Nigerian Joseph Chukwuma was skeptical when friends told him about a website that provides access to products sold at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores. But after he ordered directly from RalphLauren.com and got his package delivered to his door in Nigeria, Chukwuma knew the site was legitimate.
Chukwuma has been using MallforAfrica to shop for top-brand clothing for about 11 months.
“I came to know about it from a friend of mine who I noticed was always wearing quality clothing products which are very hard to find in Nigeria,” Chukwuma told AFKinsider. “Everywhere you go here there are fake or counterfeit items which do not last long.”
Chris Folayan, a Nigerian, is CEO of MallForAfrica. He was inspired to start the company because people would ask him to bring items back for them from the U.S. and U.K. every time he traveled there. A software developer, Folayan now lives in California.
“More and more people were asking me to buy things and my luggage was getting heavier and heavier and when people I didn’t even know starting contacting me – I knew there was a business need there,” Folayan told AFKinsider.
Folayan said Africans tend to be very brand-centric and would prefer to purchase original, real-brand products instead of knock-off reproduced items mass-produced and cheaply made.
The advantages the website brings to Nigerians are immense, Chukwuma said.
“Since MallforAfrica has come along it has made life so much easier, not only to buy things and know exactly where they are coming from, but to also have a wide selection that stores could never possibly have,” Chukwuma said. “It has opened Nigerians to an online e-commerce world we only could dream of before.”
Chukwuma said before MallforAfrica he would literally have to fly to America or the U.K. to get the items he has access to now.
“This has saved me millions of naira, allowing me to buy more of what I want not having to save up for a plane ticket, or beg a friend,” Chukwuma said.
The MallForAfrica platform allows people to shop on top U.S. retail sites like BestBuy.com, Macys.com and more. The list of what people order is all across the board, Folayan said.
“People will order all kinds of things — auto parts, clothes, fragrances and more luxury-type goods like laptops, iPads and expensive watches,” he said.
New customers have to download an app to use the site. Folayan explained how the software works on YouTube.
“The items ordered are placed in a cart and when the customer is ready to check out and make a payment, the items are ordered and shipped to the warehouse where they are checked for accuracy and then shipped to the customer,” Folayan said.
MallForAfrica’s main warehouse is in Oregon. The company basically acts as a middle man for shoppers who cannot get access to certain items.
The company ships to Nigeria, and will soon ship to Ghana and Kenya. Folayan said the company’s goal is to ship to 15 different African countries by 2016.
MallForAfrica has 23 employees.
The most interesting challenge Folayan faces doing business in the U.S. and Africa is that there are quite a few websites and companies that have blacklisted Africa as a whole, he said. Many e-commerce businesses do not ship to Africa and many are blacklisted on the Internet.
“Those companies frustrate me because they are not giving Africa chance,” Folayan said. “They have blacklisted continents with more than one billion people. Of the top 10 fastest-growing economies, Africa has six of them with Nigeria being one of them.”
Foloyan said he has personally asked some of the company heads why they have blacklisted his website.
“They think I am fraudulent, that it can’t be a legitimate site,” he said. “I am by no means fraudulent – I call them and tell them to Google the company – we are a perfectly legal company.”
Nigerian resident Adefunmi Adeyemi said she uses MallForAfrica for almost everything she buys.
“With MallForAfrica I know exactly where I am getting my items from, so I know they are genuine products and not fake which is what is riddled in the Nigerian market and in Africa in general,” Adeyemi said. “It gives you an emotion of pride that you are wearing original products that last longer.”
Before MallForAfrica, shopping was difficult and expensive, Adeyemi said.
“I would go to a few stores and buy products but their selections of quality goods were very limited and very expensive – easily you could pay up to four-or-five times the price of getting it online,” she said.
Jenna Rose, a public relations representative for Kip Morrison & Associates in California, said MallForAfrica.com is a unique, proprietary shopping platform that enables Western retailers to securely sell clothing and other consumer products to shoppers in rapidly-growing African economies.
“In just 48 hours, their online e-commerce store can be doing business in Africa, safely and securely,” Rose told AFKinsider. “On the other hand, it allows African citizens to shop directly on U.S. and U.K. websites, gaining new profits for stores that previously would not have had these potential customers.”