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  • Writer's picturestephannie Adinde

Development Digest: The Impact of COVID-19 on E-commerce in sub-Saharan Africa

A plethora of issues makes running an e-commerce business in Sub-Saharan African countries a hassle. ⠀

Problems such as infrastructural gaps, informal address systems, logistics challenges, absence of digital payment options and lack of consumer trust have hindered the growth of businesses in this industry. ⠀

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the operations of e-commerce businesses in African markets. Nationwide lockdowns and restrictions have driven customers away from physical markets to online sites where they can avoid contact and queues. Also, reduced road traffic due to limited movement means that deliveries are faster and more efficient, especially in cities like Lagos which is famous for its chaotic traffic. ⠀

Regardless of the recent improvements in the sector, e-commerce in Africa still has a long way to go. According to the United Nations, approximately 21 million Africans shopped online in 2017, accounting for only 2 percent of the world’s total. Most of these shoppers are concentrated in just three countries; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. ⠀

Post COVID-19, e-commerce is a safer and less expensive avenue for small and medium business to expand due to the low initial investment required and the ability to penetrate a larger market.


With over 400 million internet users on the continent, the potential for e-commerce is vast. Therefore, governments must take the necessary steps to eliminate the impediments that exist in the sector.⠀

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