Meta's New Shop Function Update Will Exclude African Shoppers

Posted by Santoni Engelbrecht on

Why Isn't This Making Headlines?

I'm left feeling shocked, outraged, and deeply disappointed. Once again, Big Tech has made a controversial move. A move which is questionable and which I feel raises serious questions about equity and opportunity.

If you're managing an e-commerce store in Africa, this information is crucial to you. Starting August 10, Meta has begun disabling its shop function on both Facebook and Instagram. They've started replacing it with an in-app checkout for all their American customers and this will continue to support shops linking to a website until April 2024.

However, the real shock is this: Meta has excluded ALL African countries from the list of selected markets where this in-app checkout feature will be introduced.

As an e-commerce store owner with a previously healthy record of sales from my Facebook and Instagram shops, I've been hugely and negatively impacted by the change and have already experienced a significant decrease in my sales driven by social media —61% to be exact. Having spent thousands of rands on Meta advertising over the past five years, I find it utterly unacceptable that they have excluded me, along with plans to also exclude an entire continent with over 101 million active users from access to this feature.

The lack of consideration for African countries in Meta's plans raises questions about equity and fairness. Africa is home to a rapidly growing e-commerce market, with an increasing number of online entrepreneurs using social media platforms to reach their customers. By excluding us, Meta is denying African businesses the opportunity to benefit from a streamlined in-app checkout process, which has the potential to boost sales and enhance customer experience.

I know, for example, that the majority of my customers primarily have access to social media data bundles and prefer browsing my products through Facebook or Instagram.

I feel the primary motivation behind this move by Meta is to increase profits by compelling users to process payments through their platform —a change I personally don't object to. However, the decision not to provide any alternative for us in Africa is harsh and could potentially push numerous small businesses to close their digital operations.

Our country might be grappling with a myriad of other issues, but I implore each of you to support this cause. The ripple effects of this policy change will touch many lives. If you own a business and your shop is still appearing on the Meta platforms, beware— it's likely to be taken down in the following months, as confirmed in a phone call I had with a Facebook representative over the weekend.

I urge you to circulate this message, or to contact anyone you might know in the media so we can persuade Meta to engage in a constructive dialogue with us and to begin rethinking their new policy and how it will negatively impact South African e-commerce activity.

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