Banning digital commerce to slow COVID-19 infections makes no sense

capechamber.co.za-Banning digital commerce to slow COVID-19 infections makes no sense

It is odd that Level 4 restrictions keep the ban on e-commerce. Even more strange is the reported reason:  that selling on the internet would be unfair competition for spaza shops and other micro-businesses.

Isn’t ordering goods to be delivered to your home, only different in degree from collecting your daily bread from the bakery yourself?

Are we not all being encouraged to work from home if we can, using the internet and choosing one of the increasing arrays of clever programmes to do so?

Whatever the logic behind this decision, to ban selling goods via the internet, it is clearly something we are not being told about, so the official silence virtually begs for public speculation.

The more one thinks about it, calling it unfair competition is bizarre.  History may well put it up there with forcing early motorcars to be preceded by a voorleier waving a red flag.

The facts staring everyone in the face during these lockdown times is that digital marketing and sales are the way of the future, and already, in the medical and dental sectors, it’s the norm in manufacturing as well.

South African surgeons routinely design bespoke hip-joints on their computers, send the dimensions over the internet to another continent for manufacture, and get back within a month the complete three-dimensional part ready for insertion. Dentists do something similar with false teeth.

But to return to Internet selling. Not only is it here already, trying to ban it from competing with spaza shops and the like, is pathetically ignorant.

It need not involve warehouses full of human packers and dispatchers. Even if it did, social distancing and other safety measures can be put in place, as they are already in supermarkets. And as for delivery vehicles, people on motorcycles would be best, motorcycle helmets having built -in visors – masks in other words.

The final absurdity of the ban on e-commerce is that it ignores the possibility of spaza shop owners having cell phones, as do their customers.  Entrepreneurs being what they are – never short of ideas—it is a sure bet that orders are already being placed by phone, to be collected during the hours that walkabout is permitted.  Is that not also a form of digital marketing? Lift the ban. It does not make sense.

Geoff Jacobs
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry