Cameroon Cashes In on Ecommerce

With a growing middle class and internet usage on the rise in Africa, ecommerce retailers are taking advantage of the continent’s untapped potential for digital business. McKinsey estimates that by 2025, ecommerce could account for 10% of retail sales in Africa’s largest economies, resulting in $75 billion annually.

We got in touch with OnFrontiers expert Candace Nkoth Bisseck to learn more about the ecommerce industry in Cameroon. A former marketer and consultant in sales and innovation, Candace now serves as the Country Manager for Jumia Market, an ecommerce startup that has become Cameroon’s largest online marketplace. She has also worked with the United Nations and the Cameroonian Ministry of Telecommunications on digital economy initiatives.

How fast is the ecommerce market growing in Cameroon?

Ecommerce in Cameroon is growing at an exponential pace. From nothing five years ago to the dynamic industry we are operating in now, we’ve seen the market grow nearly tenfold in the past three years. It started with small local players, such as WandaShops and Kerawa, followed by the arrival of Jumia Group with a galaxy of ventures in different lines of e-businesses, and then the emergence of many other local niche ecommerce businesses and classified websites. In addition to better awareness of ecommerce, the market has benefited from the growth of internet penetration rate during the same time frame, resulting in a significant increase in the numbers of visitors and transactions.

What are the main challenges you face with ecommerce in Cameroon, and how do you work to address them?

Ecommerce faces two main challenges in Cameroon. The first one is logistics. Unlike most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, there isn’t a fixed address system in Cameroon. It complicates the delivery process and forces us at times to make multiple calls to buyers before a delivery can be finalized. It’s also very challenging to find relevant logistics partners that are both cost efficient and customer friendly. However, location technologies, such as and from Google, could be a game changer in tackling the current logistics challenges in Cameroon.

Another challenge is the payment. The combination of a very low bank account penetration rate and trust issues linked to the use of credit card details online makes it difficult to encourage online payments. To tackle this issue, we have a main payment method of cash on delivery and more and more mobile money payment solutions.

How do you see the ecommerce industry evolving in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next year?  What factors will drive its growth going forward?

One predictable aspect of the evolution of ecommerce in Sub-Saharan Africa is diversification. Next to the growing presence of international actors, we are already seeing many small businesses emerging that are focused on niche industries, such as food, cleaning services, arts, etc. They are cashing in on the awareness of ecommerce generated by the pioneers.

The most significant next step, however, could be the development of cross-border ecommerce within Africa and from Africa to other regions. Such a transformation would have to be driven by an adapted regional regulation of postal services and financial systems. Collaboration between governments, ecommerce actors, and international organizations could also be very instrumental in that regard.


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Featured image was taken by Flickr user SarahTZ in Dschang, Cameroon.