Amadeus Column: Africa is Not a Country

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Africa has shrugged off the ‘lost continent’ mantle over the past decade in a manner and at a pace that has surprised many. Its abundance of natural resources combined with the global economic downturn saw a dramatic shift in the balance of economic power, with many African nations becoming instantly attractive investment destinations.

A period of rapid economic growth followed, as did infrastructure investments and profitable business ventures. Considering the low base from which most of these economies are emerging, progress is inevitable. What it has also shed light on though is a population that has surpassed the one billion mark and is eager to participate in Africa’s economic potential.

According to an independent white paper commissioned by Amadeus, Africa’s corporate sector is increasingly keen to take advantage of the benefits of e-commerce and online systems.

This is the overarching outcome of The Digital Savannah: Africa’s e-commerce promise, a study that represents an in-depth look at trends and opportunities in the e-commerce space, especially in the context of corporate travel booking and payment systems.

Arthur Goldstuck, who is regarded as South Africa’s leading expert on Internet and mobile technology trends, comments that “the research reveals a strong interest in online travel booking, with the roughly 50% of companies already doing so expected to grow to 70% in the short term.”

Five key trends emerged that will shape decision making and consumer behaviour in relation to online shopping preferences and travel booking:

1. Satisfying a special appetite – e-commerce is growing in Africa, but not in exactly the same mould as developed economies.

2. Africa is not a country – the differences in preferences, cultural tendencies and priorities are a hallmark of the e-commerce landscape.

3. Ring it up – lacking conventional online access, millions of Africans have turned to their phones for increasingly sophisticated mobile payment and banking services.

4. Have passport, will travel – African business travel is strong and growing, with a preference for online booking.

5. Strong corporate policies – companies indicate a focus on centralised travel booking and corporate policies that drive their buying behaviour.

This inaugural study shows that, despite the disparate preferences, environments and available infrastructure across the different countries, the overall potential for e-commerce is strong.

Santiago Jimenez
Director, Sub-Saharan Africa
Amadeus