The winds of change and development are surely and relentlessly blowing; nothing remains unchanged, as proved by so much in our daily lives. Whether welcomed or met with frustration, change can neither be stopped nor pushed back. It is a fact of life that generations come and go, each with its tools and utilities that would be brushed aside by newer generations to make way for more modern tools and systems. Older generations may resist the change and hold on to their old ways, but younger generations embrace the modern ways of their world.
Changes that have imposed themselves on our times are beyond count; some are positive while others are disappointing; a number have been featured in editorials I wrote at some time or another. I wrote about the trend by younger generations of Egyptians to abandon proper, classic Arabic in favour of a modern Arabic closer to their spoken lingua and inclusive of many foreign words or expressions; also about the phasing out of the handy Arab riqaa handwriting in favour of the naskh script favoured by keyboards. I also tackled electronic journalism replacing printed paper, online learning and exams taking over traditional learning, information and knowledge e-platforms coming in more handy than print volumes, cashless trade phasing out banknotes, as well as other aspects of change. Like it or not, these changes and others are reshaping our lives.
E-commerce is one more modern aspect that has come to dominate our lives in Egypt, as in so many other places in the world. It has the potential of altering shopping as we know it, wiping out the traditional shopping experience that hinges on the direct relation between buyer and seller as in commodity stores or shopping malls where sellers employ diverse manners of attraction to lure customers to buy their goods. In e-commerce the tables are turned; it is the commodity that goes to the consumer. Consumers shop around a countless variety of commodities and services through electronic platforms. An online shopper inspects, scrutinises, compares items and prices, and even bargains until he or she reaches their hearts desire, at which point they pay for it online with e-cards. The commodity purchased is then moved from the warehouse to the consumer’s doorsteps. The spread of online shopping promises to supersede traditional shopping; stores, showrooms and shopping malls with all their impressive decor, glitter and sparkle, will likely be ultimately outphased and replaced with huge warehouses. Commodities will just be practically and neatly stacked in these warehouses, and workers will use electric trucks to travel between the racks, and mechanical grabs to fetch the items needed before dispatching them to end users. In countries where the cost of human labour is high, robots and computers have replaced humans: robots mechanically move inside the warehouses, and computers control the inflow and outflow of commodities. At some point not so long ago such a scene may have been discounted as science fiction, but it is now commonplace all around the world. Members of my generation in Egypt express amazement at our children and grandchildren shopping online through their computers or mobile phones, going through all the phases of shopping without moving from their couches, then receiving the goods they ordered right at their doorsteps. This shopping alternative even takes into consideration the possibility of customer dissatisfaction with the product bought, and makes provision for returning it to the seller or exchanging it electronically.
Watani recently published a story about Amazon’s entry into the Egyptian market with a EGP1 billion investment. Amazon, established in 1994 and now at the pinnacle of global e-commerce, has made in Egypt its highest investment in Africa. Last August, it opened in the Cairo satellite town of 10th of Ramadan a mega logistics centre that houses a huge selection of goods available online for e-shopping at highly competitive prices. It is providing more than 3000 job opportunities throughout 15 distribution stations across Egypt.
I am sure that members of my generation born in the mid-20th century will sigh and lament the passing away of their traditional shopping experiences replete with browsing, human interaction, socialising, and promenading. It looks, however, that we should step aside and surrender to change even if we do not like it; we should accept that our traditional shopping has given way to modern e-shopping.
24 September 2021