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Women are Missing Out on Africa’s E-commerce Boon

The African e-commerce market could benefit by around $14.5 billion if the number of women selling on online platforms achieves parity with men, according to a new report from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in partnership with the European Commission. Researchers interviewed sellers and e-commerce experts, conducted surveys with men and women selling online in Kenya, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire, and analyzed data from Jumia, one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the continent. They found that e-commerce platforms can support women to grow and thrive in the sector by collecting sex-disaggregated data, leveraging platform financing, educating women on paid promotions, boosting training offerings, and encouraging entry into high-value sectors. While women-owned businesses make up 31% of the businesses on Jumia in Côte d’Ivoire, and 51% each in Kenya and Nigeria, women are more likely to own micro-enterprises, have fewer employees, and see lower individual sales, the report says. The individual average sales for women are lower than men, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first year of the pandemic resulted in a 39% drop in sales for women-owned businesses, compared to a 28% drop in men-owned businesses. Reversing this would be important in ensuring women can compete in the digital economy after the pandemic, the report says.