Chris Folayan brings e-commerce to Africa

I recently had the chance to talk with San Jose State University graduate Chris Folayan about Mall for Africa, an interesting global e-commerce enterprise that he started with his brother Tope, who attended Stanford University.

Entrepreneurs see things that other people miss.

Take Chris Folayan. He grew up in Nigeria and attended San Jose State University. Every time he’d prepare to travel home from the Bay Area, his friends and relatives would supply a list of top brand clothing that they wanted him to cart along with him. Did he see it as a pain?

No, he saw it as an opportunity. Why not build an e-commerce platform that would provide a way for Africans to shop online at Macy’s, American Eagle, Aeropostale and various retailers that did not have an online presence on the continent?

And so, Mall for Africa, which he runs with his brother, Tope Folayan, who studied engineering at Stanford University, did his graduate work at Northwestern University and now lives in Nigeria.

“Nigerians are more brand-conscious and fashion-conscious than most people would ever think,” Folayan, 37, tells me when we chatted last week.  “They know style and fashion probably more than your general public in America would know. I noticed you’re wearing blue jeans (busted). I’m wearing jeans, too. Over there, suits, that’s what’s in. Dressing comfortably and casually? That’s not.”

Mall for Africa currently works with 82 retailers in the United States and the United Kingdom. The trip from the U.S. and U.K. doesn’t exactly lend itself to free or same-day shipping. Folayan says delivery rates start at $11 and that it takes five to 15 business days for orders to arrive at homes in Nigeria.

Photo of shopping mall by Charlie Brewer published under Creative Commons license

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Reach him at; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.


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