LAGOS, Nigeria — Websites like Amazon and Ebay are often considered household names and commonplace alternatives to in-store shopping, but not everyone has the luxury of being able to buy something with the click of a button.
In Africa, these websites are not an option, but countries like Nigeria, South Africa and the Ivory Coast created their own websites to cater to the increasingly tech-savvy well-off and emerging middle class.
Two years ago, Nigeria launched a site called Kaymu, which operates in 15 African countries and 10 non-African countries. Kaymu is the first online shopping destination open to everyday people and not just businesses.
Although Kaymu’s headquarters are in Nigeria, the site gained the most popularity in the Ivory Coast, where some shop owners say moving their products online increased profits from 20-to-25 percent.
Some business owners say that they may close down their physical shops and exist solely online because they make more money that way.
The biggest hindrance to online shopping in the Ivory Coast is scammers, with some people afraid to use sites like Kaymu due to them. To combat this problem, Kaymu customers currently do not pay online with a credit card when they place their order, but pay in cash to the delivery person when the order arrives.
However, this system is also not perfect because sometimes when the order arrives the customer does not have the money or they decide they do not want it anymore.
In South Africa, consumers use uAfrica.com, which functions just like Amazon. Interest in online shopping increased rapidly in the country, but has not decreased the importance of in-store shopping, which many South Africans still prefer.
Currently, and only operational in South Africa, uAfrica has plans to expand to over 1,000 online stores in other African countries over the next year. uAfrica’s first target is Nigeria, which company owners believe will soon outgrow South Africa as the biggest African market. After Nigeria is Kenya, followed by Uganda and eventually throughout the entire continent.
One thing that helps uAfrica stand out from the crowd of online African retailers is that consumers are capable of buying and selling products through uAfrica from their mobile phones and tablets, which the company views as an important aspect of modern commerce.
The emergence and growth of online shopping in Africa is a positive sign of the continent’s growing economy and middle class. While the American and European economies have struggled for many years, Africa continues to grow and develop, making it one of the hottest spots for investing. It is estimated that by 2020, more than half of all African households will have enough money to spend on non-essentials.
Online companies such as Kaymu and uAfrica have recognized the new demand for 21st century shopping and are capitalizing on the many business opportunities that Africa’s future holds. The growing middle class is an important result of the continent’s shrinking poverty demographic and paves a bright future for the continent.
– Taylor Lovett