Online Shopping In Africa | All You Need To Know

I heard of Standard and National Bank making provision for their clients to make international payments using their cards, and was amused when I tried my card out, and it worked.

My first time

My first time buying something online, as all the best things in this life, was very much in love.

I came across a branded bracelet with words written “You’re My Person” on twitter, and someone shared a link of where it could be purchased.

Its price was $17, with $3 for shipping. I loved the bracelet so much, and took a risk and made the purchase.

Getting back on Twitter, some of the comments on the post declared the website I had purchased from a scam, and I quickly cut my loss and moved on. Never again, hey?

A few weeks later, I got a notification from the website, asking me if my purchase had been delivered. I was annoyed, because nothing had been delivered, and I did not respond to them.

2 weeks later, I got a paper notification through the messenger at my office, alerting me that there was a delivery for me at the post office. I checked the date it was delivered, and it was indeed the day the website had emailed me, asking me about my delivery!

Thrilled, I made way to the post office, and the bracelet was indeed here! That was the beginning of my faith in buying things online.


When I decided to try out online shopping, I went for the shops I had heard the most about – which were Asos and Pretty little thing.

I was sitting on my office desk, when I googled these two shops, and started sorting through their products.

Picking Items

Of interest to me, primarily, were heels. I immediately was more drawn to Asos. I was looking for Lost Ink slim-cut 120mm heels (as they are terribly difficult to find in Malawi), and I was in luck. They had plenty in stock, and all were under £20.

Some of the 120mm Lost Ink heels I bought

Being someone who is used to getting everything for MK25,000-50,000, items being under £20 was cheap to me. My view has of course changed since then.

I noted that I could add items to my favorites (“like”) for future purchase. I started ‘liking’ all the things I was into, as I continued to sort through the website.

How to purchase

Purchasing goods online is pretty simple. You just have to “add to cart” and proceed to check out. Some shops can hold your clothes in the cart for as long as they have them in stock.

I noted with Asos that they actually reserve, and hold an item for you, for just an hour – and release it if you have not finished checking out an hour from the moment you added the item to cart.

Shipping and Delivery

Shipping for most, if not all shops, is handled by the shop. They give you a price for the cost to ship the items from them to your delivery address.

Most of the shops have two options: express shipping, and regular shipping.


Express shipping takes 1-7 business days, while regular shipping can take anything from 7-28 business days.


Express shipping is usually thrice the cost of regular shipping.

Of the ones I have tried, for regular shipping – Pretty Little thing charges £6.99. Fashion Nova charged $15, AliExpress is dependent on your purchase, while Asos is free, on condition!

This is the main reason I love Asos! If you buy things worth more than £50, shipping is free (Pre-Covid)! I was so excited, and filled up a cart worth about £90.

Beating the Taxes

Now while my cart was full, I started thinking about the taxes. As an MRA officer, I have learnt that everything about taxes is always an MRA wesbite away.

I found out MRA offers exemptions on a couple of conditions. One, which is relevant when online shopping, is, and I quote:

Goods imported in a consignment the total cost or value of which at the place of despatch does not exceed the equivalent of fifty thousand Malawi Kwacha, not being wines, spirituous liquors or manufactured tobacco, not intended for sale or for commercial use .These goods are duty free.

CPC 4000.427

You can beat taxes, legally, and this works to your advantage.

I now returned to my cart, and picked my goods on necessity, so my consignment could be nomore than £50, and I could qualify for free shipping; but also under MK50,000 so they could be duty free. Every one of my consignments was thus est £50-52.

I have since purchased goods worth about £400, at different times, and from different stores, but my goods are always under MK50,000.

Some of the heels I have bought


Did I mention I make my own payments? Yas! Seems like a basic thing now – but just a year ago, I was struggling to pay for just about anything online.

You had to find someone with a PayPal account, or an internationally recognised card, and they would charge you extra, of course, to use their card.

I learnt about the ability to make online payments when Standard Bank was advertising how you can pay for Netflix using your Standard Bank account (card).

Standard Bank and National Bank, among others, have worked towards making international purchases a breeze. You can now easily buy things on any online store that accepts debit cards. Standard Bank also has a provision for credit cards.

Pick Up

My favorite delivery service so far has been DHL. However, you do not get to choose how the shops send the goodies to you, unless it is express shipping.

ASOS ship from Netherlands, and I have noted they use DHL, or express courier service. On the 5 orders I made on Asos, only one was delivered without express shipping (and it is still on the way!)

Pretty Light Thing ships from the UK, and uses Royal Mail, which compared to the fast service from ASOS can seem a pain.

For packages sent via DHL, you pick them up from a DHL office nearest to you. I am told at times they deliver directly to you.

For the rest, you pick them up from the Post Office courier closest to your delivery point. You will most likely be called by the post office when your delivery arrives, but I would advise tracking your deliveries and following up with them just in case.


Nearly all the stores I have checked almost always have some kind of sale going on. I almost always get only things which are on sale.


Fitting is a concern for most – especially where clothes are concerned; and rightfully so.

When I was purchasing my pants, I ordered UK size 6 pants – which is a size 2 US. It was a random guess, as I knew I am not a size 8, but haven’t been a size 4(0) in a long time.

I checked the sizing on their site, to find out that I am in fact a size 8. However, I prefer my clothes more fitted, which lands me back to 6.

I would say check the type of material you are buying. If it is stretchy, get a size smaller. If it is not stretchy, stick to size.

If the pants say “Tall”, they are definitely tall (5’10” according to the site) and if you are short like me, they will drape all the way down when you wear them.

I got some “Tall” coats, and I am anxious for how they will fit.

Some stores have the option of speaking to the store assistant, so you can get a fit that is perfect for you!

For heels, I got a couple of wide-fit shoes, even when I know that I have a slim foot. They are a little loose when I wear them, but nothing I cannot work with. The rest fit perfectly.


I ordered a red dress, and I received a silver dress. I, however, fell in love with the silver, and did not think to return it.

I ordered some pants for £6, and was deducted the amount from my account. I was alerted a few days later by the PLT team that they had stocked out, and they processed my refund.

Also expect to not be able to trace some deliveries on the website, especially when sent through the local post courier service.


Most of the stores have a returns policy if you happen to be unhappy with the product, so be sure to check out what the terms and conditions are before making purchases, to avoid future inconveniences.

Shops Recommended

I am still exploring online stores – and have currently only tested out 3.

My favorite remains ASOS – for heels in particular, becaus ethey have what I want, and the delivery service is lekker!

Second would be Pretty Little Thing, mostly because of the range of products they have, and how affordable they are. I got 7 dresses for £42 recently! That is how crazy their sales can be!

I love Fashion Nova for their products, but I find the $15 shipping fee a little offputting. But they do often have sales, which can offset that shipping cost – and hey, they have great denims, if you are into that.

Most have recommended Woolworths, Superbalist, Cotton on, H&M, Zaful, AliExpress, River Island, Missguided, Newlook, I saw it first, Take a lot.

Let me know your faves, and how your experience goes with online shopping.

All my love,


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24 thoughts on “Online Shopping In Africa | All You Need To Know

  1. The only online stores I trust and usually buy from are Ali Express and Ebay.
    Now iam ready to try Asos and pretty little thing store😊
    Thanks for the info

      1. ASOS is the best.I have bought from Ebay, Aliexpress and Amazon.I have had a problem of quality with Aliexpress.Since then I love ASOS.I order today ten days later I get my things in Mangochi

        1. I need purchase something from eBay, can you tell me more about your experience?

  2. Recently tried purchasing from Fashionnova but I’m facing a postal code problem. Malawi doesn’t have a postal so I’ve found out and its not taking my personal post address, how did you beat that?

    1. Did not have the same problem. Fashion Nova delivers via post office or DHL so your address, if correct, is a non-issue

  3. Wow this has really helped but I wanted to know more on the payment process Using national Bank account

  4. hi Ntha, so I went over to Asos and wanted to go ahead and make a purchase but shipping is 20 pounds. is this a new development? is there something I am missing. its only giving Me express shipping option.

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