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Nigeria's Middle Class Fuel Growth In Online Shopping

posted 17 Mar 2013, 16:52 by Mpelembe   [ updated 17 Mar 2013, 16:52 ]

A few years ago, safe secure online shopping seemed like a far fetched reality inNigeria. But today with more than 60 million internet users, online shopping has quickly become a part of the buying culture in the country, especially amongst the middle class, who shop online for items such as books, shoes and electronic gadgets.

 LAGOSNIGERIA  (REUTERS) -  Sitting in the comfort of their homes and offices, Nigerians are increasingly taking up the option of online shopping, a welcome alternative to the infamous traffic jams and long queues they are sure to find outside.

Online shopping in Africa's most populous nation is growing rapidly with over 70 online stores launched in the last year alone.

Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people has over 60 million internet users and an economy that is expected to grow at a speedy 6.75 percent this year, driven by progress in agriculture, banking and oil.

Analysts estimate the online shopping industry is worth about 1.8 billion US dollars annually, owing to the combination of a growing economy and an explosion in mobile and internet use.

Realising the business potential and a growing need for e-commerce, a group of young entrepreneurs launched the Jumia online retail store in May 2012.

Jumia employs over 300 people across the country and has over 70,000 visitors on their website everyday.

With 26 million US dollars investment from Summit Partners, and added funds from Rocket Internet and JP Morgan, Jumia has grown to become one of the biggest online retail stores in Nigeria.

"Both my co-MD and I were looking to do something of this nature, you know, something fundamental where we could actually contribute to society and for e-commerce, the choice came because we realised that the basics that need to be in place for one to be able to build a viable e-commerce business were coming together in Nigeria so we had a large market, we had more and more people with internet in their pockets and via mobile phones, you had a banking sector that was working better and better, you had people with cards, payment cards were able to patronise on-line payments systems so it was just the right place to be at the right time to build a business like this," said Raphael Afaedor, co-managing director of Jumia retail store.

Africa's middle classes are growing, providing the backbone of an economic revolution that is attracting billions of dollars of foreign capital and changing the face of the poorest continent.

In Nigeria online retail companies import most of their products from the west as well as some locally produced goods.

Jumia sells everything from laptops, mobile phones, kitchen appliances and televisions, to clothing, toys and beauty products.

"It's much easier, you can do it from the comfort of your homes, your office when your boss isn't looking and you know, you can pay online; it takes away the stress of driving through traffic to go to a store to pick something up that you like and since it's online, the options, I think are a lot more," said Lagos resident Victoria People.

Konga, another online store that opened just eight months ago is also growing rapidly in what has become a heavily competitive online retail space.

Sim ShagayaKonga Online Shop chief executive office says the company's rapid success has come as a surprise - going from eight staff members to over a 100 workers.

"I think it's exceeded our expectations first of all, I think Nigerians have just an incredible capacity to grasp new ways of doing things and that's shown itself in "Konga's" experience. We see our order numbers which is the orders we process out of the warehouse going up everyday," he said.

Shagaya says Konga is focusing largely on customer care services and competitive prices to differentiate themselves from other companies in the market.

Jumia online retail store plans to expand into North Africa and into other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa within coming months.