Jumia Aims to be Africa’s Next Amazon

Jumia Aims to be Africa’s Next Amazon

Online retailer Jumia, which is present in the African countries of Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, has set its sights on evolving into Africa’s version of the next Amazon.com.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest market of about 160 million people, has seen Internet access expand rapidly in recent years and represents the company’s most optimal prospect to expand, according to Tunde Kehinde, the 29-year-old Nigerian and Harvard graduate who co-founded the Nigerian branch of Jumia.

“I doubt there are many markets in the world with 160 million people, a growing middle class and nothing in terms of organized retail,” Kehinde said. “And so for us, that’s the vision that Jumia has — to help build organized retail here in the largest country in Africa.”

In just a single year of operation, Jumia Nigeria has grown from around 10 employees to 450 and now offers 50,000 products, including clothes, phones, electronics and even cigars, Kehinde said, adding that the site receives upwards of 80,000 visitors a day.

A number of other sites are pursuing similar strategies in Nigeria, including Dealdey.com and Konga.com. Thanks in large part to the widespread use of mobile phones, Internet access grew to 46 million people in 2011 compared to 11 million in 2008, according to figures supplied by online news site Global Post —which also reported online sales in Nigeria nearly doubled over the course of a year from 1.7 billion naira ($10.5 million) in 2011 to 3 billion naira ($18.6 million) in 2012.

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Jumia was created with capital from German firm Rocket Internet and telecom firm Millicom. Rocket Internet reports it is planning launches in various French-speaking West African nations as well.

Road infrastructure and cash-on-delivery problems still challenge Jumia, as customers prefer to physically inspect their purchases before paying for them. Payments can also be made by credit or debit card if customers choose to do so. The company promises deliveries, even to the most remote areas of Nigeria, in a maximum of five days. It delivers through a combination of its own couriers and an arrangement it has with DHL.

“Our main platform is still a desktop site,” Kehinde said. “We push promotions on mobile and advertise on mobile platforms. I think what we’re seeing is customers are willing to visit and check out the site on mobile.”

Although many customers traditionally prefer a brick-and-mortar shopping experience, Kehinde added, they are quickly warming up to the idea of the convenience that comes with online shopping.

“Right now we’re the fourth-ranked site in terms of mobile content in the country, so we’re getting a lot of visits to our platform,” he said. “We keep reaching new customers every day. And we’re trying new ways to get to our customers. We think it’s going to keep growing.”