The marketplace battle

The Plan B For African eCommerce Sees Fintechs & eTailers Copy One Playbook

By  |  December 23, 2020

It’s been a decade since a lot of people with a lot of money first figured it would be cool, and very profitable too, to give Africa its own online shopping behemoth; something a lot like Amazon.

They were not wrong, but they may have been mistaken on so many counts. And that’s why many years after African e-commerce was at its “prettiest,” it’s now somewhat thought of as the accursed bride.

“There is no gross margin on physical goods that the sub-Saharan market would allow a tech venture to charge that would make VC-backed e-commerce a winning proposition for the next 10-15 years.”

To some, the remarks quoted above might come off as the pessimistic view of an alarmist on the outside. But given that it’s actually the candid take from someone as “in-the-loop” as Olumide Olusanya, the founder/CEO of Gloopro, it’s got to count for something.

Copy-paste problems

Some context; Olusanya founded and led the build-out of the now-disabled platform that was one of Nigeria’s biggest online supermarkets, Gloo.ng, from which the new venture, Gloopro, emerged.

Gloo.ng was shuttered in 2019 after 7 years in operation for reasons that can be summarised as: “this e-commerce thing is just not worth the fuss.”

Except e-commerce was never the problem. For the longest time, “trying to transplant Amazon” was the real problem. And that initial obsession with replicating the Amazon model in Africa’s distinctly different environment has backfired in many ways.

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