Dropshipping in South Africa: What is it and where do you start?

Dropshipping. You’ve heard the term used before.  It’s the concept of selling someone else’s product, but not actually fulfilling the order.  The seller passes the order on to the manufacturer or supplier to fulfil orders directly to their customers.  The biggest difference between dropshipping and the standard retail model is that when it comes to dropshipping, the person marketing and selling the product doesn’t own the inventory. 

Here’s an image to explain how it works:

Drop shipping Logistics illustration

Advantages of Dropshipping

Upfront Costs.  As an online retailer, you have a virtual store and dropshipping allows you to have a virtual inventory too.  This way, you don’t have to outlay mountains of capital to buy products in bulk or meet minimum purchase requirements and you don’t have any warehousing costs either. 

Bulky Items.  Certain product types lend themselves to dropshipping, especially big or bulky items.  These items are expensive to receive, store and ship back out, so it makes a lot of sense to dropship them straight from the manufacturer.

Location.  The location of certain suppliers can also provide a geographic shipping cost advantage for you. 

Dropshipping and Shopify.  Shopify makes it really easy to make sure your orders get to your drop ship supplier.  Your dropshipper will receive the order information as soon as an order is placed and lets your supplier know to send items.  There are even apps that will let you sync your inventory with your dropshipper.   

Problems with Dropshipping

It’s costly.  Usually an inventory based retailer pays less per unit than a dropshipping retailer for the exact same product and this can mean that your retail prices need to be higher as a result.   

Product Limitations.  Sometimes suppliers will not offer their full range of products for dropshipping.  The product could be a fast mover and they know that they can move the product without dropshippers.  Or, on the other hand, the product might be too big to move or they don’t actually manufacture the products themselves, so they don’t put it on the dropship product list.

Higher fulfilment costs.  When you dropship, you not only pay the real cost of stocking, picking, packing and shipping the product to your customer, but you also pay a hefty markup which means dropshipping costs scale as your sales grow.  When you stock products yourself, you have a lot more control over these costs and can work on ways to bring these costs down. 

Customer Service Issues.  Dropshipping requires at least twice as much customer service work on every order and problems with orders are more difficult to sort out, as you have no control over the fulfilment process.  Some manufacturers’ and wholesalers’ internal systems are also quite cumbersome to work with and this will increase order processing time. 

Lack of local dropshipping suppliers.  Dropship suppliers in South Africa are difficult to find.  Many South African businesses are not informed about or are not prepared to dropship for you.  Those suppliers that are prepared to dropship are also generally not the physical manufacturer of the products, which leads to higher costs per unit and ultimately a more expensive product. 

Dropshipping is a relatively new idea in South Africa, but one that is growing steadily.  Our top tip if dropshipping is something you want to do: find local suppliers.  Local suppliers can generally ship faster and more affordably than international ones and they are generally easier to work with in terms of pricing, stock, etc.  There will also be fewer surprises when it comes to taxes, logistics, payment and business etiquette with a local supplier. 

Are you a dropshipper in South Africa?  Email your tips to us at marketing@uafrica.com or add a comment below. 

  • Hi, I would like to know if there is a Dropshipping Association in South Africa or a place where Dropshipping is taught.

  • Hi Ken. You can read about Dropshipping on Shopify’s website although it will be more internationally focussed. There isn’t a South African association as far as we know, but if you do enough online and phone research you should get a better picture of how the industry works in SA.

  • Hi Mthobisi. Unfortunately South African drop shippers are few and far between as the concept is still quite new. If you know of any dropshipping companies please feel free to let us know, so we can pass this information on to our users.

  • Hi Mthobisi

    Would you be so kind to let us know which companies you are aware of you does DS in SA? Im also searching high and low.

  • What are the legal aspects of dropshipping from international suppliers? I also need some clarity about tax, do I need to add VAT? Let’s say for example I have a supplier in the US and someone outside of South Africa buys their product listed on my website or any other e-commerce platform? What does SARS expect from me? I can’t seem to find answers online. Feedback would be a huge help.

  • I’m interested in starting a drop shipping operation. Is it best for me to keep my entire drop shipping operation local, ie. find manufacturers in SA, and drop ship within SA only, or source manufacturers both locally and internationally and drop ship both locally and internationally?

  • Hi Hilary, I’d say do both. If you have the capital and time available then you’re perfectly positioned to dropship locally and internationally, however you might want to start locally and take it from there.

  • Hi Zaks, The only 2 fulfillment warehouses in SA that we know about are Parcel Ninja, and Efinity, but from what I understand Efinity isn’t accepting new customers. You can also try bwcs.co.za – Brand Warehouse. They store, pick, pack and despatch, but for slightly larger scale businesses. Their pricing is great though. You can also try Oberlo. They work with AliExpress and other suppliers to help merchants obtain products and then deliver those products to the merchant’s customers.

  • Hi Azeez, here are three dropshippers to think about, but not all are based in SA: Parcel Ninja, and Efinity, but from what I understand Efinity isn’t accepting new customers. You can also try bwcs.co.za – Brand Warehouse. They store, pick, pack and despatch, but for slightly larger scale businesses. Their pricing is great though. You can also try Oberlo.com.

  • I love this topic because its what I really need right now, but the problem Imhaving right now is how to get the EIN or tax id, some of them need this how can I get this without been in the US, since its only given by only to US states what do I do?

  • Hi Im new to dropshipping I wanted to know if I dropship internationally e.g from China to the USA,but Im based here in South Africa,do I need to register my dropshipping business here in South Africa or abroad or I dont need to and how can I go about setting up my taxes,and do I have to pay sars on my international earnings.Thaank you

  • Hi Thomas,

    We don’t know all the ins and outs of dropshipping in SA in terms of taxes, so the best would be to head over to the SARS website to find out exactly what you need to set up. There is a section on Customs and Excise which seems to have all the info you’re looking for.

  • Hi Tochukwe,

    We’re not too sure what you’ll need to drop ship in the US unfortunately. Try checking out internet searches and getting in touch with US based shipping agents to find out more info on how to get the EIN number.

  • Hi..
    I have just started dropshipping from China, and unfortunately have not had any good experiences to share. Firstly the shipping costs are extremly high..sometimes even more than the product itself Secondly if the customer chooses the cheaper shipping option which is to the post office, then you have to hope that the post office tracks the parcel correctly and informs the customer. Lastly, the duties and taxes are expensive and can amount to about 50% of the invoice amount … I am now questioning the entire system..especially in SA..i would love to hear from more successful dropshippers.

  • I also wanted to start a drop shipping business using US based suppliers. I managed to get them to take me seriously, but when I looked further at the logistics and potential pitfalls of drop shipping to South Africa using international suppliers, I decided against it. I went back to the drawing board and am now in the process of approaching smaller South African suppliers and stores within my chosen niche.

    I am slowly starting to win some of them over. It is not easy, but if you are persistent, professional and sincere, you will start to get noticed. My advice (and I am still learning) is as follows. One, have a website: one that works. Shopify is fantastic. Load some ‘mock’products using your chosen suppliers range. Second, make sure you can explain precisely how your supply chain will work. Most importantly, differentiate yourself. How can you add value to their brand? How can you marke ttheir product and drive sales for them? They also have a brand identity to protect. How can you enhance that?

    At the end of the day, business is about selling products. If you can demonstrate to suppliers how you will do that, then you will arouse interest.

    For anyone interested in drop shipping, there is NO SUCH THING as easy money. This is a lot of hard work. Forget about making R 90 0000 rand a month overnight. As with any business, it takes patience, persistence and a lot of elbow grease. I have been working on this for almost a year now, and am still months away from launching.

    Further, you need to network. Speak to people. My wife is there to tell me how nice my website looks. Check out Startup Grind and get out there and speak to people who can offer constructive advice and criticism.

    Good Luck!

  • Hi!

    I am currently operating a dropship business for the International market as it is much easier to locate drop shipping manufactures. They would usually not include their business name on the delivered items so that customers can never know that the item bought is being dropshipped.

    I don’t see how this should become a problem in South Africa. Many businesses buy their inventory at a low price and sell at a higher price. The difference is that dropshipping is digital. But as an online drop shipper, you also incur some expenses such a data usage, web hosting and time for running your business.

    I would also like to find out which manufactures can I use to dropship in South Africa.

  • Hi
    I am looking into drop shipping and am a bit overwhelmed and confused at the same time. I would really like to know of SA suppliers or manufacturers who do this.
    If anyone has any info or advice I would appreciate it.
    My email is cashsafe(@) gmail dot com

    Thanks in advance.

  • HI there!
    I have had a small online presence for a while now and thought that I would further that and perhaps expand into dropshipping. I have, however, for the time being, put importing goods from US and China based suppliers off, as their products take a long time to arrive in SA. I think until DS grows a bigger following in SA, this is going to be our problem, especially for smaller businesses wanting to start out. There are companies that offer fast shipping at lower international shipping fees – but at a monthly cost. Adding the costs of hosting a site, your data and also perhaps another subscription for shipping, you will have to markup your prices rather high. Considering there are all these other options available nowadays offering really cheap items, I am not quite sure what else I could do.
    It would make life so much easier if shipping was faster to SA 🙁

  • Hi Selwyn, we aren’t aware of specific manufacturers in SA that offer dropshipping, but if we find out then we’ll make sure to update everyone about it.

  • Hi all, I’m also interested in starting a dropshipping business in South Africa. I have some concerns with regards to tax and customs when sourcing international products for South African customers. Is there anyone here with experience navigating the legalities and taxes in terms of dropshipping in South Africa? Any advice would be appreciated, thank you! Jacob

  • Hi Thomas – Have you set up your dropshipping business in South Africa yet.If yes, I would like to know how it has been going

  • Hi all I am thinking about starting a drop shipping company so the positive & negative aspects are good to know, I would appreciate it if anyone who has successfully run a business like this can plz contact me & any good or bad advice will also be appreciated, it would be nice to have a small family that can get over the little niches & glitches this business holds & so we can help one another out in making it successfully.

  • If I sign up for Shopify and oberlo am I allowed to sell the dropship products on Bidorbuy, or might we all be disallowed

  • Hi Amber, you will be allowed to sell on bidorbuy but you will be required to state that your products are coming from abroad.

  • Hi guys
    I’ve been doing my research and looking into drop shipping and really want to get started within the next week.I’d really love to get some help and advice from someone who is in the game,especially with regards to the technical and legal side of things.please reach out and email me jess.molisho@gmail.com

  • Hey there,I am a week away from launching my dropshipping business.Im also just a lil concerned about the legal side of things and would prefer connceting with south africans who have actually folliwed through with dropshipping instead of relying on all these international based sites/articles and youtube content.Can we get in touch?

  • Good Day,

    I have been reading all your messages in here, they are ll interesting. Is Dropping Shipping a profitable business?
    Can someone tell me, is BidOrBuy a Dropping Shipping Company?

  • Hi Isaac, Thanks for your message. I can answer the bidorbuy question and no, they are not a dropshipping company. bidorbuy is a marketplace where many merchants can register as sellers and sell their goods on the bidorbuy website. Some merchants on bidorbuy are dropshippers though.

  • Hi , I really think that there is a huge gap in the South African online market for our local manufactures to get into dropshipping! Surley they would benifit from it and take alot of trade away from the chinese manufactures and thus increase local manufacture?

    I also want to get into dropshipping, but find it very confussing and complicated!


  • Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. We agree with you! There IS a gap for SA suppliers, unfortunately it’s still quite a costly exercise for South African merchants in terms of warehousing and fulfilment. The industry has grown in leaps and bounds since eCommerce began and there is a lot that is much easier nowadays, but certain elements like dropshipping, are still catching up. Feel free to get in touch with Mario – info@askmario.co.za – for more information on how dropshipping works and if it’s a viable option for you in SA.

  • Hi Jess,

    I want to do this for a small town near me. I could offer some marketing and web design help in exchange for tips.

  • Hi Mario

    I have been doing some online research from international person using this platform to market and sell products. It’s seems so easy on this side of the monitor.. Where people are making easy money. But when I look at selling response and forums with South Africa it is difficult to understand why it cannot work as well … People in India are doing it successfully, Peru, Canada…

    If the issue is tax.. That can sorted out at sars pay your dues as calculated…
    But main question I have… Is there a possibility to drop to and from our neighbour countries. Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique. Nigeria. They are countries which always seems to get international products in and out for trade?

    Is it better to focus on the African Continent as a whole for business shipping. Should products be sold in dollars with conversation ratio.
    We planning on creating a small online presence at spec target market to test sales platforms.

    Thanks Kindly

  • Hi Ashraf,

    Thanks for your comment. I don’t think Mario is saying that it’s too difficult in SA, I think the approach he’s trying to explain is that for new or micro businesses with not a lot of capital would be better off avoiding this approach as a first option as it is quite complex and can get very expensive. If you know your way around the customs and excise processes at the SA border and you have money in your pocket, then by all means go the dropshipping route.

    In terms of dropshipping between neighbouring countries, I’m sure this is an option, you would just need to make sure you understand the import and export processes involved in getting products to/from suppliers or customers.

  • Hi Digital Reason. I’m looking at getting into Dropshipping but not sure if its the best option in South Africa. Please contact me on shifafa@outlook.com. I need some advise from you and your experience till now. Thank you.

  • @Thomas – you can theoretically set up your business overseas but you would still legally need to declare & pay taxes on international profits. Also you would still need a SA based business to register an import license so that negates the need for the international business.

  • Hi!

    Dropshipping can be done nationally or internationally although up until now, dropshipping within SA is considered ‘expensive’.

  • Hi
    I am also interested in drop shipping but i want to start small and open a sellers account on Amazon US and sell there but it seems as though i cant as South Africa is not listed in the countries that are registered for a sellers account.Is there a way around this ?Is there anyone who is successful from this in South Africa?

  • Hi All

    I have been reading on oberlo but everytime I put South Africa as the shipping to country, no products come up.
    I take it that the suppliers dont ship to South Africa.
    Is this correct?
    I am looking for advise on international dropshipping to South Africa

    Look forward to some feedback

  • Hi there,
    Unfortunately, we cannot help you with that as we do not do dropshipping as such. You would need to get in touch with Oberlo or DHL or similar for more clarity.

  • hi all, thank you all for your valuable feedback and comments on the pros and cons of dropshipping nationally and internationally. Has anyone bought a dropshipping readymade store from readymade.co.za? These stores sound so reasonably priced and the aftersales support sounds excellent but then again the suppliers are all international suppliers so how would that work,as you say, if one is dropping shipping to us based customers but the dropshipper is based in south africa?. Is it too good to be true? http://www.readymadestores.co.za. any of your opinions would be appreciated.

  • Anyone is free to contact me regarding DS in SA. We have been doing this on small scale for the last 8 years. The main isssues is not tax, legal, etc..but rather costs of shipping locally, poor networks between small businesses who we the next person as competition instead of opportunity, lack of private support for small businesses, big importers of China products to sa., etc…

  • Greetings

    I have been doing a little research on having an online shop but as a start up business without many customers or a warehouse yet I thought dropshipping would be a better option to begin with and familiarize my clients with my shop.

    I’m failing to find wholesale manufacturers in South Africa that I can contact.

    Would finding a bulk manufacturer and offering the goods to drop shippers be a better option at this point compared to looking for products to sell?

    What are the legal requirements of starting one’s own line, maybe in the clothing industry?

    If anyone has any information please email me – misssrlbote@gmail.com.

    Thank you

  • We have a local dropshipping website in SA that firstly targets the female market.
    But we want to expand to cater to men as well as products for babies and kids.
    Is there any businesses that think they have products that would be appealing to these people?
    Or where can I find businesses that are interested in selling their product on a dropshipping basis?

  • Hi
    Does anyone know anything about Readymadestores.co.za?
    They have various ”stores” on offer.

  • Has anybody had success with buying a website from Readymadestores ? There sites look amazing and I am considering it but would like to hear some success stories

  • Hi Lauren, I also saw their site and read teh hello Peter’s and tried to buy an item on one of the existing sites for sale. Didn’t work, investigating why. The item is R24 only with free shipping! How DE is that possible?

  • @Thomas- Comment:Hi Im new to dropshipping I wanted to know if I dropship internationally e.g from China to the USA,but Im based here in South Africa,do I need to register my dropshipping business here in South Africa or abroad or I dont need to and how can I go about setting up my taxes,and do I have to pay sars on my international earnings.Thank you

    I have been asking the exact questions! Please give advise if you have opened your dropshipping account and how the tax works please!

  • Hi

    I want to start a dropshipping business sourcing from China (AliExpress) but I can’t seem to find a forwarding agent that will help get products to customers in less than 2 weeks. Can anyone advise?

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