E-commerce in Ghana: Tiptoe lane on tonaton

Don’t give me a lecture on how honest,peace-loving and religious Ghanaians are, I’ll find you and pour hot water on you (I’m serious). The average Ghanaian will swindle you in the blink of an eye, you just need to lose your guard for one second.  The internet of things holds a lot of promise for the average Ghanaian who likes buying and selling and also holds promise for the thieves on the tiptoe lane too. You hear countless stories of people getting robbed in circle, they buy soaps instead of phones or fake chinese phones. It’s  funny till it happens to you. There a lot of fake phones on the market (hint hint, Ghana government), they also need to be sold.

E-commerce thrives when there is honesty, or a body that can guarantee honesty. In Ghana, we have none of these. Buying things on the internet is one of the riskiest things you could ever do, especially on sites where you have to meet the seller, like tonaton and olx. I have heard stories of people getting duped, or losing the money and what they have on them to the merchant. All they have is the thief’s number and he is going to throw the SIM card away. What can you do next? SIM cards are registered so you can trace the thief, right? WRONG. Most of these thieves buy “PRE REGISTERED SIM CARDS” and register with fake details because Ghana, our beloved country which is free forever, doesn’t have a central database of IDs, making it difficult for telcos to verify if the ID details are legit. psyche.  (What happened to the national identification thing? Ok.)  Honestly, its very easy to be a thief on the internet in Ghana. Very easy. You can rob someone in Kumasi then go and live in Cape coast, IF you are able to clean your footprints well (You should easily do this). They can’t even trace your IP address. You can receive money from your “dupee” victim with our new mobile money payment platforms, show a fake ID, that’s all, you are rich (I’m not saying go and steal oh, neither am I giving hints -___-).

Are you still wondering why E-commerce doesn’t work in Ghana? Well don’t. To be fair to the struggling e-commerce websites, it is very difficult to trace these kind of things. It is up to you the buyer to make sure you don’t get duped. There are other options like kaymu where you pay online then they send the stuff to your doorstep, at an extra cost (deep frown).

Well this is the best I can do, here goes:

i) If the price of the item is too good to be true, then its not true.

ii) If the person you call is in circle, or wants to meet you at busy internet, forget it. Go into circle, look for a shop to buy it,it will be around the same price.

iii) If the number is a new number 057,055,054,050 etc, don’t call. If you want to, be careful.

iv) When you buy the phone, don’t let the person put it in a box. Hold the ORIGINAL phone he shows you. DO NOT GIVE IT BACK TO HIM, even in a shop.

v) Make sure the phone you are buying is an original one. If you can’t tell the difference between original and fake ones, check the IMEI numbers on the phone maker’s official site. There are fake androids and iPhones too, don’t play. Better still, go with someone who can tell the difference.

vi) Don’t go and buy stuff in circle alone. If you are feeling uneasy about what you are buying, don’t buy it.

vii) If you can’t trace the person you are buying the stuff from, don’t buy it. In case the phone has a defect, how will you return it?

viii) Just go to a shop.

ix) When you get robbed in Circle, there is a police station by the first overhead near the filling station. Visit there and report the case. They will help you.

x) Be careful when sites ask of your bank card details, don’t leave them online, especially if the site isn’t the official site of the bank or its not a secure https site(look at the address bar).


An article to the wise,

Ordinary Ghana.



  1. Nana Ameah · September 2, 2014

    Thanks for this article. Is very informative. You have a nice blog with great posts. Have you in anyway tried Google Adsense? You can get something for your effort.

  2. Arthur · February 16, 2015

    You cannot use only one experience or area to generalize the whole Ghana, and you are wrong because e-commerce works in Ghana. I sell products on my website and people buy and i send it to them, so please do your study well.

    • The Writer · February 16, 2015

      I think your understanding of ecommerce is not very broad, creating a page online and asking people to pay online is a very narrow aspect of ecommerce(Which is what you are doing), it goes beyond that, so YOU do your study well. I am not using one experience to generalise, I am throwing a word of caution out there.

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