Setting up online shops in Mauritius

February 3, 2015

During the previous “Do you use the Internet?” event at Ebène Accelerator, one of the topics that came through the discussions was “Online Payment / Paypal”. Nadim and Nirvan shed some light on the same, especially Nadim who shared his experience with local banks. He related how it’s hectic to sign up for a merchant account and use the payment gateway of one of the local banks. The process could take up to 6 months and in between it’s only after several months that a bank personel could call you and say something is wrong with your application. If it sounds crazy, that’s not all. In order to have a merchant account one needs to have at least Rs 550,000 in his/her bank account.

paypal_logoLet’s take the analogy, if I am a craftsman, I do simple artisanal stuffs and I display those on my website. People outside Mauritius find my work beautiful and want to buy. So, I decide I could set up an online shop. Wait! The bank could ask me Rs 550,000 and I would need a lot of technical expertise before I can even have that sort of payment gateway set up on my website. I decide I should go the Paypal way but people in Mauritius can’t receive money via Paypal. Mauritians cannot setup merchant accounts with Paypal either.

Cyber Island, are we there yet?

Often when people say yeah, Mauritius is a Cyber Island, I stop them. Nah. We can’t say Mauritius is a Cyber Island. We’re an aspiring Cyber Island. We can’t be there yet when the simple citizen still has to go through a lot of difficulty in setting up an online shop.

You neither can call the country a Smart Island when we’re not so gadget-centric yet. We’re only consumers of products that have been built elsewhere. We do not build anything in-house. Even our “identity verification mechanism” was outsourced to foreigners. Unless we become a population of smart people, tech-centric, we can’t tag the country as Smart Island. That would be like ridiculing the country at international level.

I am a simple citizen doing simple stuffs and expecting the authorities to collaborate. In recent times, I have seen positive things happening, like the Government Online Centre implementing DKIM & SPF to fight email forgery (but they still need to do a lot), ISPs having a more social media interaction, local bodies acknowledging “some” emails etc. However, that is not enough. The pace at which our local bodies are improving is too slow. The tech world is moving a lot faster than this & Mauritius got to catch up.

There are things that need to be fixed and issues addressed to make the life of the simple citizen easier.