Growth in e-commerce offers new opportunities for entrepreneurs in Africa

Africa’s electronic commerce (e-commerce) market is primed for major growth as mobile internet performance continues to improve, a proposed national addressing system comes into existence, and people become more comfortable with digital transactions.

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The sector has now got a foothold in a wide range of countries, some obvious but many less obvious. As with m-money, it will grow in some places but not others.

The big investors in the African e-commerce sector include: African Internet Group, Naspers (co-investors with Kinnevik in Nigeria’s Konga), Swiss-owned Ringier, Casino (a French company with e-commerce platforms in Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon) and One Media Africa (backed by Tiger Global). Naspers has been in and out of Sub-Saharan Africa in this area once already with several unsuccessful e-commerce forays. Those with long memories might remember Mocality.

This may be surprising to hear, and even superior to see that entrepreneurs are maximizing the benefit of Internet presence. It has been pointed out that those taking advantage of it, are really experiencing significant gains. Entrepreneurs can often be emotional with the harsh reality of market struggle, but they just have to keep the lights on.

Kenyan’s eager adoption of person-to-person mobile payments creates a solid base for the growth of mobile and electronic commerce. “We’re seeing more and more Kenyans go online, thanks to cheaper smartphones and mobile data,” Divisional Director Sage Dr. Rutendo Hwindingwi said. Combine that with Kenyans’ comfort with electronic transactions after years of using mobile data, and we can expect to see digital shopping and commerce really start to take off.

Small and Medium Businesses are able to take advantage of the digital commerce wave as larger businesses. Platforms such as Facebook make it easy for entrepreneur’s interaction with customers, while affordable, packaged offerings like Sage Online Tools make it easy to construct and launch a marketing and mobile-ready e-commerce site.

Internet companies and those providing e-commerce integrations should do well as the number of African start-ups and existing companies get involved in e-commerce increases.

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