Tumisang Malepi, 28-year-old, is behind creation of a robust online market place for fashionable clothes in South Africa at a time when COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on brick and mortar businesses in Africa’s second largest economy.
The female entrepreneur said during a recent interview that e-commerce platforms like AliExpress have provided her a respite during the pandemic.
“Most of the products I buy from AliExpress are mainly hair products and clothes. I find that things are much affordable on the website and that allows me to re-sell things back to my customers not at a huge price.”
Malepi said that during her entrepreneurial journey, her knowledge about quality and affordability of Chinese smartphones and other accessories like power banks and chargers, has increased. She has been buying her phone gadgets from China for personal use.
“With load shedding sometimes in the country, you need to be prepared especially when you run an online business. I do purchase my power bank, chargers, watches at much cheaper prices compared to here,” said Malepi.
She belongs to a growing army of South African youths whose suaveness in leveraging on electronic trading platforms to grow their businesses has risen to new levels during the pandemic.
Statistics from Mobicred, a credit facility for online shopping, indicated that there was a 40 percent increase in online shopping in South Africa this year. Its data released more than two months ago showed that consumers were spending a lot on household items including furniture.
Most of the growth in e-commerce has been evident after restriction measures to contain COVID-19 were imposed in March.
“Not being around work gives a lot of time to focus online shopping,” said Nhlanhla Nomfe, a 30-year-old bank teller from a suburb of Johannesburg.
Africa’s e-commerce platforms have been experiencing heavy traffic since March when governments imposed COVID-19 containment measures like lockdowns and extended night curfews.
Victor Ogalo, head of policy, public private dialogue at Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) said that the most favored products by consumers are groceries, clothes, electronic and electrical products amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Consumers are purchasing these products online because they are cheaper at the e-commerce sites as compared to shops and supermarkets,” Ogalo said. “The consumers are also using e-commerce sites because they help them observe the social distance protocols to avoid crowded places.”
“The most common electronic products from China are mobile phones, TVs, speakers, power banks and laptops,” said Ogalo.
Richard Omotsi, a consumer, said he prefers to buy mobile phones and speakers online because they are more affordable as compared to shops. Omotsi has bought some products of Chinese brands and the gadgets are for online learning for his children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online shopping buzz has also been felt in Ghana.
Joy Agbe Carbonu, a 53-year-old teacher said the pandemic has motivated her to make optimal use of online platforms while ordering for groceries and other household items.
The school teacher, who started using the online shopping platforms to shop for the first time in December last year, said e-commerce is convenient.
“I think, this is the best time for Ghanaians and the global community to consider using online shopping to fight the pandemic,” Carbonu said.
Managing editor of an online news portal Roger Agana, who has been using the online platforms to buy various products for some years, told Xinhua it is convenient and reliable to use and recommended its usage, especially, during this COVID-19 period.
“In the midst of the pandemic when health experts have urged social distancing and wearing of face masks to limit the spread of the virus, online shopping is the way to go now.”