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Sub-Saharan Africa

Mall for Africa: Connecting U.S. retailers to Africa's growing middle class

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Region: Africa

Sector: Retail

Challenge: Although a growing number of Africans have disposable income, they have limited access to retail. Brick-and-mortar retail is often unavailable in Africa and online retailers in the United States and Europe typically do not accept local currency or ship to the continent.

Idea: Chris Folayan a Nigerian-born, California-based tech entrepreneur, began building an ecommerce platform for Africa after noticing the strong demand in Nigeria for items sold in the U.S. Although Folayan had already built and sold multiple high-tech startups, he struggled to raise financing from investors who did not understand the African market.

Solution: After unsuccessfully pitching the business to 35 venture capitalist investors, Folayan eventually secured investment capital from OPIC-supported Helios Investment Partners and used the financing to build out MallforAfrica.com as a platform that accepts local currencies and ships purchased goods to individual homes or pickup centers in the host country.

Impact: After initially focusing on customers in Kenya and Nigeria, Mall for Africa today helps consumers in 15 African countries buy merchandise from 263 western retailers including Amazon, eBay, Macy’s and Wal-Mart. Each week, it ships about four to six tons of merchandise.

In addition to serving individual shoppers, Mall for Africa, has become a trusted source of supplies for schools, and equipment for entrepreneurs and small businesses such as hospitals, hotels, restaurants and hair salons.

This project was profiled in 2018