Twitter ban: E-commerce market, social media influencers, others count losses

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As the suspension of Twitter gets into the second week, some entrepreneurs and businesses have been counting their losses as most of their businesses depended on the platform to thrive in the country.

Nigeria announced the suspension on June 4, days after the platform removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional separatists. Most telecommunications sites have since blocked access.

The suspension has already created a market access gap for millions of small and medium scale enterprises (SMSEs) that use the platform to reach their customers. This could potentially complicate the challenges COVID-19 and other structural defects had imposed on businesses. Also hit is the e-commerce market in the country, estimated at $12 billion.

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Social media influencers who earn a living from monetized tweets and other social media posts have started counting their losses, brands running marketing campaigns are exploring options, as the hope of immediate lifting of the suspension dims.

According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation that monitors cybersecurity and governance of the Internet, each hour of the suspension costs Nigeria $250,000 (N102.5 million), bringing the daily loss to N2.46 billion. It means the economy would have lost approximately N24.6 billion in the past 10 days.

Lagos-based entrepreneur Ogechi Egemonu was selling more than 500,000 naira ($1,219) worth of watches, shoes and handbags on Twitter per week.

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Now, with the site suspended by the Nigerian government, Egemonu does not know how she will cope.

“Social media is where I eat, I depend on social media for my livelihood.”

Scores of small and medium-sized businesses across Africa’s most populous nation – and largest economy – are reeling from the indefinite suspension of the social media site.

NOI Polls estimates that 39.6 million Nigerians use Twitter – 20 percent of them for business advertisement and 18 percent to look for employment.

Experts warn its lack of ready availability – it is accessible using Virtual Private Networks that mask location – could ripple across the economy.

“The ban has significant collateral damage,” said Muda Yusuf, director general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, who said that a “sizeable number of citizens” use Twitter to make a living.

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Dumebi Iyeke, a research analyst with the Financial Derivatives Company, said it would hit young Nigerians – among whom there is a 45 percent unemployment rate – the hardest.

“We are looking at a potential loss in their revenue,” Iyeke said, adding that it could further lower living standards amid high inflation.

The value chain of people benefiting from Twitter as a marketing tool to share information and network business ideas is huge. Also, the economy of e-commerce businesses thrives online on digital platforms with the majority of business partners surfing the internet and using their Twitter handles to buy, sell and network ideas.