Mall for Africa: How did one man satisfy the shopping needs of an entire continent?

Chris Folayan was already a hugely successful technology and marketing entrepreneur when he had an idea that changed the way the world can export to Africa. Before he launched Mall for Africa, many e-commerce sites couldn’t (or wouldn’t) deliver to sub-Saharan Africa. Then Chris had a moment of clarity.

“Every time I went back home, people kept asking me to bring stuff, over and over again. They said ‘go to Carters’, ‘go to CottonOn’, ‘go here and there’ – running me around from mall to mall and store to store. They were sending me on errands and my luggage got out of control.” Chris saw a problem. And, being an entrepreneurially minded sort of person, he came up with a solution and business idea. One that has made him a huge success in Africa: “There was definitely a need. I said, ‘You know what? I can fix this. I can create a process, where items can be shipped to me and the end user can do everything they need, from selecting the item to paying for the item with local currency on an app.’”

To make things happen, he had to do it himself: “I develop software, so driving back home from the airport with my 10 suitcases after being rejected from my Delta flight for having too much excess luggage, I started structuring the foundation of the software in my head, got home, started writing code for it and within two weeks I had sent the very first version of our platform to friends and family to test. And it worked.”

From a few lines of code to a long line of customers, a continent’s need was met: “The rest is history. We’ve advanced the code and platform ever since… We started with five online stores and now we’re at about 260. About 80% of what we ship is clothes and accessories: watches, handbags, purses, shoes, socks. The rest is about 10% small electronics and 10% miscellaneous items.”

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