WhatsApp launches a business catalogue feature, what does this mean for m-commerce in Africa?

November 15, 2019
4 min read

Last week, Facebook-owned WhatsApp introduced ‘catalogs' to its Business app. The new feature will enable businesses to display their products and services for prospective customers to see.

With this feature, customers can browse photos, view product prices, and read the descriptions rather than viewing the vendor’s numerous WhatsApp status updates when deciding what to buy.

Catalogue merged
Image source: TechCrunch

Though it is yet to launch in Africa, WhatsApp says it is available on both Android and iOS devices in Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the UK, and the US.

In other news, the social media giant also introduced Facebook Pay to the market. A feature Facebook says will enable users to experience convenient, secure, and consistent payments across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Additionally, it will enable users to shop and pay without leaving any of the platforms.


“People already use payments across our apps to shop, donate to causes, and send money to each other. Facebook Pay will make these transactions easier while continuing to ensure your payment information is secure and protected,” Deborah Liu VP, marketplace and commerce at Facebook, said in a statement.

However, it is not available in every market yet. It will be rolled out in the US this week on Messenger for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments, and goods bought from businesses in the Facebook Marketplace.

Suggested Read: Why Facebook Marketplace will change eCommerce in Nigeria

With a smartphone and an Internet connection, vendors are already connecting with their customers on WhatsApp to market their products and services.

Deborah Akingboye, creative director of Debs Clothier, Abuja-based fabrics and African print bedding store, says without an official website, she's been using Instagram, and WhatsApp especially, to sell her products for about a year.

"I was actually thinking of having a website or showcasing my products on an e-commerce site but wasn’t sure about it,” she said.

There is no doubt that Africa is mobile-focused. According to Statista, the number of smartphone users in the Middle East and Africa was estimated to reach 123.7 million in 2016.

Considering this, one wonders what it would mean for the eCommerce industry in Nigeria should the WhatsApp Business ‘catalogs’ and Facebook Pay eventually get rolled out globally.

WhatsApp Business Catalog and Facebook Pay in Nigeria

Regarding her sales, Deborah claims she gets 90% from WhatsApp and 10% from Instagram. This could mean that WhatsApp is a tool business owners have used to increase their turnover.

Suggested Read: WhatsApp, not Instagram, is the preferable platform for small businesses in Nigeria

"So for integration like Facebook Pay and WhatsApp ‘catalogs’, I’d totally jump on it as a business owner. People spend more time on WhatsApp and Facebook these days than they spend on websites."

Bearing in mind that mobile commerce business owners can be everywhere and also reach their customers faster with a mobile phone makes marketing easy. Coupled with the fact that it’s a small community of people, customers will do their part in spreading the word.

Prospects for mobile commerce in Nigeria

Undoubtedly, the rise of the Internet and smartphone penetration in Nigeria has had a great impact on eCommerce.

The incorporation of Facebook Pay with Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp would mean that business owners, on a smaller scale, are delving into mobile commerce.

According to Statista, the number of smartphone users in Nigeria -- Africa’s biggest economy -- is predicted to grow to more than 140 million by 2025. Also, the data gathered “shows a strong growth outlook for the Nigerian smartphone market with user numbers to at least triple within the next five to six years.”

Mobile Aps Smartphone 1 edited

This only goes to show that many business owners will be looking to connect more with their customers because this helps to build trust and also give their business the right exhibition. “It will help a lot of SMEs boost their sales and exposure,” reads a comment by Deborah.

As it is, the future of mobile commerce is bright in Nigeria, Facebook may be competing with JumiaPay in Nigeria and a couple of other African markets when it’s eventually rolled out globally. While, in the US, it will be contending with Square, Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and other payment platforms.

Woman in Tech | I write about social media and internet culture | Photography enthusiast.
Woman in Tech | I write about social media and internet culture | Photography enthusiast.
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Woman in Tech | I write about social media and internet culture | Photography enthusiast.

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