Consumers who are strapped for cash can now barter things on their computers, tablets or cellphones.
Swopanything.com, South Africa’s first bartering website, will allow consumers to trade anything – from goods and services to expertise and even specific experiences – without having to cough up any money.
Bartering is the earliest form of commerce and is estimated to date back to 9 000BC – long before money was in circulation.
According to Forbes, bartering again emerged after the worldwide economic depression in the late 2000s, especially in the US.
Swopanything.com is the brainchild of Edward Bouwer, an entrepreneur born in the Netherlands who has been living in South Africa for the past 30 years.
Bouwer is the chairperson of OneMinute Technologies, a software developer with offices in Cape Town and Amsterdam.
He hopes that the e-bartering platform will lead to a new era in which bartering transactions will supplement purchase and sale transactions.
“There are so many people who have lost their jobs and their income during this time, but they still have certain skills, unique knowledge and life experiences that are highly sought after,” said Bouwer.
Someone who can speak fluent Mandarin can, for example, offer free lessons in return for having someone watch their child while they go to a doctor’s appointment.
Where it comes to life experiences, for example, you could barter a video of your expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for somebody else’s secret family recipe for bobotie.
People will also be able to exchange their goods temporarily.
“Say you want to borrow a matric dance dress for two days in exchange for your food processor for the same period, for example,” explained Bouwer.
Swopanything.com also has scores of safety measures to prevent unlawful trade.
“So don’t think you’ll be able to offer your kidneys in a bartering transaction,” joked Bouwer.
All adverts will be subject to strict screening processes. The platform will be housed on Google, Amazon and Microsoft servers, which means that data can be safely stored.
Swopanything.com will also make use of artificial intelligence to identify and block items prohibited by international protocols, such as trade in livestock.
However, as far as possible, Bouwer and his team want to follow a hands-off approach, and not be prescriptive of the kinds of products and services that are exchanged, or of the value attached to them.
It will be completely driven by advertising income. A more advanced “pro” version will also be available to all businesses that wish to barter, at a more nominal tariff.
An electrician, for example, may be able to barter services with a plumber.
Swopanything.com will soon be made available in 15 countries, including Georgia, Russia and Malaysia. There are already plans to establish offices in Moscow, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.
This will put people in a position to conclude international bartering transactions.
“So if you climb Table Mountain with your GoPro and want to trade the video with somebody walking around the streets of Tokyo, Japan, there will be an international component involved,” said Bouwer.