Experts Advocate For Inclusivity And Sustainability In Africa’s Digital Marketplace Poised To Reach $72 Billion By 2026

Published 19 days ago
Shot of an unrecognisable woman using a digital tablet while working on a farm
One revelation from the research is the reliance of African farmers on digital marketplaces. (Getty Images)

According to the Beyond Borders 2024 report, a digital commerce study, the African continent’s digital economy is poised to reach $72 billion by 2026.

However, amidst this growth, experts note that there are challenges that must be addressed to ensure inclusivity and sustainability.

Research and advisory firm Caribou Digital, in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has undertaken a research initiative, The Platform Livelihoods Project, which delves into the workings of Africa’s digital workplace, shedding light on the experiences of millions who rely on digital platforms for their livelihoods.

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One revelation from the research is the reliance of African farmers on digital marketplaces. For instance, 27% of Kenyan farmers utilize platforms like Meta (Facebook) to sell produce and exchange vital information.

The study also uncovers the hurdles faced by marginalized groups, including people with disabilities. The absence of accessible technologies, such as screen-reading tools for the visually impaired, poses a significant barrier to their full participation in the digital economy.

Jonathan Donner, senior director for research at Caribou Digital, explains the breadth of opportunities emerging in the digital sphere.

“The opportunities in ecommerce, ride-sharing, and gig work are well understood, but the studies collected in this book open the lens more broadly, to show how there are many ways in which inclusion is on the rise,” says Donner to FORBES AFRICA.

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Donner adds: “The opportunities are great for players, large and small. The established social media giants are facilitating thriving but largely informal marketplaces for goods and services, and can use their reach and familiarity to provide on-ramps to the formal economy.”

Challenges persist, particularly for women navigating the digital marketplace.

Olayinka David-West, a professor and associate dean at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria, notes the hurdles women face, despite the convenience of remote work opportunities.

“The popularity of social commerce platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram, for instance, is hindered by fragmented payment integration within the supply chain. Additionally, barriers such as limited safety awareness, particularly regarding fraud, and inadequate access to digital devices (such as computers, phones, and airtime) stem from lower levels of financial access and women’s varying levels of digital literacy and skills required to enhance visibility and promote discovery,” David-West shares with FORBES AFRICA.

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