afrol News, 2 December - Internet giant Google today launched a new "marketplace" product exclusively in Ghana. If successful, it could seriously threaten Ghanaian media's main revenue source.
"Google Trader" was launched with big marketing campaigns in Accra today. In Ghana, "flashmobs on a scale never seen before in the country are occurring across Accra today to launch the product," marketing campaign manager Jo Crawshaw told afrol News.
The new product - still a "beta" version - is only presented in two markets, Uganda and Ghana, and for the first time ever, internet giant Google has chosen African countries to test a new product.
"Google Trader" is presented as "a free online classifieds service that allows Ghanaians to buy and sell products and services, as well as search for jobs." The classified ads service includes search categories such as cars, computers, housing, jobs and services.
In Ghana, Google has partnered with telecom companies AIRTEL and TIGO "to offer a free SMS option." Ghanaians were invited to "post short ads to buy and sell items and services, whilst businesses of any size can also use the site to reach more customers and increase their sales."
Estelle Akofio-Sowah of Google Ghana in a statement said she was "excited about Trader because it is free, easy to use, and locally relevant. Having a web version, a mobile web version and an SMS option means that Trader is accessible to everyone, no matter where you are."
The only other country world-wide where the "Trader" has been launched is Uganda, where the SMS-based marketplace was presented as a "help to farmers" in June last year. In November 2009, also the web version of "Google Trader" was launched in Uganda, where also "cars, jobs, services, electronics or real estate" could be offered at the national market, according to Google Uganda's Rachel Payne.
The choice of Ghana and Uganda as countries to launch the new service is not accidental. In Europe, America and Asia, the classified ads market is well saturated and one to three major players dominate markets in each country. These major players know to defend their market.
Indeed, classified ads are among the main revenues of media in industrialised countries, and are becoming an increasingly important source of revenues for Africa's often struggling media. In most African countries, this market is however only in the process of being established.
"The entry of giant foreign players - Google is nearing a monopoly status - in the Ghanaian and Ugandan media market therefore could jeopardise the consolidation of independent media in these countries," afrol News editor Rainer Chr Hennig warned. Mr Hennig recently had compiled a study about the financial basis of West African media and its influence on press freedom.
Google Ghana, on the other hand, presented its new product as "part of its commitment to driving the web forward in Ghana, and highlighting the entrepreneurial opportunities presented by the internet."
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