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Amazon Adopts a Slower Growth Strategy in South Africa



Over a month since its much-anticipated debut, Amazon’s entry into South Africa’s e-commerce market has sparked curiosity rather than causing the expected upheaval. The initial excitement surrounding the launch has given way to a more measured, cautious rollout, contrasting sharply with the anticipated rapid expansion. This methodical approach has led many to question whether it is a strategic move or a missed opportunity.

Strategic Entry into a Growing Market

In South Africa’s burgeoning online shopping environment, Amazon’s entry is particularly noteworthy. The Discovery Bank’s SpendTrend24 report highlights that South African consumers are already familiar with Amazon, frequently using its US website. Amazon ranks as the third most visited e-commerce site in the country. The local online shopping industry is experiencing robust growth, with a 9.3% annual increase, outpacing global rates, and is projected to surpass USD 6.4 billion by 2028. Given this thriving market and Amazon’s established customer base, the company’s interest is understandable.

“Establishing solid relationships with South African brands and businesses of all sizes is crucial to us. We aim for to become the platform where they can connect with millions of customers,” stated Robert Koen, Amazon’s managing director for sub-Saharan Africa, at the official launch.

Competing with Local Rivals

Amazon faces strong competition from Takealot, a local e-commerce leader backed by Naspers. Takealot’s local expertise and deep understanding of the South African market, as emphasized by Andy Higgins, co-founder of Takealot and MD of Bob Group, give it a significant advantage. Takealot leverages local pride and a nuanced understanding of consumer preferences to maintain its dominance.

Initial Steps and Challenges

Amazon’s initial steps in South Africa include forming partnerships with local logistics firms, welcoming both local and international sellers in about 20 product categories, and offering free delivery as an introductory promotion. However, these initiatives have not provided a compelling reason for customers to switch from Amazon’s established US platform, where some products are reportedly cheaper.


Notably, Amazon did not introduce its Prime membership in South Africa, which includes media benefits and exclusive Prime-only services like free shipping on a wide range of products. This omission could hinder Amazon’s ability to differentiate itself and maintain customer loyalty.

In response, Takealot quickly launched TakealotMORE, a subscription service offering various membership levels with free and express delivery options. Takealot Group CEO Frederik Zietsman stated that this initiative aims to set new standards for convenience and value in the online shopping landscape.

Long-term Prospects

Despite Takealot’s current lead in searches, it would be premature to discount Amazon. Known for its operational excellence, financial strength, and global influence, Amazon has a history of entering new markets and establishing dominance. Andy Higgins cautioned that Amazon’s international capabilities could lead to significant market changes, especially if they decide to acquire a local logistics firm.

Amazon’s gradual expansion strategy might be a calculated decision, allowing the company to gather valuable market insights, refine its services, and establish a stronger local presence. However, it remains to be seen whether this conservative approach will succeed against Takealot’s prevailing market leadership and the distinct preferences of South African online consumers.


Amazon’s entry into South Africa’s e-commerce market is a significant development, but its impact remains to be fully realized. The company’s cautious rollout could either be a strategic move to build a solid foundation or a missed chance to quickly capitalize on its existing popularity. As Amazon continues to navigate the local market, its long-term success will likely depend on its ability to adapt to South African consumers’ needs and outmaneuver established local competitors like Takealot.

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