Exploring Opportunities in Services and Payments in the New Normal in Sub-Saharan Africa

September 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shaken up the consumer goods, services and payment industries in Sub-Saharan Africa, putting pressure on supply chains and depressing sales, as lockdowns and job losses squeeze discretionary spending. As a result of the weak economic situation, demand for non-essential products and services has declined, forcing some companies – both small and large – out of business.

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This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

Economic constraints reshape consumer behaviour

Lockdowns imposed in some countries in response to new outbreaks of infection continue to have an impact on economies across Sub-Saharan Africa. Most income groups' disposable incomes will continue to fall across the region, forcing households to cut back on their spending. Consumers' values, priorities and consumption patterns are being reassessed as a result of the economic challenges. As a result, businesses must adopt agile systems and tailor their offerings to reflect changing consumer purchasing habits during and after COVID-19.

Localised strategies to lead

Supply chain disruptions caused by import and movement restrictions have resulted in a steady shift towards more localised strategies across industries. As a result, domestic markets have been prioritised in recovery plans in industries such as travel, while leading retailers and financial services have collaborated strategically with local suppliers. The push for localisation – reducing Africa's reliance on international markets, and developing intra-African regional value chains – is expected to continue to be a top priority, particularly given the introduction of initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Digitalisation continues to rise

Because of the fear of infection, the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption, making room for digitalisation of services across industries. Businesses are working hard to adapt their business strategies in order to better deal with the crisis, with more diverse business models in both online and offline channels, leveraging omnichannel services and digital solutions. It is expected that the incorporation of digital technology into business models across industries will remain critical, with many businesses across the region turning to digital services to overcome channel, distance, price and payment barriers for customers of all income levels.

Mobile and digital payments gain momentum

Consumers have embraced the convenience of mobile payment services, as demand for contactless payment has increased. This trend has boosted innovation in so-called “super-apps” in South Africa, which allow consumers to access several services from one single app and virtual cards. Many fintech companies are also taking a regional approach. As result, leading telecommunications companies, such as MTN, have continued to use rising mobile money penetration in markets including Nigeria and Cameroon to expand services such as MoMo across industries.

New priorities and preferences redefine how we live, shop and play

Business models will continue to evolve during the recovery period, in response to consumers' fear of being exposed to the virus's resurgence and new variants. The speed of recovery will, however, be determined by governments' ability to contain the virus's spread by increasing the penetration of COVID-19 vaccination programmes. Companies across the region must rethink and re-adjust their product portfolios, distribution channels, promotions and supply chains to accommodate changing consumer behaviour and prepare their businesses for a “new normal”.

Key findings (1)
Key findings (2)
COVID-19 affects supply chains and operations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa
Disposable income will recover only slowly for most income groups
Retailers face difficult operating conditions as a result of economic constraints
Retailers develop omnichannel strategies in order to expand their consumer base
Telecommunications companies pave the way for m-commerce
Mr Price Group’s omnichannel strategy boosts sales in the midst of COVID-19 (South Africa)
Implications for Sub-Saharan African retailers
Temporary restaurant closures hit foodservice operators
Virtual and delivery platforms take the spotlight in the region
Delivery era drives digital strategies and partnerships: Jumia Foods (Kenya)
Implications for Sub-Saharan African consumer foodservice operators
Travel continues to be affected by persistent travel bans
Digitalisation and sustainability have evolved into competitive tools across the region
Governments and operators bet on bottom-up approach to support tourism activities
Hotel Sky leverage digital technologies to streamline guest experience (South Africa)
Implications for Sub-Saharan African travel and tourism players
Mid-term outlook for services and payments in Sub-Saharan Africa
Long-term outlook for services and payments in Sub-Saharan Africa


Retail is the sale of new and used goods to consumers from a business for personal or household consumption from retail outlets, kiosks, market stalls, vending, direct selling and e-commerce. Retail is the aggregation of Retail Offline and Retail E-Commerce. Excludes specialist retailers of motor vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle parts. Also excludes fuel sales, foodservice sales, rental transactions, and wholesale sales (e.g. Cash and Carry). Sales value excluding or including VAT/Sales Tax. Retail also excludes the informal retail sector. Informal retailing is retail trade which is not declared to the tax authorities. Informal retailing encompasses (a) sales generated by unregistered and unlicensed retailers, i.e. retailers operating illegally, and (b) any proportion of sales generated by a registered and licensed retailer that is not declared to the tax authorities. Unregistered and unlicensed retailers operate predominantly (although not exclusively) as street hawkers or operate open market stalls, as these channels are harder for the authorities to monitor than permanent outlets. Activities in the illegal market, which is usually understood to refer to trade in illegal, counterfeit or stolen merchandise, are included within our definition of informal retailing. Activities in the “grey market”, which is usually understood to refer to trade in legal merchandise that is sold through unauthorized channels – for example cigarettes bought legally in another country, legally imported, but sold at lower prices than in authorized channels – will be included as informal retailing if no tax is paid on sale by the retailer. However if the retailer pays tax – for example on cigarettes bought legally in another country but sold at a lower price than standard – the sale is included within formal retail.

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