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* E-Commerce dodges mall queues in choked Nigerian city
* Jumia sees sales rising 15 pct a month
* Nigerian shoppers overcoming fear of online fraud
By Tim Cocks and Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS, April 10 There are two main reasons
people shop online: it's cheaper or they can't be bothered with
a trip to the store.
And in Lagos, a city of 21 million people, a trip to the
store can kill your entire day if you lose the traffic lottery.
"The e-commerce model is extremely relevant for Nigeria,
because of all the hassle everyone can experience every time
they go to a shopping mall," Jeremy Doutte, co-CEO of online
retailer Jumia, told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit.
Jumia has 100,000 Nigerian customer accounts and sales are
increasing by 15 percent a month, Doutte said on Thursday.
A visit to The Palms Mall in the prestigious Victoria Island
shows why. A shopper can spend 45 minutes on a bad day in a
queue of cars pushing and shoving to try and gain entry to the
parking lot. Then you have to find parking.
If you have a driver, you can get out and walk, as long as
you don't mind acrid car fumes and sweltering humidity.
Lagos is the main commercial city of what is now Africa's
biggest economy, since a GDP rebasing exercise pushed it ahead
of South Africa. Yet it has only three shopping malls, all of
them packed to bursting point during peak hours.
This is where retailers like Jumia, which is 33 percent
owned by South African phone operator MTN, and rival
Konga fill a niche, as Internet penetration grows among
Nigeria's 170 million population, the largest in Africa.
"On Saturday, instead of spending two hours in traffic at
the mall, people can just shop on their couch," Doutte said.
Jumia, which also has operations in Morocco, Ivory Coast,
Egypt and Kenya, aims to be Africa's answer to Amazon,
although e-commerce remains in its infancy on the continent. It
is not yet profitable but spending heavily to grab market share.
In emerging markets outside Nigeria it is usually price
comparison that entices shoppers onto the web, Doutte said.
"Nigeria is one of the only emerging markets where people
shop online for convenience, and are ready to pay the price."
Co-CEO Nicolas Martin says traffic's success in delivering
customers far outweighs the headache it causes for deliveries.
"It's extremely painful for us to navigate through the
traffic, but with our logistics, it's easier than for the
Nigerian customer, especially on a Saturday," he said.
It isn't only Lagos where the firm is seeing fast growing
sales, Martin said, declining to five absolute figures. It has
10 centres throughout several cities in the south and the
capital Abuja, and plans to open in the main northern city of
Kano, where Shoprite just opened a store in a new mall, this
Challenges remain, not least abysmal infrastructure, port
delays, other supply chain woes and getting people to trust
websites with their bank card details.
But Doutte said online retailers are slowly overcoming fear
of another thing that Lagos is famous for: online fraud.
In the early days, delays to a delivery would have customers
calling up in a panic, convinced that they'd been swindled. Such
calls are much rarer these days, Doutte said.
(Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)