The sharing-based economy, also known as the collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer economy, could have easily been conceived in Ghana.
Long before Uber and Lyft made ride-sharing a multi-billion dollar global business and turned ordinary car owners into part-time chauffeurs, or before Airbnb made millions of ordinary homeowners successful hoteliers, Ghanaians were car-pooling and home-sharing (even bed-sharing) as a matter of necessity and convenience. School-going children who couldn’t afford their own learned at a very early age to share textbooks, notes, desks and much more. Indeed, squeamishness about sharing has never been a part of the Ghanaian DNA – not in a country where siblings and friends prefer eating from the same bowl.
‘Sharing’ is Trending
Still, it is the developed countries that have turned “sharing” into a business model that is transforming (some would argue, disrupting) traditional business models across the globe. The Internet and mobile applications made sharing more accessible to the masses, but, fundamentally, the innovators of these businesses simply capitalized on a post-global recession mentality; the recognition that cost-conscious consumers would rather rent what they need for a small fee than own it at a significant cost.
Distrust of big business and the rise of the independent contractor also helped drive the growth of peer-to-peer businesses. More individuals now are stepping up to provide services or commodities that were previously available only through corporations. Pedestrians are sharing their bicycles and cars with traffic-weary city commuters; homeowners are renting single rooms to travelers for a fee; and laborers are sharing tools and equipment for temporary work – all at a touch of a button. Experts predict global revenues from the sharing economy could grow to $335 billion by 2025.
Who wants to Share?
In a recent survey of global communities most receptive to sharing, Asia-Pacific respondents came up on top as more receptive to participating in share communities, with the highest percentage willing to share their own goods (78%) and likely to rent from others (81%). In Latin America and the Middle East/Africa, 70 percent and 68 percent of respondents, respectively, are willing to share their personal property and 73 percent and 71 percent, respectively, are likely to rent products from others.
The study, conducted by Nielsen, showed that while more than half of respondents in Europe (54%) and North America (52%) are willing to rent their possessions for pay, fewer (44% and 43% respectively) want to lease goods and services from others.
Can Ghanaians Make Money from Sharing?
Ghana’s ever-growing urban population of young, unemployed but technology-savvy labor force would benefit immensely should this phenomenon take off here. According to recent statistics, the urban population in Ghana accounted for 53% of the total population – considerably higher than in other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, since the sharing economy relies heavily on web-based technology, Ghana’s current 90% mobile penetration rate makes the country an ideal place for such businesses to thrive.
For example, a peer-to-peer business like US-based TaskRabbit, described as eBay for real-world labor, can easily be replicated in Ghana. The company, which has raised nearly $40 million in funding since launching in 2008, allows ordinary people to hire temporary help for random, every-day tasks such as shopping errands, moving, and household chores. Many of the contractors on TaskRabbit have been pre-screened, which provides a level of security and comfort for the consumer.
Already a business similar to TaskRabbit is thriving in South Africa. A cleaning service known as SweepSouth connects people with temporary cleaners looking for jobs in their area. The startup has hundreds of cleaners active on its platform, and thousands of cleans are performed each month.
Some Internet-based sharing businesses have launched in Ghana though they are not widely known. Meanwhile, some foreign-based peer-to-peer businesses are making their way to Ghana. For instance, a number of Ghanaian property owners have listed their homes on Airbnb – a peer-to-peer business that has turned the global hotel industry on its head. It’s been reported that Uber, the popular ride-sharing service that has upended America’s taxi industry, has plans to expand to Ghana and Nigeria.
Impact on Local Economies
While all of these are positive developments, many regulators and governments are questioning the long-term impact and viability of the sharing-economy business model on traditional businesses and communities. There are real concerns about protecting traditional service providers and industries, losing out on tax revenues, public safety, and quality compliance.
Meanwhile, economists are frantically researching how peer-to-peer businesses are impacting local spending and job creation. Initial studies show that urban cities that have embraced sharing-based models are generating more jobs and creating business opportunities for young adults, who are now able to make a little extra money from their underutilized assets, be it a car, home, tools, or professional skills.
It is difficult for governments to ignore the many advantages of peer-to-peer businesses, such as the potential boost to employment and entrepreneurship; increased competition, which means lower prices and choices for consumers; and a rise in digital literacy and connectivity.
We expect these same forces to propel sharing-based businesses in Ghana. Economic necessity, our cultural affinity with sharing and the strong entrepreneurial spirit that has long fueled our informal sector, would surely serve as additional driving forces.
Credit: Fact Station || Premium Bank Blog