The number of online shoppers in Africa is expected to reach 520 million by 2025, up from 334 million in 2021, according to Statista.com. This growth is due to Africa having one of the youngest and second largest populations in the world, with a fast-rising rate of internet penetration, fueled by the expansion of smartphones. The expansion of smartphones in East Africa has led to an acceleration in mobile broadband coverage, as telecom operators keep upgrading their networks to 3G and 4G.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to changes in consumer behavior, with more consumers opting to make purchases online through e-commerce platforms like Jumia, Glovo, and Kilimall. Large supermarket chains have also made themselves available and accessible to consumers via e-commerce platforms.
The growth in e-commerce can be attributed to several factors, including good internet coverage and mobile connectivity. The increase in mobile connectivity with 3G and 4G has led to the growth of internet subscribers and social media platforms. Social Media has also contributed to e-commerce growth, with platforms like Facebook introducing Facebook Shops, a marketplace where users can advertise and sell their products. Other social media apps like WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business have also contributed to e-commerce by allowing businesses to add product catalogs and transact with customers.
Mobile payments have also contributed to the growth of e-commerce. The introduction of mobile money has made digital payments across East Africa seamless. Users can send as little as $10 to as much as $1000 to any mobile subscriber on MTN, Airtel, and Safaricom networks. Mobile payments have made it easy for users to pay for goods and services without having to use cash.
However, there are still factors limiting e-commerce growth in East Africa, including high internet costs, limited smartphone penetration, and strict local laws on internet and electronic media. These factors make it difficult for some businesses to grow using e-commerce. For example, in Uganda, Facebook is still facing a ban from January 2021, and the government introduced an internet tax that limited the number of users accessing social platforms.
In conclusion, the growth of e-commerce in East Africa is expected to continue due to the increasing number of online shoppers, good internet coverage and mobile connectivity, and the introduction of mobile payments. However, there are still challenges that need to be addressed to fully realize the potential of e-commerce in the region.