Insights into the growth of African and Middle Eastern eCommerce with payment methods, target audiences, marketing, social media, economy and logistics all profiled


Africa and the Middle East are home to a collective 492.6 million people with a total GDP of 3.4 trillion USD. GDP per capita is 11,529 USD, and is expected to reach 13,335 USD by 2021.

Digital User Insights

There are currently 65.4 million eCommerce users in Africa and the Middle East, with an additional 20 million users expected to be shopping online by 2021. Four years from now, these 85.72 million eCommerce users will spend an average of 311 USD online.

Internet user penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to grow from 17.9% to 20.6% in 2020, and in the Middle East and North Africa from 30.4% to 33.2%.

Nigeria has the most amount of internet users in African countries, with 91.88 million online, followed by Egypt (34.8 million) and Kenya (31.99 million). In the Middle East, Iran is the country with the most internet users – 56.7 million.

Product Categories

Total African and Middle East eCommerce revenue across all product categories is 16.7 billion USD, and is expected to grow to 26.6 billion USD by 2021. Electronics and Media is currently the leading product category in Africa and the Middle East, accounting for 5.8 billion USD market share, followed by Fashion, which generates 4 billion USD in sales.

By 2021, Electronics and Media will still be the most purchased online category, with a value of 8.2 billion USD, and second favorite, Fashion, is expected to be worth 7 billion USD.


According to the World Bank, Africa and the Middle East logistics are improving, with low and lower-middle-income economies such as Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Togo, Comoros, Niger, Burundi, Kenya and Egypt all considered top-performers in the 2016 Logistics Performance Index.

Preferred Online Payments

44% of African and Middle East shoppers prefer to use their credit card when shopping online, and a further 14% prefer PayPal. Debit card is also a popular online payment method in the region.

Where does Africa and the Middle East buy from?

China is the biggest trade partner to Africa and the Middle East, supplying a combined 104.71 million USD in imports – particularly automobiles. The region’s other key import partners are the US (60.9 million USD) and Germany (47 million USD).

Internet and Device Usage

Internet penetration in Africa and the Middle East is currently 63.4%, and should reach 70.7% by 2021. Smartphone penetration is much less (48.7%), but is projected to grow to 59.9% in the next four years.

60% of online shoppers in the region shop online via desktop, 55% use smartphones and 38% use tablets.


Total marketing spend in Africa and the Middle East has risen in recent years, as advertisers steadily invest more in digital advertising. In 2017, ad spend is 24.25 billion USD, and is expected to increase to 27.49 billion USD in 2020.

Social Media

Africa and the Middle East’s social media penetration is 41.3%, a figure expected to increase in the next 2 years to 42.9%. There are currently 316.6 million social media users in the region, and the most popular social media platform is Facebook, with an estimated 232.9 million users.  

For more market insights, check out the eShopWorld series of blogs covering a range of emerging eCommerce markets.