing in its own eco system hence the drop in turnover which has a domino effect on unemployment rates and the economy as a whole.

It is important to note that all together the e-trade sector employs more than 100,000 Ugandans and supports more than 20,000 SMEs. Since the shutdown of Facebook, online companies under the E-Trade Association have laid off more than 25% of their workforce due to the drastic business drop and they will need to cut more jobs to stay afloat if the Facebook channel remains unavailable to them.

It is therefore the humble request of the E-trade Association of Uganda, and our partners in the Restaurant and Tourism Industries that the government reopen the social media channel Facebook to enable Ugandan businesses leverage the benefits of the platform and drive Uganda towards a technology future.

And finally, it is our kind request that curfew be extended to 11pm to enable Ugandans — in restaurants, shops, tourism and all sectors in general to get back to work and to support their families. This would allow businesses to stay open until 10pm while still giving enough time for employees to close and reach home safely before curfew. We also suggest that Boda Bodas and delivery motorcycles be allowed to work and deliver until 11pm, allowing them to serve more clients and giving their passengers more time and last mile transport options to reach home safely.

We are convinced that the government in partnership with the private sector, can work together to bring back jobs, grow our economy and fight the Covid pandemic all together.

Members of the E-trade Association of Uganda and our partners are committed to the highest possible Covid prevention standards and have implemented additional changes to their daily operations and delivery services to ensure the safest experience. These include but are not limited to: checking employees’ body temperatures, sanitizing facilities and surfaces, using masks and gloves while handling and delivering orders and encouraging using cashless rather than cash payments, when possible.

We strive to continue operating so that customers continue to use the services of our members as a safe way to shop and move around in this challenging time.

For and on behalf of the E-Trade Association of Uganda, Boda Boda Industry, Tour Operators, and Restaurant Owners. 

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