Why Amazon Prime delivery – due in SA in 2023 – is such an online shopping game changer

Business Insider SA
Amazon Prime boxes at a warehouse in England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Amazon Prime boxes at a warehouse in England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

News analysis

  • Amazon plans to be delivering shopping in South Africa during 2023, leaked documents show, with its full Prime service also due to land during the year.
  • The sheer scale of Amazon makes it hard for others to compete with a monthly bundle that includes music, movies, and photo storage, for the price others charge for a one standard delivery per week.
  • But it is the freedom to buy something worth R20 and getting it soon after, without thinking about delivery fees, that makes Prime so powerful.
  • For more stories go to

In February 2023, "Project Fela" is due to bring Amazon online shopping to South Africa, leaked documents show. And later in next year, Amazon's flagship Prime service should be available to South Africans.

That could change the way South Africans shop online.

Even as Amazon scales back growth in the United States, in the face of a recession, it plans to launch in Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Nigeria, and South Africa by next year, documents seen by Business Insider show

See also | Amazon plans to expand into South Africa in early 2023 - leaked documents

Only in Belgium will the Prime service be available at the launch of the Amazon marketplace, but it is due to be added in South Africa during the course of 2023.

Amazon has extensive operations in South Africa, hiring thousands of people at a time to act as service representatives, opening local data centres, and struggling to build a new head office. Amazon Prime Video is available with rand-based pricing in South Africa, and it has Audible audiobooks in local languages.

To date, however, it has bypassed South Africa and the rest of the continent with its marketplace, which combines its own retail operations (including its massive range of Amazon Basics own-brand goods) with third-party sellers from all over the world to sell, literally, just about anything you can imagine.

Those third-party sellers can ship directly, handling their own logistics and customer service – and charging for different shipping options – but they can also be included in Amazon Prime, which effectively puts Amazon in charge of fulfilment.

That makes the number of items available via Prime in countries such as the USA and UK a constantly moving target but, as a subset of hundreds of millions of listed products, it is substantial.

After a price increase earlier this year, Americans pay a $14.99 monthly subscription for Prime, and the same thing costs £7.99 in the United Kingdom. In local terms, that could come to between R160 and R240 per month, though there is no indication yet what Amazon intends to charge in South Africa.

South Africa's biggest online seller, Takealot, ships for free on orders worth more than R450, and charges R65 for standard delivery below that. If you buy less than R450 at a time, it also charges at least R30 to collect.

At the top end of its pricing range, that makes a monthly Amazon Prime membership worth about four Takealot deliveries. But Prime becomes a lot more attractive if you use other Amazon services. It includes the full catalogue of Amazon Prime Video, and a two-million-song catalogue on Amazon Music, though you'll have to pay a couple of hundred rand more every month for access to all music.

Prime members can store 5GB of video, and an unlimited number of maximum-resolution photos, at no extra cost (something Google stopped offering for free years ago), and get access to thousands of books via "Prime Reading" on Kindle.

Delivery benefits depend entirely on where you live. Prime means all Amazon deliveries are free – including same-day or next-day shipping for those close enough to major cities to be on a delivery route, and including groceries that can be delivered within hours.

Regardless of speed, the free shipping makes for an online shopping experience very different from that South Africans are used to. A pepper grinder that breaks while you are cooking? You can quickly order one before going back to stirring the pots. Realise you are running short of firelighters as you pack the braai? You can order another box before striking the match.

For reasons of simple economics, goods on Prime in other countries tend to bottom out at prices equivalent to about R20, with cheaper stuff sold in bundles to reach that price point. But instead of keeping a shopping list, so you can buy 20 such items at a time to qualify for free shopping, you can hit the "buy now" button whenever the thought strikes you.

Such is the convenience of being able to shop via Prime that Amazon also offers an "Amazon Day" delivery option, where all your shopping will be delivered on your chosen weekday – because being available to take delivery can be the hardest part of the process.

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