While African consumers increasingly surf online platforms for commercial reasons, a good number, particularly in South Africa (SA), are downloading different applications for their smartphones. In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa leads in the mobile applications market, followed by Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. WhatsApp is the top downloaded application in SA, followed by Facebook Messenger, Facebook and Instagram.

In a report titled ‘Mobile Economy Report for Sub-Saharan Africa 2015′, the GSM Association (GSMA) revealed that as mobile broadband penetration increases, consumers are turning to mobile apps. “Social networking and instant messaging apps from global internet players are very popular among smartphone users in the region,” the GSMA said.

Intra-African trade is significant with 36 percent of Nigerian cross-border shoppers buying from elsewhere in Africa. South Africa is the main destination with 30 percent of Nigerian cross-border shoppers buying from the country. It is followed by Kenya with 2 percent, Egypt with 1 percent, and the rest of the continent with 3 percent. With the wave of Africa’s mobile revolution, online market places and retailers in South Africa capitalize on the rapidly growing smartphone and internet penetration figures in Africa, creating a suite of platforms that are tailored to individual markets and are built on partnerships with local mobile operators and governments. Also this growth in smartphones has encouraged the development of relevant applications in the local industry.

The majority of internet users in the region already access the web through mobile devices. The rise of e-commerce in Africa is changing the face of the traditional consumer, and brands need to adapt their business models and strategies in order to remain relevant amongst consumers to avoid a drop in market share. As such mobile operators and retailers with a physical appearance in SA have moved to take advantage of the expansion of mobile e-commerce or m-commerce. MTN and VODACOM  are promoting their mobile money platforms and retailers such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay are actively pushing consumers to use their e-commerce enabled platforms.

But even though  518 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are set to be connected to mobile networks by 2020, the GSMA warned that there are still significant challenges to adoption.“Despite the significant progress, six out of ten people in the region will still be unconnected by 2020, with sub-Saharan Africa continuing to lag well behind the global average.”

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is leading the way in e-commerce growth, with 65 percent of the country’s 50 million internet users shopping online at least once. Kenya is leading in mobile commerce revolution, gradually replacing traditional mode of payment.

Source: Felicia Omari Ochelle, Ventures Africa

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