Picture: BLOOMBERG
Picture: BLOOMBERG

Naspers sees a "substantial opportunity" in SA’s online retail segment as more consumers start buying goods and services via the internet.

Africa’s biggest company said in its annual report released on Friday that SA’s online retail market was expected to grow by 15% a year in the five years to 2021.

"Low rates of internet penetration (58% in 2017) and online retail penetration (1% in 2017) suggest significant offline-to-online migration will propel this growth," the technology holding company said.

In 2017, Naspers increased its stake in SA’s Takealot from 47% to 96% after injecting $74m and $128m into the e-commerce company in two separate deals.

The group said in its annual report that Takealot had made 100% of its delivery packaging recyclable. "Not only the boxes they use, but also the padding material that safeguards customers’ products," it said.

Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said in March the cash-flush company would pour more funds into Takealot, particularly the Mr D Food delivery unit.

He has also said that Naspers planned to focus more closely on applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to every business unit, including food delivery.

Naspers said in its annual report that its food delivery business in Latin America had made strides in that regard. Its iFood business in that market was using artificial intelligence and machine learning "to reduce delivery times".

"Guided by the technology, bikes with margherita pizzas can be dispatched to neighbourhoods with high demand so they are closer to customers before the customers have actually ordered. As a result, they can deliver the pizzas far quicker – in 10 minutes, rather than 40."

Meanwhile, the company was looking for new technology investments in education, health and agriculture.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za