Business and policy insights: Mapping e-Marketplaces in Africa



International Trade Centre

Executive summary

The internet is generating new opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Africa. These firms often sell goods online and expand their customer base through local websites or their own sales channels on social media.

Selling goods through established online marketplaces, which tend to attract more visitors and have a broader reach, is more promising. However, small enterprises need to invest time and resources carefully in selecting the right platform and building their business within its structure. However, there is little information about these marketplaces — their focus, relative performance and how African SMEs can access them. This is why the International Trade Centre (ITC) conducted new research — among the most comprehensive of its kind — aggregated into an extensive database called the Africa Marketplace Explorer.

Better data on e-commerce marketplaces

Through the Africa Marketplace Explorer, ITC hopes to show how local and international online marketplaces can become viable venues for African companies. This report presents the findings of research conducted by ITC and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, with an eye to improving understanding about e-commerce in Africa so online marketplaces can be accessed and better integrated into African economies.

By taking an in-depth look at the condition of online businesses in Africa, assessing which marketplaces are growing or shrinking, examining how larger and global online marketplaces function, and determining how SMEs can access this new economy, ITC aims to identify what can be done to support and promote trade.

This research can guide policymakers in targeting and shaping their efforts. The data and insights can also help African firms better understand how online marketplaces function — and how to make informed choices about which platforms are most suitable for their business.

It should be noted that the scope of this review is business-to-consumer (B2C) online marketplaces for physical goods. Purely business-to-business and consumer-to-consumer online marketplaces, service marketplaces (e.g. for jobs, travel, restaurants and finance), real estate marketplaces and traditional physical marketplaces are excluded from the analysis.

The data and insights are also available on a free online dashboard: the Africa Marketplace Explorer (available on ITC’s online platform Users can make their own data selections and analyses through this interactive site.

Report overview

Chapter 1 examines the current state of e-commerce in Africa and the challenges it faces. Chapter 2 presents a detailed picture of the online marketplace landscape across Africa. Chapter 3 analyses 15 international and African marketplaces that sell goods in Africa and explores how they function, their requirements and how they can support African SMEs. Chapter 4 considers the lessons learned in this report and suggests how these findings can be used to help develop e-commerce across the African continent.

Business and policy insights-Mapping e-Marketplaces in Africa