Africa is on the verge of an online retail boom
“Africa is well-placed to be the next big ecommerce emerging market with major revenue potential,” writes Rossini Zumwalt of Emergent Payments a payment facilitator and payment gateway for digital merchants in the developing world. “While it was slow off the mark, Africa’s digital landscape is undeniably gaining momentum and power.”
She says global merchants should prioritise the African market in 2018 while the landscape is still “wide-open and able to be shaped”.
“Now is the time to formulate strategies to leverage this financial opportunity and to select the right partner with a proven record and local reach to navigate market complexities.
“Today, Africa’s population is estimated at 1.2 billion people (15 per cent of the world’s total). By 2050, the population of 26 out of 54 countries in Africa will at least double their size. Combine this population growth with the burgeoning middle class and you have a compelling case for digital merchant expansion.
Currently, 35 per cent of Africans are connected to the Internet, compared to the global average of 54 per cent. “While ecommerce has been slow to develop across the continent, all signs indicate that the African market is ripe for a digital retail boom.”
“Africans work, bank, learn and access services online with an intensity that compensates for the absence of local infrastructure. These habits compounded by the absence of entrenched technologies or legacy infrastructure are clearly leading to cross-border ecommerce expansion, which means a bigger market for digital merchants.
“With connectivity rates dramatically increasing across the continent, there is a unique opportunity to be among the first to dominate this huge, untapped local market. Merchants who are now expanding there have the chance to play a significant role in shaping the market landscape from the scratch.
“Africa also leapfrogged the rest of the world by becoming a mobile-first market. Jumping from typewriter to smartphone, the continent skipped a technological generation.
“Most Africans first encountered the Internet using a cellphone and many more are experiencing the Internet for the first time using a smartphone. This is paving the way for online retail growth and is revealing the way African consumers choose to pay.
“Almost 280 million Africans have mobile wallets, which is three times more than the number of Africans with bank accounts. The prevalence of mobile money has democratised the financial services by mass adoption. It has gone a long way to improve consumer financial stability and broaden consumer cross-border spending access and habits. A great example is Kenya, where we have seen financial inclusion increase from 26 per cent to 75 per cent in ten years. A key driver for this has been digital innovation.
Across the continent, traditional commercial distribution channels are being bypassed (not replaced) in favour of online content consumption and service provision. 4G LTE connections have quickly emerged in 43 out of 54 countries in Africa which has been feeding the increasing appetite for paid media consumption.
Understanding the consumer
As Africa undergoes an Internet penetration boom we are seeing shifts in the consumer profile. With more African consumers coming online their commercial habits are evolving faster than any other demographic in the world. By 2020, consumer spending in Africa is forecasted to exceed USD 1 trillion annually. The average African digital consumer is millennial (with an average age of 19.4 years). This is the first generation to have an education, a salary and a bank account. They are six times more likely to have a mobile wallet than the world average.
The lack of physical retail infrastructure to meet consumer demands has also created a favourable environment for digital goods and services. Online retail is an easy and efficient option for African consumers. It is predicted that by 2025 ecommerce in Africa will account for USD 75 billion in annual revenue or 10 per cent of retail sales.
The importance of mobile money
Africa is the centre of the mobile money market, with Kenya leading the way. The country has the world’s highest mobile money rate and more than 50 per cent of adults use M-Pesa (the biggest mobile money platform in the market) or one of its rivals. In 2016, Visa launched its mobile money app on the Kenyan market to compete with M-Pesa, admitting they hadn’t had much success promoting traditional credit cards in the country.
About Rossini Zumwalt
Rossini has extensive experience in setting up strategy and managing operations for ecommerce payments and risk, both as a merchant and solution provider. She served as a Senior Director at Symantec and, prior to that, as Head of Global Treasury. She also held several leadership roles for the Merchant Risk Council.