Amazon opens in South Africa a Prime-Free marketplace


Two years after announcing plans, Amazon’s highly awaited e-commerce entry into Africa has finally come to pass. On Tuesday, the tech giant launched its marketplace in South Africa. 

South Africa is the e-commerce giant’s first market on the continent, and it will be going head-to-head with local players like Takealot (majority-owned by media giant Naspers), as well as Makro and Bob Group’s bidorbuy. Notably, it’s launched the service with no Prime membership — meaning no media services, and no Prime-only service tiers like free shipping for a large trove of items.

We have contacted Amazon to ask about when, or if, it is likely to add Prime in the region and we will update this post as we learn more.

The service e-commerce giant said that initially it plans to sell international brands and local products spanning some 20 product categories. Amazon will offer same-day and next-day delivery as well as 3,000 pickup points, and without the Prime perk of free delivery on a wide range of items, to bring in customers, Amazon is offering free delivery for anyone’s first order as well as subsequent orders exceeding $27.

The debut has been a long-time coming Amazon had first said it would launch on the continent two years ago, in two countries, Nigeria and South Africa.

But since then, it has pushed back its launch dates for both. South Africa was originally supposed to debut in April 2023. That was then postponed to October 2023, but that month it only started to onboard independent sellers in the country, and it was still making hires in merchant development, software development, and operations. Its Nigerian launch, slated for February 2023, has also been put on hold, and the company has yet to give an update on when that might open for business.

“We are excited to launch, along with thousands of independent sellers in South Africa. We provide customers with great value, broad selection—including international and local products—and a convenient delivery experience,” said Robert Koen, managing director of Sub-Saharan Africa, Amazon, in a statement. “Building a strong relationship with South African brands and businesses—small or large—is incredibly important to us. We want to be the place where they can reach millions of customers.”

Amazon’s entry into the South African market introduces competition into an $3 billion industry largely dominated by Naspers-owned Takealot, which commands nearly half of all online sales in the southern African country. Walmart-owned Massmart is also gearing up for its own e-commerce push. The timing of Amazon’s launch also coincides with a surge in online shopping in South Africa following the pandemic, which has spurred increased investments from retailers in the e-commerce sector.

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