The Phenomenal Growth of eCommerce in Sub-Saharan Africa - Olufunmi Fagbulu


Wednesday, June 23, 2021 / 02:00 PM / Visa / Header Image Credit: Visa


eCommerce has experienced phenomenal growth, across the world and even in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this excerpt from the 2021 Digital Pay Expo, Olufunmi Fagbulu, Business Development, Leader, Merchant Sales & Solutions, Visa West Africa, speaks about how SMEs are driving market expansion for eCommerce in the region.


Q: How would you describe the growth of eCommerce in Sub Saharan Africa?

eCommerce growth has been steady but encouraging. Even though SSA may be one of the smallest contributors to eCommerce volumes globally, the growth potential of the region is laudable, recording 42% year-on-year growth between 2019 and 2020.


This growth is driven by increased internet usage and mobile penetration alongside demand/growth in digital payments and acceptance across the region.



Q: What are the key drivers for Virtual SMEs in the last few years as far as Sub Saharan Africa is Concerned?

There are a lot of factors that are enabling the advancement of eCommerce for SMEs across SSA. These include the existence of mobile connectivity as a major access point for eCommerce as well as increased card usage for digital payments.


You will find that cross-border commerce is also gaining huge momentum in recent times, creating more global competitors and expanding the reach for virtual SMEs.


Payment facilitators are also allowing consumers access a range of payment options and enabling SMEs move their businesses online. In the last 5 years, payment facilitators have strongly enabled access to digital payments through their platforms.



Q: How did COVID 19 affect eCommerce and digital payments in Sub Saharan Africa?

While it is true that many businesses and SMEs across the region experienced economic relapse because of COVID-19, some of which reduced spending power across not just the region but around the world, the closure of physical stores and movement restrictions also provided a growth opportunity for digital payments and eCommerce itself. In SSA alone, the lockdown saw net new eCommerce users rise by 5%, in 2020, when compared to the number of eCommerce users, in 2019.  


Q: What role does financial inclusion play in driving eCommerce in the region and how is Visa supporting this drive?

Financial inclusion is playing an important role in expanding the frontiers of eCommerce in Sub Saharan Africa, with businesses and SMEs leveraging access to useful and affordable basic financial products and services that meet their needs.

At Visa, we understand the huge role financial inclusion plays in driving eCommerce which is why we are simplifying payment systems and removing barriers to allow more people adopt digital payments.


Q: What are the diverse needs of SMEs and Consumers that need to be considered in building an inclusive ecosystem for eCommerce?

SMEs in the digital space should leverage digitization across their entire business process, to ensure seamlessness across board. The role of education, mentorship and awareness particularly around how to start/run/grow businesses and manage finances cannot be overemphasized. From setting up the business, to registering it and even setting up eCommerce accounts, SMEs need all the guidance they can get.


A multi-functional SME suite that is readily accessible, intuitively easy to use and affordable will put virtual SMEs in vantage position. Because of the opportunities that mobile provide too, it is important that eCommerce platforms for virtual SMEs are designed with end-to-end mobile-enabled capabilities.

Q: How can SMEs be better equipped to deal with fraud and Data Theft cases encountered during online trading?

It is important that SMEs take advantage of strong fraud protection controls put in place on eCommerce platforms which effectively screen payments before they are authorized. This is because fraud instances undermine the online experience, making consumers easily lose trust in eCommerce.


Robust, universally accepted cardholder authentication services and real-time transaction/fraud monitoring among others are crucial controls that help preserve this trust.  The need for adequate and continuous consumer education and awareness on how to stay safe online is also critical.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.


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Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

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