Guest Articles

April 4

Moulaye Taboure

Accelerating Africa’s E-Commerce Revolution: A SaaS Solution Leverages Payment and Logistics Innovation to Unleash the Continent’s Entrepreneurial Potential

Africa’s e-commerce landscape is in the midst of an ongoing revolution, and the opportunities it presents are nothing short of transformational. This revolution is driven by the growth in internet access across the continent, since borders have become less of an obstacle and African businesses can now sell and compete globally. 

ANKA is playing a key role in this transformation, leveraging “Software as a Service” (SaaS) innovation to connect businesses with consumers, simplify payments and revolutionise logistics to support African e-commerce — not just on the continent, but worldwide. We’ve examined the growth and challenges of the African e-commerce industry, developing ANKA’s mission to empower entrepreneurs, overcome the unique obstacles they face, foster innovation, and enable the sector to drive a prosperous future for the continent.

We outlined several key trends and developments in African e-commerce in our latest publication, “Global African Commerce White Paper Report 2023.” Below, I’ll share some highlights from the report, which offers a comprehensive analysis of the e-commerce business landscape and how it aligns with ANKA’s vision for a prosperous Africa.


The Rise of African E-commerce

Over the past decade, the African e-commerce market has experienced remarkable growth, driven by changing consumer behaviour and increasing demand for more responsible online shopping. This growth has set the stage for significant expansion in the coming years, driven by the increasing ease of distribution of creative content and the changing preferences of consumers who value meaning and choice over just convenience. 

However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for retailers to reach these consumers. In Africa, as in the rest of the world, the COVID-19 crisis, the hegemony of social networks and the ease of creating new online platforms have helped to fragment the public’s attention. Nowadays (to take some common examples), retailers may have to find customers on Facebook, convert them on Instagram and serve them on WhatsApp and many other channels. As a result, a successful entrepreneur in the retail sector must essentially develop superpowers in customer acquisition, management and business analysis.

But these skills aren’t always easy to master. In ANKA’s case, how can we ask the 14,000 saleswomen of African origin we work with (who comprise 72% of our global base) to transform themselves into retail superheroes when only 36% of them have received a high-level education — often in areas that aren’t related to their entrepreneurial activity?

Recognising these issues, we’ve worked to address African entrepreneurs’ core needs, enabling them to harness the power of the internet and reach global customers by land, sea or air.


The Unique Challenges of African Entrepreneurs

African entrepreneurs are defined by their innovation and resilience. Yet the continent is home to countless dedicated entrepreneurs who struggle to grow their businesses, due to the unique challenges they face. These hurdles generally include:

  • Limited access to capital
  • Infrastructure constraints
  • Technical barriers

Access to capital remains one of the biggest roadblocks, particularly for those in the early stages of their business journey. Traditional financing channels often fall short of meeting the diverse needs of African entrepreneurs, who frequently operate in sectors — including the informal sector, where roughly half of ANKA’s entrepreneurs operate — that may be considered high risk but also high reward.

Infrastructure constraints present additional obstacles. Reliable logistics and transportation networks are essential to e-commerce success, ensuring that products reach customers on time and in good condition. Across Africa — and especially in the export market — there are disparities in infrastructure development, with some regions benefiting from more advanced networks than others. 

Technical barriers — particularly limited access to the internet — can also hinder an entrepreneur’s ability to operate efficiently in an online marketplace. Many African consumers now rely on smartphones for their online shopping, creating a demand for mobile-friendly e-commerce platforms. However, connectivity issues and the cost of data still present challenges that prevent online retailers from reaching a broader customer base.

Africa’s remarkable entrepreneurs have no shortage of ingenuity and resourcefulness. But as these obstacles illustrate, to truly unleash their entrepreneurial potential, they need the right tools, resources and support.


The ANKA Approach: A Catalyst for Change

ANKA was born from a commitment to address these challenges. We’ve witnessed the real struggles that African entrepreneurs face when trying to access e-commerce markets, finance and technology. Our “Global African Commerce” whitepaper emerged from our meticulous observations of how the continent’s entrepreneurs have navigated these obstacles. Based on data spanning seven years, $50 million in transactions across 175 countries, and thousands of interviews conducted across Africa and around the globe, the report not only chronicles the sector’s momentum, it also highlights areas where these entrepreneurs need further support. 

As elucidated in the whitepaper, ANKA aims to unleash African business globally through tailor-made solutions, which include a marketplace, payment services and logistics support:

  • ANKA Marketplace allows entrepreneurs to create online shops and connect with over 300,000 consumers worldwide.
  • ANKA Payment enables customers to pay for their purchases with any device (even PayPal, if they live in Africa), and allows vendors to withdraw the money locally via bank transfer, VISA or mobile money.
  • ANKA Shipping provides vendors with a logistics solution offered in partnership with DHL, allowing them to ship their goods worldwide at the cheapest rate (less than 20€ for 1Kg).

Our focus on payment solutions, in both our product offerings and whitepaper, underscores our unwavering commitment to fortifying Africa’s payment infrastructure, as reliable cross-border payments have presented ongoing challenges on the continent. Furthermore, our research supports the imperative of tapping into local talent and nurturing innovation and local investment simultaneously. By providing a platform for African entrepreneurs to sell and ship to both local and global customers, we aim to support the ongoing development of African e-commerce, helping to boost job creation and economic growth.

Our approach has led to multiple success stories that exemplify the transformation of businesses and livelihoods. ANKA has enabled countless entrepreneurs to reach new heights in their endeavours, and the impact is profound, as these businesses have been able to not just survive but thrive in the ever-evolving world of e-commerce.

The cornerstone of our approach is a commitment to inclusivity. We understand that entrepreneurs come from diverse backgrounds, and their businesses vary in size, scope and industry. That’s why, regardless of an entrepreneur’s product or the size of their business, ANKA provides a platform where they can access the tools and services that best fit their unique needs.


A Collective Effort to Revolutionise African E-Commerce

Revolutionising African e-commerce is a collective endeavour. It will require the combined efforts of entrepreneurs, accelerators, investors and associations to come together and overcome the challenges discussed above. For instance, accelerators and investors can propose models that are more adapted to local realities, given that informality and the lack of financial structuring are still very prevalent among African small businesses. And business-focused associations can educate entrepreneurs in good business practices (like accounting, taxation, marketing, communication, etc.), preparing them to hit the ground running when they launch their global businesses.

The success of African e-commerce relies on collaboration, knowledge sharing and mutual support. Africa’s future is bright, and its entrepreneurs will lead the way. It’s a future where the African e-commerce ecosystem empowers businesses to thrive, fosters innovation and creates economic opportunities for all.

But for this future to become a reality, these entrepreneurs will need the right support. To that end, we recognise the utmost importance of listening to and learning from these ingenious minds. By learning about and addressing the core challenges these businesses are facing in bringing their products to a local and global market, we can forge a collaborative ecosystem that not only empowers entrepreneurs but also nurtures innovation and steers Africa towards a more prosperous future. This collaborative learning is the reason we published our whitepaper: We hope these insights will inspire other stakeholders to join us in maximising the e-commerce sector’s impact across the continent.


Moulaye Taboure is the Co-Founder and CEO of ANKA.

Photo courtesy of ANKA.




Finance, Technology
digital inclusion, digital payments, e-commerce, employment, innovation, MSMEs, research, skill development, women entrepreneurs