Africa E-Commerce and Online Retail 2021 – Technology Market Map

Published 14 June 2021
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Africa E-Commerce and Online Retail 2021

Last week three e-commerce and online retail companies announced new VC raises. Kenya’s Kibanda Top-up, Egypt’s zVendo, and Morocco’s Epicerie Verte each announcing successful raises. This takes the total number of raises secured by e-commerce companies to 60 over the past 12 months, totalling over $140 million USD.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumer habits have changed to accommodate restrictions in movement and gathering in large groups. The impact on the retail sector has meant many bricks and mortar shops have remained closed.

Statista, an online data repository, estimates that retail e-commerce website traffic worldwide recorded more than 21.9 billion monthly visits compared to 16.2 billion in June 2019. Research published by the team at Wamda estimates that the gross retail value of goods sold online increased by 52% between 2019 and 2020, reaching $22 billion USD, this is expected to grow by a further 36% in 2021 to 30 billion USD.

So, has momentum for online shopping continued, and how has this translated into VC investment? We took a closer look to find out.  

Growth through the Pandemic?

Figure 1: Total investment into e-Commerce technology companies in Africa since 2015

The total deal count for e-commerce and online retail companies has increased from 11 in 2016 to 50 in 2020, with a total of 23 deals announced in 2021 (year to date July 2021). It is interesting to note that the overall amount raised has decreased year on year since 2018, reaching a total of $119 million USD to $19.6 million USD in 2020.

Figure 2: Quarterly investment into e-commerce technology companies across Africa since 2018

The year on year decrease in funding can be partially explained by several larger late-stage raises announced in Q3 2018 (attributed to a $94 million USD venture round closed by South Africa online car retailer, and Q4 2019 (attributed to a $26 million USD Series B raise closed by Copia Global and a $21 million USD Series C closed by Jiji).

Good news for early-stage companies?

While overall funding figures appear to be decreasing, the number of early-stage funding rounds (i.e. pre-seed or seed-stage funding rounds totalling $550,000 or less) have increased year on year. In 2019 there were a total of 31 deals announced totalling $3.75 million USD, the total number of deals increased to 44 in 2020, totalling $1.932 million USD. In 2021, these increasing trends look to continue with 20 deals already announced totalling $2.673 million USD.

Figure 3: Early-stage funding into e-commerce technology companies across Africa since 2015

Since 2016 however, e-commerce companies in North Africa have secured the largest proportion of deals year on year. In 2019 for instance, North Africa’s e-commerce companies secured 67% of all e-commerce funding rounds, this fell to 42% in 2020 and 2021 (year to date).

Figure 4: Early-stage funding into e-commerce technology companies across Africa by the total number of deals per region since 2015

What next for e-commerce?


The increase in early-stage funding rounds at the pre-seed and seed stage of growth seems to be more of a long-term trend. This is possibly due to a number of enabling factors such as the increased accessibility to financial services technology as well as more robust supply chains. Additionally, changing consumer habits is creating more demand for online retail opportunities.

Research published by for example indicated that almost 40% of consumers in Egypt were more shopping online more regularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether this is a short-lived trend, or a more permanent change in preference remains to be seen, however, what is clear that for e-Commerce, FinTech and e-Logistics businesses there is a big opportunity to innovate and unlock continued growth.