8 Years of E-commerce in Africa: A Retrospective Review Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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By Ezedi Udom

With over 1 billion people and 500 million internet users in Africa, e-commerce has in the last 8 years improved the quality of lives on the continent by helping consumers to shop and pay for millions of products online at the best prices wherever they live.

Thanks to the various players championing this cause, such as Jumia, Konga, Payporte, Mall for Africa; the list is endless. E-commerce is also creating new opportunities for SMEs to grow, and job opportunities for a new generation to thrive.

In 2019 more than 110,000 sellers, including local African companies and entrepreneurs partnered with Jumia, for instance, to sell their products on the platform which attracts millions of customers daily. This way, Jumia, with presence in 11 African countries, has bolstered the growth of micro, small, medium enterprises, online shopping, digital payment, logistics and supply value chain as well as the fintech ecosystem, thereby promoting not only cashless and digital economy but financial inclusion for the unbanked population across Africa and Nigeria in particular.

Trailing the successes achieved by e-Commerce giants like Alibaba, Amazon etc., Jumia has offered unparalleled innovative online shopping and retailing experience for Nigerian consumers, a good growth trajectory for MSMEs and large businesses operating in the essential sectors such as food and agriculture, pharmaceuticals, FMCGs, QSR, and non-essentials like electronics/electrical appliances.

Small businesses are not the only entities taking advantage of the e-commerce boom. For instance, during the recent movement restrictions occasioned by the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria, Jumia kept many MSMEs afloat by bridging the supply gap through partnership with international brands such as Reckitt Benckiser, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble. It also ensured fair pricing while it waived commissions on products thereby helping consumers to get essentials at the lowest prices delivered to them.

The outbreak of COVID-19 brought to the fore the indispensable role of e-commerce as consumers across Africa relied on its delivery system to access essential products. There was never a time in the history of Africa – until now – that e-commerce has become extremely relevant to the everyday lives of Africans.

Jumia did not disappoint its consumers in this regard. The company launched swiftly into action by launching various initiatives that will provide consumers access to essentials, guarantee safety of the delivery agents and the consumers and ensure the safety of its frontline workers.

A few of the initiatives included Contactless Delivery, Contactless Payment via JumiaPay, partnerships with many brands with essential products, heroes funds for frontline workers, donated 100,000 CE certified facemasks to the Federal Ministry of Health, provided free advert slots to the same Ministry for sensitization campaigns, and many more. During the 3 months lockdown in Nigeria, Jumia saw orders skyrocket, proving that it has become more relevant to the lives of the Nigerian consumers.

Restaurants were mostly affected by the restriction in movement, as customers couldn’t dine in, thereby shrinking the revenue of many quick service restaurants and high profile intercontinental restaurants.

Jumia Food’s partnership kept over hundreds of Quick Service Restaurants and diners ongoing while delivering through Jumia’s contactless delivery channel, healthy meals to millions of families and employees, who were observing stay-at-home order and keeping social distancing, thereby eliminating physical contact and reducing person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

In the same vein, JumiaPay, which is the fintech product of Jumia, has been offering consumers safe, convenient and secure ways to pay for products on the platform, recharge airtime and pay utility bills from the comfort of their homes.

Customers are finding it more convenient to do financial transactions seamlessly. The relevance of digital payment has become extremely important since the outbreak of COVID-19, as the virus can be transmitted via cash exchange.

The growth of Nigerian MSMEs has always been one of the most important commitments for Jumia. It’s yet again another anniversary for the company. It is not at all surprising that the theme of its anniversary this year is “Stronger Together” – a catchphrase that quickly underscores the symbiotic relationships among the various stakeholders of the company, while taking a retrospective look at how far they’ve come in building the engine of online commerce in Nigeria.

It is indeed a fitting theme to underscore the unique relationship between Jumia and the sellers on the platform, between Jumia and millions of consumers in Nigeria, between Jumia and its over 5,000 employees in Africa, between Jumia and its host communities.

With forecast that e-Commerce sales will reach 17.5 percent of retail sales worldwide by 2021, and the evolving new normal, analysts believe that the potential of e-Commerce platforms like Jumia serving as the powerhouse of logistics value chain and fintech revolution in Nigeria, and indeed Africa, is limitless.

Ezedi Udom, a Business Communications Expert, writes from Lagos

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