E-commerce platforms across Africa recorded sales valued at US$5.7 billion in 2018. This, according to recent figures from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was driven by approximately 21 million shoppers in the continent.
"Digital entrepreneurship is growing in Africa, but at different speed in different countries. While comprehensive data are lacking on the extent to which African businesses are selling online, anecdotal evidence of more e-commerce activity in the enterprises sector is starting to emerge," stated the UNCTAD Nairobi Manifesto on the Digital Economy and Inclusive Development in Africa.
"More and more micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) recognise the importance of digitalisation to participate in domestic and international value chains," the report continued.Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are said to account for almost half of the e-commerce market in Africa, while Mauritius was highly ranked in the E-commerce Index.
"According to the 2018 version of UNCTAD's B2C E-commerce Index, the African region lags the rest of the world in terms of e-commerce readiness. Mauritius, ranking 55th globally, is the highest ranked African country, while nine of the ten least prepared countries are in Africa," the report noted.
Even with this below-par performance, Africa is the highest growing ecommerce market globally accounting for 18% surge since 2014, compared to the world average of 12%.
"Growth in ownership of an account at a financial institution or mobile-money service provider has similarly outpaced the global average, and more Africans are using the Internet than ever before," UNCTAD said.
"Mobile money continues to rise and Africa boasts the largest share of adults with mobile money accounts in the world. Although mobile money has centred around Eastern Africa, it is spreading fast also to other parts of the continent," it added.
According to the last quarterly report from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) for April to June 2018, Kenya recorded over 500 million M-Commerce transactions worth Kshs 1.4 trillion.The UNCTAD report recommended an extension of mobile and internet access to underserved regions, of government policies to enhance e-commerce and the harmonisation of payment solutions across the board.