For several years, Africans used to send family and friends to shop for them whenever they traveled overseas, by sending them an item or two on Amazon or eBay.
Later, hundreds of sites sprouted across cities to help buyers in Africa buy just about anything from hundreds of overseas eCommerce stores and have it delivered back home either in Accra, Lagos, Nairobi or in between. Sites like Kenya’s Vitumob, Box, Savostore, Box, Kentexcargo among others fulfilled their customer needs just fine. Then came VC-backed MallforAfrica to change Africa’s global e-commerce shopping trend.
During its launch in Nigeria in 2014, Chris Folayan said the platform aimed to ship to millions of shoppers in Nigeria, as well as Nigerians living abroad who want to ship items home to their families in Africa. MallforAfrica signed partnerships with Macy’, BestBuy, GAP among others.
“There is a significant population in Nigeria, and many other African countries, who can afford and want to purchase Western products, said Chris during the Nigerian launch. “But for many years, security issues and logistics made this difficult or even impossible. But now we are able to use digital technology to offer Africa the access it has wanted, while guaranteeing retailers that their transactions will be secure and delivered safely.”
By providing Africans a platform through which to purchase items directly from international online retailers, MallforAfrica said it gave users access to hundreds of US and UK e-commerce retailers and more than 8.5 billion products combined.
Rocket Internet-backed Jumia is now getting into that market. The firm says the move would help provide its buyers with a wide assortment of genuine products at low prices. Jumia Global is open to importers based in Kenya and even the global retailers in the US and Europe as well as merchants of all walks of life. To help users know an item is shipped from overseas, Jumia is marking them Jumia Global and the items are delivered a month after order confirmation. Jumia Global items require prepayment and their return is accepted only when the item has a defect.
Jumia Global says it has employed verification tech to ensure its customers get 100% genuine and original products and any seller found to be selling non-genuine products will be immediately delisted from the marketplace.
Jumia’s biggest challenge is that it’s yet to sign up any retail giant like Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, among others to its platform therefore its shoppers won’t be buying directly on any foreign e-commerce site at the moment. MallforAfrica’s biggest advantage is that it allows shoppers to purchase an item directly from USA and UK e-commerce sites via a simple browser extension. The firm also recently added an e-commerce solution that allows regional store owners to sell items through its platform directly meaning it would be easier to have big name brands on the MallforAfrica site than Jumia Global which is targeting mostly small-time vendors.
Jumia Global will therefore not greatly affect MallforAfrica for Africa’s business in Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya especially for the middle class shopper who looking for popular brands than just price.
It should be noted also that buying on global ecommerce stores is not in line with Jumia’s business model as that would require the firm to handle international shipping and logistics most of which is expensive and not worth a try. Jumia will also avoid warehousing costs in the US and Europe. Jumia Global still makes sense for shoppers not keen on brand by price.