The coronavirus pandemic has been catastrophic for economies and businesses globally, with tech startups around the world increasingly turning to layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs to survive.
African tech startups have also been negatively affected by covid-19 and the virus’ devastating economic impact, leading to layoffs at fintech, ride-hailing and coder recruitment firms alike.
Even OPay, a Nigerian fintech firm that raised $170 million in 2019, is not immune to this new reality which has impacted global tech giants including Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft.
Here are 10 African tech companies imposing coronavirus-related layoffs.
Nigerian video-on-demand platform iROKOtv has put 28 percent of its staff on an “indefinite unpaid leave of absence” from May. The furlough was communicated to employees through a blog post published by the company’s founder and CEO, Jason Njoku. iROKOtv is also cutting the salaries of a further 16 percent of employees at the company, which has offices in Lagos, London, and New York.
Andela — a recruiter of African tech talent — has laid off almost 10 percent of its workforce as it deals with the economic impact of covid-19. The Nigerian startup, which is based in New York City, has laid off 135 non-engineering staff while senior executives have agreed to take salary cuts of 10-to-30 percent. That brings Andela’s workforce down to 1,199 employees operating in offices in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Egypt, and the U.S., according to TechCrunch.
Lagos-based payments platform OPay raised $170 million in two funding rounds in 2019 but that was not enough to stop the coronavirus pandemic from leading to layoffs for the company’s staff. OPay, which is owned by Norwegian mobile browser Opera, has reportedly laid off up to 70 percent of its staff including both Chinese nationals and Nigerian employees, according to Weetracker.
South African fintech startup Yoco is another of the African tech firms impacted by coronavirus-related layoffs, with the company announcing in April that it would downsize its workforce to try and survive, according to DisruptAfrica. Yoco said that thousands of its clients have experienced revenue losses of more than 90 percent. The exact details regarding the layoffs and pay cuts have not been disclosed.
On March 28, Nigerian digital lender Renmoney announced that 391 of its employees would be laid off. Those affected were direct sales agents whose jobs typically involved traveling to make sales. These individuals have been forced to stay home during lockdowns imposed in various Nigerian cities due to the coronavirus, according to Techcabal.
Lagos-based online travel company Wakanow has endured a difficult time since covid-19 impacted the global hospitality industry, with bookings on the online platform slumping by 98 percent in April relative to March. Wakanow has laid off temporary staff who handled reconciliations, and some contractors including cleaners and security officers, Techcabal reports. Wakanow was established in 2008 by CEO and former NBA basketball player Obinna Ekezie, and has since expanded to Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, the U.A.E. and the U.K.
Lagos-based payment application development company TechAdvance has also made what the company’s founder and chief innovation officer Edmund Olotu described as the “hardest decision” in a tweet on April 8. While he did not give details about the downsizing, Olotu said that his decision to lay off some staff was based on data which showed that the startup’s headcount needed to be reduced to survive the economic effects of the coronavirus.
While South African electronics retail chain Dion Wired has been struggling financially in recent years, the Massmart-owned brand decided to close for good a few days before South Africa’s nationwide covid-19 lockdown began. Dion Wired closed all 23 of its tech and electronics stores in South Africa, laying off more than 1,000 people as a result, according to Fin24.
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In February, telecommunication company Ooredoo made the decision to lay off around 900 staff in Algeria. In response to the decision, the Algerian government immediately expelled and deported Ooredoo Algeria’s German CEO Nikolai Beckers, according to ITWebAfrica.
South African telecommunication firm Telkom is in the process of cutting 3,000 jobs from its 15,000-strong workforce, with many of these expected to come from its Openserve business unit which is modernizing Telkom’s copper line network and converting it to fiber, according to ITWeb. The partially state-owned company Telkom is also selling off some of its properties and assets to save money and focus on modernizing its offering.
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