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Africa's e-commerce sizzles with Chinese goods

China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-17 09:13

Packages set for delivery are seen at the Jumia warehouse in Lagos, Nigeria, on Jan 20, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

NAIROBI-Tumisang Malepi, 28, is behind the creation of a robust online marketplace for fashionable clothes in South Africa at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on brick-and-mortar businesses in Africa's second-largest economy.

The female entrepreneur said during a recent interview that e-commerce platforms like AliExpress have provided her a respite during the pandemic.

"Most of the products I buy from AliExpress are mainly hair products and clothes. I find that things are much affordable on the website and that allows me to resell things back to my customers not at a huge price."

Malepi said that during her entrepreneurial journey, her knowledge about quality and affordability of Chinese smartphones and other accessories like power banks and chargers, has increased. She has been buying her phone gadgets from China for personal use.

"With occasional load-shedding in the country, you need to be prepared (with back-ups), especially when you run an online business. I do purchase my power bank, chargers, watches at much cheaper prices compared to here," said Malepi.

She belongs to a growing group of South African youths who are leveraging electronic trading platforms to grow their businesses to new levels during the pandemic.

Data from Mobicred, a credit facility for online shopping, indicated that there was a 40 percent increase in online shopping in South Africa this year. Released more than two months ago, the data showed that consumers were spending a lot on household items, including furniture.

Most of the growth in e-commerce has been evident after restrictions to contain COVID-19 were imposed in March.

"Not being around work gives me a lot of time to focus on online shopping," said Nhlanhla Nomfe, 30, a bank teller from a suburb of Johannesburg.

Africa's e-commerce platforms have been experiencing heavy traffic since March when governments imposed COVID-19 containment measures.

Victor Ogalo, head of policy, public-private dialogue at the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, said that the most favored products by consumers are groceries, clothes, electronic and electrical products amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ogalo said: "Consumers are purchasing these products online because they are cheaper at the e-commerce sites as compared to shops and supermarkets.

"The consumers are also using e-commerce sites because they help them observe the social distance protocols to avoid crowded places.

"The most common electronic products from China are mobile phones, TVs, speakers, power banks and laptops."

Richard Omotsi, a consumer, said he prefers to buy mobile phones and speakers online because they are more affordable as compared to shops. Omotsi has bought some products of Chinese brands and the gadgets are for online learning for his children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online shopping buzz has also been felt in Ghana.

Joy Agbe Carbonu, 53, a teacher, said the pandemic has motivated her to make optimal use of online platforms while ordering for groceries and other household items.

The schoolteacher, who started using the online shopping platforms to shop for the first time in December last year, said e-commerce is convenient.

"I think, this is the best time for Ghanaians and the global community to consider using online shopping to fight the pandemic," Carbonu said.

Roger Agana, managing editor of an online news portal, has been using the online platforms to buy various products for some years. He said it is convenient and reliable to use and recommended its usage, especially, during this COVID-19 period.

"In the midst of the pandemic when health experts have urged social distancing and wearing of face masks to limit the spread of the virus, online shopping is the way to go now."

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