Move from Cash to Online Payments Helps Beauty Entrepreneurs Grow Business in West Africa

Editorial note: This story comes from a virtual client visit from UNSGSA Queen Máxima's virtual country visit with Côte d'Ivoire in June 2021.

Togolese entrepreneur Felix Simaki has long been fascinated with all things digital. Meanwhile, his wife and fellow entrepreneur from Togo, Josephine Essenam Azamah, was passionate about the world of beauty—she enjoys helping people look and feel good.

So, in 2014, the two married their business interests to co-found Fabellashop, the first e-commerce store that specializes in the distribution of cosmetic products in Senegal, eventually expanding services to Côte d'Ivoire and elsewhere in West Africa.

Mr. Simaki, 29, and Ms. Essenam Azamah, 28, used their savings of 500,000 Central African CFA Franc (CFAF), approximately USD $925, to launch to service Senegal, Mali and Togo. In 2021, they also launched exclusive to Côte d'Ivoire.

With its main offices in Dakar in a two-level building where the co-founders and couple also live, Fabellashop was established with the modest goal to provide advice (usually on Facebook) and products that help women and men take better care of themselves, adapted to the health and beauty needs and preferences of West Africans.  

According to the co-founders, the marketplace was too often awash in low-cost counterfeit or unaffordable products. One of the company’s first projects was to offer safe, quality, and authentic products suitable for the middle class. Mr. Simaki also noted that there were products on the market that were not fit for the local population. So he and his wife aimed to address this by curating their offerings to include a wide range of products better suited for West Africans.

Fabellashop initially relied upon a cash-on-delivery approach, which had drawbacks. When customers did not pay at the point-of-sale, it resulted in a lot of cancelations. Furthermore, using cash increased other risks, such as occasions of delivery employees losing money or being attacked.

In charge of the technical and digital arm of the company, in December 2015 Mr. Simaki decided to use PayDunya’s WebPay service to facilitate orders paid by credit cards and mobile money accounts. PayDunya is an online payments platform in Senegal founded in 2015 by four young tech entrepreneurs.

PayDunya allows companies to collect and disburse digital payments via mobile money, money transfer services or bank cards. The fintech company currently works with over 1,000 business clients, completing over 50,000 transactions each day estimated at over FCFA 200 million per day (approx. USD $370,000). It has grown to over 50 employees.

Using PayDunya’s payment platform, Fabellashop’s customers can make safe and secure online payments via bank cards and mobile money. This helped result in a drop of cancellations from 10% to almost zero, as well as enabled Fabellashop to pay suppliers around the world and receive payments from customers more efficiently.

Today, Fabellashop is handling over 1,000 orders per month, with an aim to double this figure in two years. It is fast becoming a shining example of how fintech solutions can drive e-commerce in West Africa and offer more tailored and convenient products to consumers.