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The time to invest in Africa is now

Retailers looking to international expansion opportunities should look no further than Africa

The huge potential of Africa is being missed by overseas retailers, who should be looking at the investment and expansion opportunities now, an African-based panel told World Retail Congress delegates yesterday in Amsterdam.


“If we look at where there is massive potential, it is Africa. It has the potential to be huge,” said Melanie Hawken, Founder & CEO, African Lionesses, a company that works to help female African entrepreneurs. “There are world class ideas coming out of Africa but very few are willing to take a risk on business. There's a great back story to many of these, with women in Africa putting a lot back into their communities and businesses. But we are not seeing proactive investment.”


She said that it is taking so long to get product on to the shelves of established retailers in Africa that instead many are turning to pop-ups because it takes so long to access the market.


Jessica Anuna, Founder & CEO of ecommerce fashion site, added that with 50% of the African population under 30 and the middle class growing exponentially, “the time is now”.


She added: “A lot of retailers are looking at China, but the Chinese are looking at ecommerce opportunities in Africa. We started with Nigeria because it is the largest market. The opportunity is not just African-made products, there is a huge demand for international goods.”


However, Anuna said that it is vital to partner with African companies who know how the vast market works, speaks the languages and also are able to help support taking cash payments and in a wide variety of African currencies.


Moderator Suzie Wokabi, Founder & Chief Creative Officer, SuzieBeauty, echoed the views about investment and recalled: “It was hard at the beginning to fund as a start-up. Localisation is vital to succeed in Africa.”

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