CIFTIS 2021: Focus on e-commerce in Africa

Newton Moracha, a resident of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, boasts of a wide array of electrical appliances in his house.

Like many youth, the 29-year-old enjoys having a reliable entertainment system for his leisure time away from work.

Moracha is among thousands of Kenyans who dread shopping physically in the busy streets of Nairobi, filled with tens of thousands of buyers and sellers each day.

All his appliances were purchased on Kilimall, a Chinese-owned online platform where buyers and sellers can transact virtually at their own convenience.

“It’s so much easier for me. I don’t have to leave my house at any point during the transaction,” says Moracha. “When I want to make a purchase, I simply log in to the website, compare the options available, check their reviews and submit a request to buy. In two days or so, my order comes to wherever I am.”

Newton Moracha, a Kilimall Kenya client, works on his personal home computer in Nairobi, Kenya. /CGTN

E-commerce in Kenya thrived for the better part of the past decade and continues to be on the ascendancy, thanks to a vibrant tech-savvy youth, complemented by a strong network of online payment options.

Kilimall launched its services in Kenya in 2014, a year after another ecommerce giant, Jumia, started its operations in the East African country.

Kenya is among many countries in Africa that continue to enjoy strong e-commerce viability owing to its reliable internet network. Other countries that have strong e-commerce platforms include Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.

E-commerce platforms are among the companies participating in the 8th China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), that started on September 2 and is scheduled to run until September 7.

The 2021 China International Trade in Services Fair (CIFTIS) venue at the Shougang Industrial Park, Beijing, China. /CFP Image

CIFTIS is the first comprehensive platform specializing in the trade in services around the world. Defined as a state-level, international and comprehensive fair for trade in services, the CIFTIS currently figures as the only comprehensive trading platform in the world covering the 12 sectors of trade in services defined by the World Trade Organization.

Trade in services involves the sale and delivery of intangible products such as transportation, tourism, telecommunications and computing.

This year’s edition has given more focus on e-commerce, as the industry continues to make steady growth across the world.

E-commerce has experienced phenomenal growth rates around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world for the better part of two years.

According to VISA, e-commerce sales are projected to grow to $7 trillion across the globe by 2024.

This growth has been well documented in Africa, where merchants have taken advantage of the budding internet-based platforms to sell goods and offer services.

A recent report by VISA themed ‘E-trade advancements across Sub Saharan Africa (SSA)’, shows that despite being one of the smallest regions of ecommerce globally, Sub-Saharan Africa has shown steady growth potential.

The report acknowledges that Asia Pacific (APAC), specifically, China, India, and Southeast Asia are a key driving force behind the e-commerce market and represent 56% of worldwide volume. However, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have the largest growth potential over the next 5 years with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23% (almost twice that of other regions).

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lags behind MENA, but still shows strong potential having seen a 42% year-on-year growth across the region from 2019-2020.

A picture taken through a window shows Kenya Airways planes parked at the parking bay at the Jomo Kenyatta international airport in Nairobi, on August 1, 2020. Kenya was ranked joint third with Ghana in total volumes of e-commerce recorded in 2019 and 2020. (Photo by Simon Maina via CFP)

The report notes that the SAA region’s top markets, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, are at the forefront of expanding the industry, helped by a good penetration of internet and smart phones, which drive the ease and convenience of e-commerce as a primary access point.

South Africa sits in first place of total volumes in 2019 and 2020, while Nigeria sits in second place, followed by Kenya and Ghana ranked in joint third. They are followed by Mauritius in fourth, and Zambia in fifth, showing the relevance of eCommerce spreading across East, South and West Africa.

At the CIFTIS 2021 in Beijing, traders will be keen to identify and embrace new opportunities, potentially setting a new tone for more growth in e-commerce trading in Africa and beyond.

Back in Kenya, Kilimall is among of multiple organizations around the world that will have their attention focused on the events at CIFTIS 2021.

In a brief to CGTN, the e-commerce company noted the importance of China as a source of its merchandise.

“It (China) gives us the flexibility we need to serve an ever-changing market base. First, we can get a wider variety of products which enables us to expand our target market. Secondly, we can source for the best quality products and stay within very competitive prices,” said Kilimall.

A Kilimall Kenya staff in the company's headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo sourced from Kilimall via CGTN)

According to organizers, a total of 4,357 enterprises registered to hold virtual exhibitions at CIFTIS 2021. The number marks a 40 percent increase over last year’s event.

The six-day event, with an exhibition area of about 130,000 square meters, is taking place at the China National Convention Center and the Shougang Industrial Park, a former industrial site.

This year’s event is happening under the theme: “Toward Digital Future and Services-Driven Development” and will cover eight sectors including digital services, healthcare and sport.

More than 100 forums, conferences and business negotiations on trending and emerging issues, such as the digital economy and carbon neutrality, were also expected to be convened this year.

A graphic representation of the world's e-commerce statistics. /CGTN


Tendai Mtengwa

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