Survey: Egyptians did US$2.1 billion in e-commerce last year

A new survey conducted by Amman-based consultancy Arab Advisors Group revealed that almost 35 percent of adult internet users in Egypt currently make some use of e-commerce, racking up a total of US$2.1 billion worth of online transactions–including bill payments–in 2009.
This percentage translates into roughly 2.36 million Egyptians, with the total number of internet users in Egypt reaching over 12.5 million as of last June. More recent estimates suggest the number is now closer to 16 million.
Essam Hassan, manager of digital marketing agency Lane 8, however, says the 35 percent figure may be overly generous.
“The number of credit card holders in Egypt is very limited,” he said. “And the number of these willing to use their cards online is even more limited.” Recent estimates have put the number of total credit card holders in Egypt at about 2 percent of the population, although studies suggest this number is quickly increasing.
According to Hassan, if such a significant proportion of internet users were actually engaged in e-commerce, Egypt would see more local websites offering e-services. “But there are only a handful of local websites in the e-commerce business,” he said.
Ultimately, Hassan believes the issue depends on how e-commerce is defined; on whether or not sites like or government portals issuing new IDs and birth certificates–where payment is made upon receipt rather than online–can be considered genuine e-commerce sites.
In a statement to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Arab Advisors Group explained that e-commerce was defined in their survey as constituting any online transaction of a service or product, regardless of means of payment or delivery.
The survey also looked at telecommunications subscriptions and services in Egypt, as well as general internet usage, mobile-commerce, e-banking and Pay TV. The full survey can be purchased from the group for US$2,750.
Interestingly, according to a press release on the survey’s results, Voice Over IP (VoIP) usage among Egyptian internet users–on applications such as Skype–reached 46.3 percent in 2009.
Last month, however, Egypt’s National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) blocked access to VoIP through mobile phones, prompting internet telephony firm Skype to question the move.
The NTRA justified the decision by pointing to Law No. 10 of 2003, which, it says, prohibits the use of Skype for commercial or personal purposes. The move has left almost half of Egypt’s internet users wondering if VoIP via fixed lines would be the next to go.
But according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, no decision is currently being taken on the matter.

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