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E-commerce in Middle East and Africa

September 2020

During the review period, e-commerce remained the fastest-growing distribution channel in MEA. This trend was driven by increased consumer demand for convenience, which prompted the diversification of retail strategies. Besides, low penetration of online formats attracted new entrants, while diversified offerings gave room to niche categories. This regional brief covers dynamics in e-commerce across the region, with the forecast period highlighting the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Key Findings

E-commerce posts double-digit growth across MEA

E-commerce expanded aggressively in MEA in the review period, despite an apparent digital divide between countries. The channel’s performance was supported by improved internet penetration, fintech innovations, extended offerings and intensified promotional campaigns. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold from late 2019, key players were increasingly concerned by potential disruptions in cross-border activities.

Apparel and footwear retains the lead across the channel

Niche categories such as food and drinks continued to rise, driven by chained outlets which leveraged multichannel approaches to mitigate the competitive pressures. The move also led to a rise in click-and-collect options, a strategy that attracted new users across emerging markets. Nevertheless, apparel and footwear remained the largest category in MEA, supported by momentum gained in the Middle East.

M-commerce benefits from influx of affordable smartphones

The influx in affordable smartphones drove mobile-centred strategies, giving room to interactive shopping apps and improved client engagements. The shift was noticeable across developing countries such as Nigeria and Kenya, where a limited number of households have access to PCs and tablets.

COVID-19 is set to stimulate growth in e-commerce

COVID-19 is expected to reshape shopping behaviours, as e-commerce is attracting new users seeking to adhere to social distancing measures. This trend will be consolidated by enhanced digital infrastructures and improved safety in payment methods. Nonetheless, the region could still lag compared with developed markets due to the prevalence of traditional retailing.


Key findings

Regional Overview

Putting Middle East and Africa in context
Improved digitalisation infrastructures will support e-commerce
Grocery retailers tap into an omnichannel approach to reach shoppers
Diversification of online offerings supports demand for niche products
Local companies benefit from improved delivery services

Leading Companies and Brands

E-commerce remains concentrated across MEA
Amazon and Jumia lead e-commerce in MEA
Headline about regional company presence

Forecast Projections

E-commerce is expected to remain the fastest growing channel
E-commerce will continue to thrive across the region
Israel and South Africa show strong growth prospects

Country Snapshots

Saudi Arabia: market context
Saudi Arabia: competitive landscape
United Arab Emirates: market context
United Arab Emirates: competitive landscape
Israel: market context
Israel: competitive landscape
Algeria: market context
Algeria: competitive landscape
South Africa: market context
South Africa: competitive landscape
Egypt: market context
Egypt: competitive landscape
Morocco: market context
Morocco: competitive landscape
Kenya: market context
Kenya: competitive landscape
Nigeria: market context
Nigeria: competitive landscape
Tunisia: market context
Tunisia: competitive landscape
Cameroon: market context
Cameroon: competitive landscape


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