The challenges of bringing e-commerce to Africa: an interview with Chris Folayan, Founder and CEO of Mall for Africa

Mall for Africa makes it possible for Africans to shop directly from international online retailers – companies that, otherwise, would be inaccessible to the African population.  Now serving seventeen African countries – from its home in Nigeria to Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and a dozen others, its patented app, platform, and payment system give users access to hundreds of US and UK e-commerce retailers and more than 8.5 billion products combined.  Started in Nigeria in 2010, the company is now one of Africa’s most successful and profitable e-commerce businesses.

The original proposition of Mall for Africa was for Nigerian customers to overcome the barrier of access and available payment solutions so that they could make purchase on e-commerce platforms – such as ebay in the US.  In the early days a key part of the offer was to set up a digital wallet for customers – accepting cash in Nigeria and making it available for online payments.  The next barrier to be overcome would be the restrictions from the international retailer of shipping to Nigeria: this was simply not possible.  By setting up arrangements in the US with a 3rd party logistics vendor Mall for Africa was able to propose a local shipping address for consignees.  Having “solved” or at least overcome the key barriers stopping Nigerians from conducting business on online stores in the US, the platform grew steadily, eventually expanding both its coverage of marketplaces and African countries served.

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