Peeking the playbook

How Amazon’s Plan For African E-Commerce Could Shape Up Amid Rival Fightback

By  |  June 20, 2022

On some of those slow days when 27-year-old Blessing Chijioke has little to do on the job as the co-owner of a small fashion school in the Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos, hours can easily go by while she’s online - mostly window-shopping on Amazon, she volunteered.

“One of my favourite things to do is check out various sewing machines and tools that I’d really like to have,” Chijioke told WeeTracker. “But I have not been able to buy anything because it’s just so expensive, especially when you add shipping. So I just go there to admire things.”

Chijioke’s account is not unusual, it’s how many people in Nigeria and other parts of Africa “experience” Amazon.

Amazon currently ships goods to over 120 countries (including several African nations), but Africa is the only continent where it has not set up operations on-ground, with the partial exception of Egypt where Dubai-based Souq (acquired by Amazon in 2017) has business.

“I am unable to discuss potential future plans, but what I can say, is that we have many customers in Africa that we serve through all of our different stores and continuously look at ways to enhance the customer experience for them,” Amazon’s Senior Manager, Consumer PR (EU), Nick Caplin, had told WeeTracker previously.

Barring the occasional splashy purchase by a small privileged group who don’t mind the cost or sporadic buys by locals, Africa’s interaction with the world’s largest e-commerce company has, for a long time, been largely restricted to using an ‘informal courier’ or doing the online version of window shopping. This is because Amazon has long refrained from setting up e-commerce operations in Africa.

Perhaps until now.

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