There are currently around 65.4 million eCommerce users in Africa and the number is expected to rise by another 20 million over the next two years.
The success of the African eCommerce market has been described by McKinsey in one of its quarterly reports as one that has ‘blossomed’. The research firm pointed out that those global business leaders that don’t understand this potential or this continent run the risk of missing out on one of the greatest growth opportunities of the 21st century. It is a 1.2-billion-person market that’s sitting on the knife’s edge of explosive growth – a market that has already been successfully harnessed by eCommerce entrepreneurs and mobile solutions such as Jumia, Mall For Africa, PayU and M-Pesa.
“While the growth of eCommerce across the continent has been driven by increased internet penetration, improved economic conditions, and a growing middle-class population, there is another factor pushing eCommerce forward – cross-border engagement,” says Corrie Bakker, Head of Strategy & Business Development, PayU Africa. “The ability to expand eCommerce operations across borders and into new markets across a diverse and engaging market is playing a significant role in driving growth and investment.”
The McKinsey & Company Global Payments 2018 report emphasises the importance of innovation and change when it comes to the complexities of cross-border payments, as well as the value that they offer to the eCommerce market. In EMEA, half of the $200 billion of new opportunities will emerge from transaction growth both in-country and across borders. This growth spans both the business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) markets with cross-border transactions accounting for 5% of payments revenue growth by 2022 in the region.
“If payment solutions can provide both business and consumer with reliable, secure and trusted payment infrastructure, they can capture a significant share of this growing market,” says Bakker. “These figures highlight the potential of the continent and how the risks that are involved in cross-border payment systems need to be addressed in order to further growth and market share.”
Cross-border payments have battled with legacy issues such as a lack of transparency, complex regulation and legalities, system efficiencies and a limited access to reliable and recognisable payment options. One of the biggest issues highlighted with regards to the B2C cross-border market by the McKinsey report is a lack of access to familiar local payment options on international website plus a limited visibility into foreign exchange fees.
For multinational merchants catering to local payments preferences creates a layer of complexity. And so, there arises the need for a payments platform, like PayU, to remove the complexities for merchants and provide the seamless experience that online shoppers have come to expect.
PayU has been working closely with leaders in the African market to ensure that cross-border payment systems and opportunities in the region are seamless and transparent. The company has been expanding its presence in Africa through investments and partnerships. Most recently, PayU has launched in Nigeria a collaboration with Showmax and is set to expand into the rest of Africa. IPTV is also growing in Africa with PayU on board as its payments partner. The company has also invested into providing additional forms of payment, allowing for mobile and electronic funds transfers and other card alternatives to be integrated into the offering. This is supported by enhanced value and technology services across anti-fraud, automation, and an improved regulatory and public policy ecosystem in Africa.
The challenges that have typically affected the success of cross-border commerce are being steadily overcome by the determination of eCommerce organisations and the inventive applications introduced by payment gateways, financial institutions and fintech disruptors.
“Africa hasn’t been slumbering as the rest of the world’s gained eCommerce traction and become online savvy, it has just had to overcome some significant hurdles in infrastructure, unbanked population and access to technology,” concludes Bakker. “However, the continent has woken up and governments, eCommerce retailers and payment solution providers are providing the visibility, accessibility and transactional capabilities that allow for large organisations to operate effectively. Already we have worked with Showmax to launch the platform in Africa and are looking to partner with other innovative organisations ready to take advantage of the positive cross-border proposition.”
The continent is vast and each country is as different in its approach to eCommerce as it is in its culture and potential growth. Africa is already opening up its doors to the potential of global players such as Uber, Google, Amazon, and Netflix with many of these organisations already entrenched across some of the sub-Saharan markets. With the remarkable success of Jumia, the spotlight shines firmly on how Africa has the potential to embrace the eBay’s and Amazon’s of the world, while creating a few of its own. What happens next will rely on entrepreneurial mindsets, bold decisions, and reliable partnerships. Africa isn’t lost in scandal, limited infrastructure and poor access. These factors are changing alongside increased credibility and stability through a robust infrastructure of banks, payment partners and transparent regulatory frameworks.