New IFC research finds that women can add over US$14.5bn to e-commerce market in Africa

27 May 2021

Africa's e-commerce market could grow by more than US$14.5bn between 2025-2030, according to an IFC report published in May 2021. The report finds this can be achieved by increasing the number of women selling on online platforms and by providing them with better training and financial support to help them match sales made by men.

The report, Women and e-commerce in Africa, found that COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of e-commerce and digital entrepreneurship in Africa and that more women have embraced digital business. However, it also noted that more can be done to promote women's entrepreneurship and help women overcome e-commerce challenges.

For example, e-commerce marketplace platforms are well-positioned to target women-owned businesses with training and to encourage women's participation in higher-value segments such as electronics. Women could also strengthen their businesses by taking advantage of emerging fintech offerings, such as in-platform loans, which women currently access at much lower rates than men. The report leveraged data from leading e-commerce firm Jumia, as well as from surveys of vendors in Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Nigeria.

"E-commerce in Africa is thriving, yet we are already seeing a widening gender gap in the sector. IFC's report not only highlights the gap but also shows how it might be addressed so that women entrepreneurs can succeed in this important and rapidly growing marketplace," said Sérgio Pimenta, IFC's Vice President for the Middle East and Africa.

Juliet Anammah, Chairwoman Jumia Nigeria and Group Head of Institutional Affairs, said, "It is absolutely essential for women to be factored in, given the future of e-commerce. Africa is just at the start of its e-commerce growth trajectory. Now is the time to ensure women entrepreneurs are the leaders of Africa's digital journey."

The report shows that women comprise half of all active e-commerce vendors in Africa, though they tend to run smaller-scale businesses and feature prominently in high-competition, low-value segments. On the Jumia platform, just over a third of businesses in Côte d'Ivoire and over half in Kenya and Nigeria are owned by women.

Supporting women entrepreneurs has taken on renewed urgency since the outbreak of COVID-19. In the first year of the pandemic, women-owned businesses in the three countries studied suffered reduced sales of 39%, compared to a 28% drop for men-owned businesses.

The research was undertaken by Digital2Equal, an IFC-led initiative conducted in partnership with the European Commission, which brought together 17 leading technology companies operating across the global online marketplace to boost opportunities for women in emerging markets. Additional funding was provided by the Umbrella Fund for Gender Equality. The research was carried out by IFC in partnership with global evidence and advisory firm Kantar Public. 

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