E-commerce is a relatively new way for people to shop in Africa and each country has its own unique rate of adoption of online shopping platforms. In contrast to brick and mortar stores, online stores cannot accept cash as a payment method at the time of order placement, which has proved to be an issue for societies, such as those found in sub-Saharan Africa.

This predicament is what brought organizations like Direct Pay Online, an online payment processor, into existence, yet many Africans still pay cash upon delivery for their online purchases due to worry about being scammed by the online retailer. Despite the solutions that have been developed to aid in paying for online purchases, e-commerce has not yet reached a prime across sub-Saharan Africa. In order to gauge participation in online shopping, questions were included in our recent study on financial services on the topic. In this report, we will share our findings.


GeoPoll’s research experts distributed the questionnaire to respondents in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Ghana. Surveys were conducted incrementally by region between July and September of 2019 via mobile web; thus, the data focuses on populations who have access to a mobile phone and basic internet services.

Survey samples had a total of 400 respondents per country—aside from Côte d’Ivoire, which had a sample of 250 respondents because of the mode of the survey and the Internet penetration in the country. The gender distribution in each country was 50% female and 50% male. Due to the survey topic, it was targeted to the youth population, with the majority of respondents coming from the 25-35 age group.

e-Commerce Nigeria

E-commerce Popularity in Africa

Survey respondents across the six countries studied were asked about the last time they made an online purchase of a product and the results largely varied by country.

Ecommerce Nigeria

Out of all six countries studied, Nigeria had the most reported online shoppers. 58% of Nigerian respondents indicated making an online purchase in the past month, while only 14% of respondents reported making an online purchase within the past 2-6 months. This data indicates that Nigerians are shopping online frequently rather than intermittently.

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ecommerce uganda

In contrast to Nigeria, Uganda had the lowest number of reported online shoppers. 57% of Ugandan respondents indicated that they had never made an online purchase before, which is almost exactly the opposite of Nigeria’s 58% of respondents that had made an online purchase within the past month.

In the next two sub-sections, we will take a look at what items were purchased online and through what platforms they were purchased in order to further explore the e-commerce markets in the countries studied.

Items Purchased Online

Those who had reported making online shopping purchases in the past were then asked to indicate the items they have purchased online through a select-all-that-apply style question. Overall, the most popular items purchased online were electronics and clothing items; however, each country had a unique distribution among purchase categories.

ecommerce sub saharan africa

Kenyan respondents, for example, purchased more electronics than any other country studied by about 15%. In the electronics category, Kenya (64%) was followed by Ivory Coast (61%), and Ghana (46%).

Nigerian respondents, the group with the highest reported rates of online shopping, had the most diverse profile of purchases across categories. Nigerians indicated purchasing more alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, home décor, hygiene, and automotive parts than any other country. This diversity in product purchases, coupled with the reported frequency of online purchases in Nigeria, can lead one to believe that the country has built a stronger culture around online shopping than the other countries studied.

Platforms used for e-commerce

The respondents who had indicated shopping online were also asked about the platforms they used to make their online purchases. The resulting data indicates that consumers are using large online retailers and social media sites to make purchases more than smaller independent online retailers.

Online shopping platforms sub saharan africa

Jumia was the number one most used online shopping platform in every country except Tanzania, while Facebook and Instagram secured 6 spots in the top 3 most used online shopping platforms. The apparent preference for large online retailers—like Jumia, Facebook, and Instagram—may be due to the issues seen in product delivery in the region. However, as infrastructure for package delivery continues to grow, online shopping will likely increase in popularity dramatically.

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E-commerce in Africa: Takeaways

Although e-commerce is still not the most popular shopping method in sub-Saharan Africa, GeoPoll’s youth study on online shopping engagement revealed that there is a portion of consumers making online purchases in all of the countries studied. Electronics and clothing items are leading the movement in e-commerce so far, yet results from Nigeria hint that expansion across product categories could on the horizon for other sub-Saharan countries. Now, only time and further research will tell how the landscape of e-commerce will change in the coming years for SSA.

To stay on top of the changes as they happen, GeoPoll can facilitate a study like this one for your organization. Contact us to learn more today.