Glovo to double down African investment in the next 12 months but will it stay put?

Spanish on-demand delivery platform Glovo today announced plans to double its investment in Africa and expand its operations on the continent.

The Barcelona-based company has invested up to €25M ($30M) by bringing its food delivery service to six African countries — Morocco, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nigeria.

Glovo is available in more than 40 cities with more than 300,000 users, 8,000 restaurants and 12,000 couriers in these countries. Earlier this year, it launched operations in Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana before expanding to Tema, another Ghanaian city last month.

Over the next 12 months, Glovo says it will invest an additional €50M ($60M) to drive expansion into more cities on the continent and move into new markets like Tunisia, where it plans to launch in Tunis next month.

According to a statement released by the company, the expansion will make Glovo’s services available to 6.5 million people. Co-founder Sacha Michaud believes these markets are currently underserved, and Glovo has found the right opportunity to work with local restaurants, bringing them online to reach new customers in a bid to “make everything, within all towns and cities, available to everyone.”

The attention on Africa follows a series of regional moves Glovo has pulled this year. After its mammoth $528 million Series F raise, it acquired several Delivery Hero’s businesses in Central and Eastern Europe for $208 million.

Now present in 23 countries, Africa represents 30% of the company’s geographical footprint. And the Spanish company plans to be live in 30 countries before the end of next year, a decision in part due to an IPO target in three years.

Glovo says it is a market leader in 80% of the countries where it has operations. The company’s grocery service arm has grown the fastest and revenue has been increasing significantly after a steady rise in orders. To meet the growing needs of customers, Glovo has had to invest heavily in dark stores and in July also launched virtual brands for restaurants.

It’s not clear if Glovo will extend these add-on services to Africa where it has its largest market in terms of population size: Nigeria. Yet, the West African nation does not come without its own fair share of troubles like poor logistics infrastructure and an unpredictable regulatory environment.

Despite that, a couple of food delivery platforms like Gokada and Jumia Food, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Jumia have tried to scale, finding varying degrees of success doing so.

While Glovo will have to compete for market share with these players, the company says it is bullish because of its multi-category strategy. According to the company, grocery sales account for half of its business in some African markets.

That said, Glovo’s performance in emerging markets is questionable. Last year, the company pulled out of all the Latin American countries — Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. It sold operations in these markets to Delivery Hero for $272 million.

The company also exited the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt and Turkey) and Uruguay and Puerto Rico in January 2020.

Over the past couple of years, Glovo has said it wanted to achieve profitability in a short amount of time. The delivery space is a thin-margin business and it is thinner in emerging markets. This played a part in why Glovo exited both Middle East and Latin America. The market isn’t any different in Africa, and time will tell if the Spanish delivery will stay put, exit, or close shop.

Whatever the case, Glovo says it is “committed to continuing its policy to hire top local talent” on the continent and plans to double its number of staff and add an extra 200 employees before the end of next year.

“Our expansion in Nigeria, Ghana, and our upcoming launch in Tunisia is something we’ve been looking at for some time now, so it’s great to be able to make it official. There’s been an unprecedented spike in the on-demand delivery business in Africa and the expansion of our services to new countries and cities is both a reflection of that trend and a testament to our commitment to the continent. We’re looking forward to making food, groceries, pharmaceuticals and retail products available to our new users at the touch of a button,” William Benthall, Glovo’s general manager of sub-Saharan Africa, said in a statement.

#africa, #delivery-hero, #e-commerce, #food, #food-delivery, #glovo, #jumia, #tc

Jumia’s Q2 results show moderate growth, rising spend, and continued losses

African e-commerce giant Jumia today reported its second-quarter financial performance. In the wake of its earnings reports, Jumia’s shares climbed 3.38% to $21.99 per share with a market cap of $2.168 billion.

Before we get into the company’s results, Jumia historically reported in its financial data in Euros. This was the case until April 1, when the company swapped for the American dollar.  Jumia cites increases in cash balances from equity fundraising as the main reason backing this outcome. The company adds that although the Dollar will be used going forward, starting from Q2 2021, comparative numbers from previous quarters “have been modified to reflect the change in presentation currency.” That will help us keep all the math straight.

Now, back to business. In the second quarter of 2021, Jumia reported revenues of $40.2 million, up 4.6% on a year-over-year basis.

Wall Street was optimistic that Jumia would report revenue of $43.34 million, up from the $38.5 million recorded in Q2 2020. Although the company did not meet revenue expectations, it did surpass investor expectations of a loss worth $0.43 a share by reporting a more modest $0.41 per-share loss in the second quarter. For reference, Jumia lost $0.61 per share in the year-ago period.

While the African e-commerce company has shifted from first-party sales to a marketplace for third parties, its first-party revenue increased 7% year-over-year in the second quarter. Jumia’s marketplace revenue, on the other hand, grew a smaller 0.6% to $26.2 million.

The revenue mix-shift helped Jumia’s gross profit grow 4% to $26.8 million in the most recent quarter compared to its year-ago comparable. Gross profit after fulfillment expense also expanded 16.3% to $7.7 million.

Continued losses

While Jumia’s operating losses and adjusted EBITDA declined in Q1 2021, they increased this past quarter. Operating losses were $51.6 million in Q2 2021, up 24.7%, while adjusted EBITDA came in at -$41.6 million, worsening 15.1% compared to Q2 2020.

The sharp losses were driven in part by how the African e-commerce juggernaut spent in the quarter. Jumia’s sales and advertising expenses rose 115% to $17.1 million. In the year-ago quarter, the number was a far-smaller $7.9 million. The huge gain in sales and advertising spending may indicate that the company is back to its old method of executing aggressive advertising, which initially slowed during the pandemic. 

The company’s rising costs and declining profitability are not encouraging regarding its chances for near-term profitability. However, the company stressed long-term investments in its business in its earnings report that Jumia expects to leverage in the coming quarters and years. Given that Jumia’s shares rose following its earnings report, it appears that investors are at least amenable to the argument. Still, the company’s metrics paint a mixed picture of its efforts.

For instance, Jumia’s active customers only grew by 3.3% to 7 million in the second quarter, while orders grew by a stronger 12.8% to 7.6 million. In contrast, gross merchandise volume (GMV) fell 11% to $223.5 million in the second quarter.

Jumia’s falling GMV impacted the total payment volume (TPV) of its payment arm, JumiaPay, in the quarter. That figure fell 4% to $56.6 million, compared to the year-ago quarter.

That said, on other fronts, JumiaPay’s recent results are impressive. The payment service’s “on-platform penetration” as a portion of GMV grew to 23.5% in the second quarter. And transactions made on the platform grew 12.1% to 2.7 million — the fastest transaction growth rate Jumia has witnessed in the past four quarters, mostly supported by the company’s food delivery category.

In the space of five months, from October 2020 to February 2021, Jumia’s share price spiked over 700% to $65, mostly due to the pandemic increasing appetite for e-commerce stocks globally. But the company’s share price has dropped by more than 60% from those highs to a close at $21.27 last Friday.

Jumia closed its most recent quarter with $637.7 million in cash, which means that it has a good amount of runway ahead of itself to sort out growth and profitability.

#africa, #e-commerce, #earnings, #ecommerce, #finance, #food, #jumia, #retailers, #rocket-internet

Jumia’s Q1 earnings report continues to show falling losses, slow growth

African e-commerce giant Jumia today shared its earnings for the first quarter of 2021 that ended in March. While its customer count grew, a drop in the company’s revenues spoke to the fact that it is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most areas in Africa where Jumia operates have lifted their lockdown restrictions, but some countries like Morocco and Kenya still have curfews. Jumia said while these measures didn’t lead to meaningful changes in consumer behavior, its supply and logistics chain — especially for its food delivery business JumiaFood — was disrupted.

Jumia, which raised more than $570 million over the past six months to strengthen its balance sheet, posted first-quarter revenues of €27.4 million. This is a 6% drop from the €29.3 million that it reported in Q1 2020. Its operating loss for Q1 2021 came to €33.7 million, while its more forgiving adjusted EBITDA loss stood at €27.0 million. The two numbers fell by 23% and 24%, respectively, on a year-over-year basis as the company continues its slow march toward profitability.

Jumia has never turned a profit, but its co-CEOs Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec have made it clear in the past that the company wants that to change. It was also a point of reference in their investor comments today.

“Our first-quarter results reflect solid progress towards profitability. The drivers remain consistent: selective and disciplined usage growth, gradual monetization, and continued cost discipline. The first quarter of 2021 was the sixth consecutive quarter of positive gross profit after fulfillment expense, which reached €6.2 million, more than doubling year-over-year, while Adjusted EBITDA loss contracted by 24% year-over-year, reaching €27.0 million,” they said in a statement.

In addition to falling losses, Jumia had other positive metrics to share. The giant e-tailer saw its active customer base grow 7% year-over-year to 6.9 million. And orders also increased by 3% to 6.6 million, a reversal of the declining trend observed over the preceding two quarters. However, the total worth of goods sold via Jumia this quarter (GMV) was just €165.0 million, a 13% decrease from the €189.6 million it recorded in Q1 2020.

The company’s gross profit also reached €20.4 million in 2020, representing a year-over-year gain of 11% from €18.4 million in Q1 2020.

Jumia cited two reasons for this drop. One was currency devaluation of Nigeria’s naira, Egypt’s pound and Kenya’s shilling against the euro, the currency in which it reports. According to the company, the trio dropped 15%, 9% and 19%, respectively, against the euro in Q1 2021. And second, the company’s best-performing product category (phones and electronics) did poorly. In Q1 2020, those items accounted for 45% of its GMV volume, which fell to 37% this quarter.

JumiaPay, the payments arm of the company, continued to post modest growth. This time last year the product processed 2.3 million transactions worth €35.5 million. In Q1 2021, JumiaPay transactions rose 6.7%, to 2.4 million transactions on a year-on-year basis. The recent quarter’s total payment volume also grew 21% to €42.9 million.

Per the report, Jumia has broadened the capabilities of its payment product. It now offers SMEs on the continent access to short-term credit by leveraging business and transactional data of its sellers to pre-score credit on an anonymized basis. The company said it disbursed 380 loans in Q1 2021, up 90% from Q1 2020. These loans were given to 291 sellers across its platform, representing a 62% increase from the number of sellers that accessed last year’s loans.

Jumia reported €485.6 million of unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter of 2021. This includes gross proceeds of about €205 million it secured from the offering completed on March 30, 2021, and €88 million cash booked in April 2021.

Before today’s earnings call, Jumia was trading at $21.60 per share. Since the market opened this morning and at the time of this writing, the company’s share price has increased by around 3.2% to just over $24.21. It seems investors remain optimistic about the company’s growth, especially its payments arm and its plans to achieve profitability, despite continued operating and adjusted EBITDA losses.

#africa, #e-commerce, #e-tailer, #earnings, #ecommerce, #electronics, #finance, #food-delivery, #jumia, #payments, #retailers, #rocket-internet, #tc

Ivorian startup Afrikrea partners with DHL and Visa to launch SaaS e-commerce platform ANKA

In 2016, Ivorian e-commerce startup Afrikrea started as a marketplace for African-based and inspired clothing, accessories, arts, and crafts. Over the past five years, Afrikrea has served more than 7,000 sellers from 47 African countries and buyers from 170 countries.

Per the company’s data, it records more than 500,000 visits monthly, with the majority of its customers from Europe and North America recording over $15 million in transactions.

But while Afrikrea presents African merchants to showcase and sell their products to the world, it is just one of the many channels available, including personal websites and social media.

Co-founder and CEO Moulaye Taboure says that he noticed that merchants were splitting time and concentration across different channels, which affected their engagement with Afrikrea.

“We noticed that it was getting harder for our sellers to make sales because they were losing time, money and energy switching between channels,” Taboure told TechCrunch. “Every time they want to sell a product, they put it on social media, Afrikrea, and other websites. And when one buyer shows interest, there is no single place to track and see all the orders. That’s hard for these businesses to offer quality services and grow effectively.”

Then last year, Afrikrea began testing an all-in-one SaaS e-commerce platform for these merchants. Today, it is announcing its launch. The platform called ANKA will allow users to sell from Africa, ship products to anywhere in the world and get paid through local and international African payment methods.

Afrikrea

Image Credits:

E-commerce, payments and global shipping. That’s ANKA’s play for thousands of micro-retailers and businesses on the continent and around the world.

The platform lets users sell via an omnichannel dashboard with a single inventory, orders and messages management. Customers can carry out transactions via a customized online storefront like Shopify, social media platforms, links such as on Gumroad and the Afrikrea marketplace.

Merchants can carry out payments and payouts via a wallet and an Afrikrea Visa card. The platform, which costs $12, allows customers to perform mobile money and mobile banking transactions with MPesa, Orange, MTN and PayPal

Shipping completes the entire sales life cycle, from the point of sale to receipt of goods. In 2019, Afrikrea partnered with global logistics partner DHL to offer shipping services to its customers.

Fashion is ANKA’s best-selling category because of its affiliation with Afrikrea. The African fashion and apparel market is worth $31billion, per Euromonitor, and Afrikrea estimates the yearly spend of its major markets to be worth $12.5 billion. A breakdown from the company puts “the African diaspora in Europe at $1 billion, those in America and the Caribbean at $9 billion and non-Africans with links to the continent at $2.5 billion.”

But in terms of general e-commerce activities on the continent, McKinsey & Company pegs consumer spending to reach $2.1 trillion by 2025. African e-commerce is also expected to account for up to 10% of retail sales.

Platforms like Jumia, Mall4Africa and Takealot have been at the forefront of this growth over this past decade. MallforAfrica struck a partnership with DHL in 2015, then launched DHL Africa eShop with the logistics giant four years later. More than 200 sellers from the U.S. and U.K. serve African consumers in more than 30 countries on the platform.

Unlike MallforAfrica and other e-commerce platforms, ANKA differentiates itself as a platform for export rather than import, specifically for African products. According to Moulaye, ANKA is currently the largest e-commerce exporter on the continent, and since its partnership with DHL, it has shipped more than 10 tons of cargo monthly from Africa

“We are the biggest client of DHL exporting from Africa. We ship 10 tons every month and have sellers in 47 African countries, with Kenya and Nigeria as our largest markets. We have something African that is going to a global scale. That’s one of the angles we had with Afrikrea, and we want to keep that with ANKA. What sets us apart is that we’re not just trying to solve a purely African problem; we want to solve a global problem for Africans.”

Since launching five years ago, Afrikrea, which Taboure launched with Luc B. Perussault Diallo and Kadry Diallo, has raised a total of $2.1 million per Crunchbase. In this period, the company has seen its revenue grow 5x and claims to have ARR more than it has raised in its lifetime. To continue its growth efforts, Afrikrea is in the process of concluding a Series A round later this year.

#africa, #afrikrea, #anka, #dhl, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #jumia, #kenya, #mtn, #nigeria, #saas, #social-media-platforms, #startups, #tc

Jumia co-CEO Jeremy Hodara talks African e-commerce, and his company’s path to profitability

This month, African e-commerce giant Jumia released its second full-year financials for Q4 and its fiscal year 2020. The results were mixed — active customers and gross profit increased, while orders and gross merchandise volume (GMV) fell.

A particular feature that has troubled the company since its inception in 2012 was also present, namely persistent adjusted EBITDA and operating losses. However, those metrics fell year over year, and the company, in a statement, said that it had demonstrated “meaningful progress on our path to profitability.”

The unevenness of Jumia’s business is also reflected in how its share price performed in the past year. In March 2020, the company hit rock bottom and traded at an all-time low of $2.15 after facing fraud allegations. But it hit an all-time high of $69.89 almost a year later this February. 

With the release of its financials, two things were top of TechCrunch’s mind: What made Jumia’s value swell by more than 3,000 percent in the last year, and will the e-commerce player’s unending losses end anytime soon?

I spoke with Jumia co-CEO Jeremy Hodara to get his insights on these two questions and on issues that have faced the company in the past.

Talking profitability with Jumia

This interview has edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: This time last year, Jumia was trading between $2 and $4. Now it’s within $40 to $50. What do you think has been the driving factor behind this?

Jeremy Hodara: What I think is really important about the stock rise is two things. First, in general, the world realized that there was a big paradigm shift in e-commerce and that e-commerce was the way to go for the future. This is something you can look at for every e-commerce company in the past 12 to 18 months. The second thing that happened is that we at Jumia have been very clear about the opportunities e-commerce represents in Africa. E-commerce is a real problem of access to consumption and has a strong value proposition to those who necessarily don’t fancy brick-and-mortar stores in Africa.

What we never really have proven is that you can build a profitable e-commerce business. However, I think that will change soon because what we’ve done quarter after quarter is to be disciplined to bring clarity that we’re going after a profitable business model and profitable growth. And as people understood and saw what we were doing, it also gave them more confidence about how exciting this opportunity is. In my opinion, what happened in the last 12 months was the combination of people understanding how important e-commerce is worldwide. Secondly, Jumia brought proof points that it was building a sustainable and profitable business model.

Would you say Andrew Left’s reversal in October and his decision to take long positions at Jumia also affected the share price?

Not really. Like I said earlier, I think it had to do with the story of e-commerce change for the future. That didn’t start in October; it started months before. Also, we being disciplined quarter after quarter to build what’s right started months before, so I can’t really comment if his decision affected our share price or if an investor’s negative or positive comments would change market sentiment towards our stock.

You’ve talked about how Jumia is trying to build a profitable business. But how’s it going to do that if the company reports losses quarter after quarter and year after year?

I think we’re on the right path, considering that our EBITDA losses reduced by 47 percent last quarter, and we’ll be trying to do so every quarter. We want to go about it by improving the efficiency of the business and opening new avenues for growth.

The most exciting thing about e-commerce is that first, you build large assets for your own use, but it becomes relevant for other stakeholders over time. For us, we have an application and website with very engaged visitors, and we’re exploring having third-party advertisers who place ads on the platform.

Our logistics service is also another way. We’re building tools and technology to equip our logistics partners and help them become more productive. This drives our costs per delivery down and is the type of benefit that comes with scaling. So I think there’s a path to profitability by opening the assets we’ve built for ourselves to benefit our ecosystem.

Jumia’s expenses dropped last year, but revenue also dropped despite a little increase in customer base. Aren’t those worrying signs?

On the revenue side, here’s how we should look at it. When you’re a marketplace, your revenue is the commission that you make from a transaction. So if you’re a seller on Jumia and sell something that costs $100 and your commission is 10 percent, your revenue inside the P&L of Jumia will be $10. If I buy a product from you at $90 and sell it to my consumer for $100, I’ll record $100 as the revenue.

That’s the insurance from the financial pinpoint between what you call the third-party and the first-party model. At the first-party model, you record as the revenue the value of the product. At the marketplace, you only record the commission. Jumia has, give or take, 10 percent of its business as the first-party model and 90 percent as the marketplace model. But that percentage changed over time, and when it did, you can see how the revenue went down.

So we don’t base our profitability on revenue. What is the right KPI for us is the gross profit as it shows the monetization of Jumia. It has been growing quarter after quarter, this time by 12% percent. Our active consumers growing 12 percent from 6.1 million in Q4 2019 to 6.8 million in Q4 2020 shows a disciplined growth towards profitability.

If there’s indeed a path to profitability, why did Jumia investors — Rocket Internet and MTN — exit the company? And does that put pressure on the company?

Oh, not at all. The fact that Jumia was able to gain support from the companies was a blessing, and they’ve come a long way with us. But like any investor after six to nine years, I think it was time for them to decide to leave the company, and I’ll say the company was lucky to have had them along our side from the beginning. Well, I can’t say for them, but for myself, I don’t think one can say that their leaving after so many years is a sign of distrust in our ability to become profitable.

One of the positives of your financials was JumiaPay. Does it tie into Jumia’s journey to being profitable?

JumiaPay is an amazing opportunity for us. Once you have a great commerce platform, you have a fantastic opportunity to build a great payments solution for your consumers. We can see that consumers are adopting it very fast, and I think this is because the platform also gives them access to other digital services where they top up their phone, pay bills and get loans. Also, it is a great payment method for consumers who want to prepay for services. And when you prepay for products, you make logistics more efficient and have more sales.

Sales remind me of the fraud issues in 2019 when some J-Force team members engaged in improper sales practices. What is Jumia doing to avoid situations like that?

It’s a lesson we’ve learnt, and we have put in the right compliance, the right internal control team to resolve such situations. I’ll say one of the reasons why we’re becoming one of the most professional organizations in Africa is because we now have these systems in place.

As an African company, how is Jumia addressing concerns around diversity, especially at top positions?

I think what’s really African with Jumia is who we are serving, our African sellers, our African consumers and our African team. In Nigeria, Juliet Anammah, who was the CEO of Jumia Nigeria, is now the chairperson of Jumia Group. I don’t know what constitutes an African or a non-African company, but what I can tell you is that our team is African, our consumers are African, and we’re selling on the continent every day. I think that’s what should make sense to our ecosystem.

#africa, #e-commerce, #earnings, #ecommerce, #jumia, #tc

Jumia narrows losses, as its payment service grows in financial results

After years of losses, African e-commerce giant Jumia claimed significant progress towards profitability in its Q4 2020. Backing that claim, Jumia reported record gross profit and some improvements to its cost structure.

The company wrote in its earnings release that while “2020 has been a challenging year operationally with COVID-19 related supply and logistics disruption,” it had also proven “transformative” for its business model.

Let’s examine its financial results to see how Jumia fared during the pandemic year and see if we can see the same path to profitability discussed in its written remarks.

The results

Jumia’s core metrics were uneven in 2020. The company saw its user base grow by 12% in 2020, from 6.1 million customers in 2019 to 6.8 million customers. That means the company added 700,000 customers in 2020 compared to the 2 million customers it acquired the year before.

Other metrics were negative. The company’s gross merchandise value (GMV), the total worth of goods sold over a period of time, grew 23% from the previous quarter to €231.1 million. The company said this was a result of the Black Fridays sales in the quarter. However, when compared year-over-year, Q4 GMV was down 21% “as the effects of the business mix rebalancing initiated late 2019 continued playing out during the fourth quarter of 2020,” Jumia wrote.

Image Credits: Jumia

In terms of orders made on the platform, Jumia saw a 3% year-over-year drop from 8.3 million in Q4 2019 to 8.1 million in Q4 2020But while the company’s metrics were mixed during Q4 and the full-year 2020 period, there were encouraging signs to be found.

Last year, Jumia’s Q4 gross profit after fulfillment expense was €1.0 million. We reported at the time that the number’s positivity was commendable if merely another mile of the company’s path to profitability

The company built on that result in 2020, allowing it to report a record gross profit after fulfillment expense result of €8.4 million in the final quarter of last year. From a full-year perspective, the numbers are even starker, with Jumia managing just €1.5 million in 2019 gross profit after fulfillment expense; in 2020, that number grew to €23.5 million.

That Jumia managed those improvements while seeing its 2019 revenues of €160.4 million slip 12.9% in 2020 to €139.6 million is notable.

JumiaPay and improvement in losses and expenses

There are other metrics that are encouraging for Jumia.

Its gross profit reached €27.9 million in 2020, representing a year-over-year gain of 12%. Sales and Advertising expense decreased year-over-year by 34% to €10.2 million, while General and Administrative costs, excluding share-based compensation, came to €21.8 million in the year, falling 36% year-over-year.

In 2019, Jumia incurred a massive €227.9 million in losses, a 34% increase from 2018 figures of €169.7 million. But that changed last year as Jumia reported a smaller €149.2 million in operating losses, representing a 34.5% decrease from 2019

Turning from GAAP numbers to more kind metrics, Jumia’s Q4 2020 adjusted EBITDA loss also decreased. The company recorded an adjusted EBITDA of -€28.3 million in the final quarter of 2020, falling 47% year-over-year from 2019’s €53.4 million Q4 result. For the full 2020 period, Jumia reported €119.5 million in adjusted EBITDA losses, down 34.6% from FY19’s -€182.7 million result.

Jumia lost less money on an adjusted EBITDA basis in 2020 of any of its full-year periods we have the data for. Still, the company remains deeply unprofitable today and for the foreseeable future.

Fintech

Jumia’s fintech product, JumiaPay, has been a factor behind its improving metrics.

In Q1 2020, it processed 2.3 million transactions worth €35.5 million. That number grew to €53.6 million from 2.4 million transactions in Q2 2020. In the third quarter of last year, it recorded 2.3 million transactions with a payment volume of €48.0 million. For Q4, JumiaPay performed 2.7 million transactions worth €59.3 million.

In total, JumiaPay processed 9.6 million transactions with a total payment volume (TPV) of €196.4 million throughout 2020. TPV increased by 30% in Q4 2020 from its 2019 result and 58% in 2020 as a whole.

JumiaPay is a critical part of Jumia’s business, as 33.1% of its orders in Q4 2020 were paid for with the service, up from 29.5% in Q4 2019.

Share price and optimism around profitability

Jumia went public in April 2019. Since opening as Africa’s first tech company on the NYSE at $14.50 per share, the company’s stock has been on a rollercoaster ride.

It traded at $49 per share at one point before battling with scepticism about its business model, fraud allegations, and shorting by Andrew Left, a well-known short-seller and founder of Citron Research. What followed was the company’s share price crashing to $26 before reaching an all-time low of $2.15 on the 18th of March 2020.

Later, Left made a reversal after claiming Jumia had handled its fraud problems. He took long positions at the company and later proposed it would hit $100 per share. That change in market sentiment, coupled with the fact that Jumia changed its business model and halted operations in Cameroon, Rwanda, and Tanzania, enabled its share price to climb back, reaching an all-time high of $69.89 this February 10th.

Before today’s earnings call, Jumia was trading at $48.81. Since dropping its latest data, the company’s share price has expanded by around 10% to just over $54 per share as of the time of writing, indicating investor bullishness despite its continued operating and adjusted EBITDA losses

#africa, #ecommerce, #jumia, #tc

Nigeria’s IROKO plans to go public on the London Stock Exchange AIM in 2022

IROKO, a Nigerian-based media company, could file to go public in the next 12 months on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) Alternative Investment Market.

Founded by Jason Njoku and Bastian Gotter in 2011, IROKO boasts the largest online catalog of Nollywood film content globally.

According to this report, the media company will raise between $20 million and $30 million valuing the company at $80 million to $100 million

In October 2019, Njoku hinted that the company was going public either on the London Stock Exchange or a local exchange on the continent. However, the CEO kept mute about the whole process the following year due to how tumultuous it was for the company.

In 2020, the company had plans to increase its average revenue per user (ARPU) in Africa for its video-on-demand service, iROKOtv, from $7-8 to $20-25. Through the first four months of the year, it seemed IROKO was set to achieve that. But amid pandemic-induced lockdown fears, consumer discretionary spending reduced in Nigeria and other African markets. What followed was a 70% drop in subscription numbers, and in May, 28% of the company’s staff went on unpaid leave. But unlike the numbers iROKOtv local markets put up, its international subscribers grew 200% during the lockdown, hitting a $25-30 ARPU range.

However, more bad news came in August when the CEO announced that the company was laying off 150 people. Njoku cited the naira devaluation, regulatory onslaught by the country’s broadcast regulator, and a reduced outbound marketing team as reasons behind this decision.

With the company spending $300,000 or more every month on growth, it decided to halt any scaling efforts on the continent. IROKO instead focused on its international market, primarily the U.S and the U.K where it has been able to execute a 150% price increase from $25 per year to $60 per year. Njoku said to this decision set the company straight leaving it in a stronger cash position than it had been for years.

“The costs of pursuing Africa growth is what was really resized dramatically. We were so focused on defending Africa and basically ended up doing nothing. Zero marketing or anything to drive that,” he told TechCrunch. “We pulled back to focus on where our economics actually makes sense. Our international business organically grew double-digit in 2020 and we expect it to continue this way for the foreseeable future.”

IROKO isn’t entirely giving up on the African market, instead, think of it in stealth mode. Due to its dominance over the past eight years as one of the strongest independent SVOD companies in Africa, it is hard not to see the company in pole position to benefit from any improvements made on the continent.

That said, IROKO makes 80% of its revenue outside Africa and listing on a foreign exchange will help consolidate its efforts. For Njoku, the Nigerian Stock Exchange or other local exchanges do not have a history of listing early-stage tech companies; therefore, the London Stock Exchange makes more sense in the short term.

IROKO is also seeking a market cap of about $100 million, which is small for the primary market. This is why the media company is choosing to list on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the LSE. A sub-market of the LSE, the AIM is built specifically for small-cap companies. Still, there are plans in the future for IROKO to progress to the main market as its valuation grows — something U.K sports betting company, GVC and online fashion retailer, ASOS have done in the past.

Most companies when going public, tend to raise more money than their private equity days. But it’s quite different with IROKO. The company which secured around $30 million in total with its last priced round (Series E) in January 2016, plans to raise less or a similar amount when going public in 2022. In what seems like a down round, I asked Njoku why the company isn’t planning to raise more?

“We don’t need more. To be honest, $10 million to $15 million will be for corporate development; the rest will be secondaries for shareholders. As a private company, IROKO’s valuation was never priced above $70 million so anything in our target range wouldn’t be a down round at all,” he said. “Especially if you consider in that time we exited ROK for close to the total amount of capital we raised for IROKO; we have returned $11 million to early investors and shareholders already. We still have material capital left from the ROK-Canal+ acquisition coming in every 6 months until 2023.”

When IROKO sold ROK Studios to Vivendi-owned Canal+ in July 2019, the terms of the deal remained undisclosed. But from the CEO’s statement, an estimate of the acquisition could be around $30 million. What’s particularly impressive is that the proceeds from the deal likely sustained the company through a rough patch in 2020 and might well do so after its IPO in 2022

Joining IROKO in plans to go public within the next two years is Interswitch, a Nigerian-based payments company valued at $1 billion. But unlike Interswitch, which was founded in 2002, IROKO has been operating for just 10 years. Within that time, the only internet company to have gone public is Jumia, and it did so after seven years. IROKO is expected to achieve this feat in its 11th year of operation and Njoku, who holds an 18% stake in the company, believes it’s enough time to take the next step.

“What we can achieve in private, we can equally achieve as a public company. We will likely open up the IPO to our loyal members too so they can capture the value too, which I am super excited about. One thing about IROKO is that we have always been pioneers and we’re okay being super experimental. I plan to open-source the entire process so any other African company coming behind — if we’re successful — will benefit from our experience,” he said of the journey ahead. 

#entertainment, #exit, #fundings-exits, #interswitch, #iroko, #jumia, #nigeria, #tc

Finance and the digital divide: a conversation with Tunde Kehinde of Lidya

Small and medium businesses have been some of the hardest hit in the Covid-19 pandemic. And all that has been as true in emerging markets as it has been for SMBs in the developed world.

Tunde Kehinde has had a front-row seat witnessing and responding to that crisis. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Lidya, a startup out of Nigeria that has built a platform for SMBs to apply for and get loans and other financial services, aimed at markets on the African continent and increasingly also in emerging economies in Europe. We sat down with him as part of our new virtual Disrupt series, where we have been connecting with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the tech world beyond the US.

Kehinde has been called the “Jeff Bezos of Africa”, a funny title you might think sounds like tenuous or cheesy marketing until you know more about his history in business, the impact it’s had so far (he’s not that old) in the region, and until you hear him speak.

Kehinde — born in Nigeria and exposed to a lot of the US way of doing things through university years at Howard and then Harvard — was previously the co-founder of one of the biggest tech startups to have come out of the continent — Jumia — an Amazon-style marketplace that is slowly branching out into a wider web of services like payments, food delivery and more.

Initially incubated by Rocket Internet, Jumia raised hundreds of millions of dollars from VCs, scaled to multiple countries on the continent, and is now traded publicly on Nasdaq with a current market cap of $660 million — modest by Amazon standards maybe, but a real milestone for African tech.

That alone would probably merit some to wonder if he’s the “next Bezos”, but it’s been his follow-up act at Lidya that paints a broader picture. In short, there is a lot more potential for payment and online commerce services in emerging markets, and focusing on helping small businesses cross the digital chasm is not just a good business opportunity, but a developmental one, too. Capital, specifically the lack thereof, has always been a huge hindrance to growth, and these days it’s an even more critical axiom to address.

You can see the full Disrupt conversation below, where Kehinde covers a lot of ground, not just about his company but about how tech is evolving in the region.

The breakout success of a handful of startups — which include the likes of new digital payments unicorn Interswitch as well as Jumia — venturing into multiple jurisdictions, he noted, is seeing more VCs also increase their interest and investment activity. He thinks the next very important step is to have more exits, which will confer a different kind of credibility and liquidity to the market.

And there should be, he added: There are few places like the African continent that is a blank slate, where you can come in quickly and build a really dominant player, if you have the right capital and team, he said.

“It’s night and day between seven years ago and now,” he added, but also admitted that while financial services and the related world of e-commerce are obvious places to start — it was also the classic category to tackle first in the US and Europe many years earlier — he still sees more interest from VCs in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

His advice for VCs?

“If I were a VC I would look at what have been the biggest successes from folks like me,” he said. “Seeing Jumia and others going public, as more of these things happen the more you can develop a great policy and that will make it easier. I launched, I got to scale, I got return on investment, the right infrastructure can be built.”

Tune in here to hear him also talk about China and how to handle investment from outside Africa; what other big deals in loans for SMBs, such as Kabbage getting acquired by Amex, mean for startups like Lidya, the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on business; identifying opportunities beyond your immediate region; and more.

#africa, #african-tech, #disrupt, #ecommerce, #emerging-markets, #finance, #fintech, #jumia, #lidya, #loans, #nigeria, #smbs, #smes, #startups, #tc, #tcuk, #techcrunch-disrupt, #tunde-kehinde

As it delists, Rocket Internet’s ill-fated experiment with public markets is over

It was all supposed to be so different. When Rocket Internet IPO’d in 2014 it was the largest tech company floatation in Europe for 7 years. A year later it had lost $46m and it’s valuation had dropped by 30%. Since then the German start-up factory behind internet companies such as Delivery Hero, Zalando and Jumia has languished, in part because the reason for it’s existence – to provide growth capital for ‘rocket-fuelled’ startups – has ebbed away, as the tech market was flooded with capital in recent years. Today the company said it was delisting its shares from the Frankfurt and Luxembourg Stock Exchanges for just that reason.

Rocket’s market value has fallen from its high of 6.7 billion euros ($8 billion) on the day of its IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange to just 2.6 billion euros and is now offering investors 18.57 euros ($22.23) for each of their shares, lower than Monday’s closing price of 18.95 euros.

The company said it was “better positioned as a company not listed on a stock exchange” as this would allow it to focus on long-term bets.

In a statement, the company said: “The use of public capital markets as a financing source as essential [sic.] parameter for maintaining a stock exchange listing is no longer required and adequate access to capital is secured outside the stock exchange. Outside a capital markets environment, the Company will be able to focus on a long-term development irrespective of temporary circumstances capital markets tend to put emphasis on.”

Delisting, it said, will also reduce operational complexity when setting up new companies, “freeing up administrative and management capacity and reducing costs”.

Its investment division, Global Founders Capital, and CEO Oliver Samwer, will retain their stakes of 45.11% and 4.53% respectively, meaning the virtual shareholder meeting on Sept. 24 ask for shareholder approval to delist will be largely a formality. It has also launched a separate buyback program to secure 8.84% of its shares from the stock market. Although the decision to de-list makes sense, smaller shareholders will be burned, especially as Rocket is using its own cash for the buy-back.

The bets Rocket took, however, have of course paid off. For some. According to Forbes, Samwer and his brothers and co-founders Alexander and Marc are worth at least $1.2 billion each.

The Berlin -based firm became quickly known as a “clone factory” after Samwer famously conceded during his PHD that Silicon Valley had got innovation wrong by comping up with new ideas, and the ‘innovation’ would simply be to make existing models more efficient. The fact those existing models were usually dreamt up by other people never seemed to phase him.

Almost like clockwork Rocket produce clones of various guess for Amazon, Uber, Uber Eats and Airbnb. Its defence for this rapacious strategy was that it was simply adapting proven models for other markets.

Rocket would say it was merely adapting proven models for untapped local markets. Of course, the kicker was usually that the company would either scale faster globally than the original US-based startup, thus forcing some kind of acquisition, or that it would have its clones IPO faster. It did however produce some big, global, companies, even if they were not particularly original, including e-commerce firm Zalando, food delivery service Delivery Hero and meal-kit provider HelloFresh .

There have been successes. Jumia, the African e-commerce company, listed in April last year and when Rocket sold its stake earlier this year, it contributed tp Rocket’s net cash position of €1.9bn at the end of April.

But it has not benefitted from the recent stock market rally for tech companies, as it is overly exposed to e-commerce rather than pandemic-proof companies like Zoom .

For nostalgia sakes, here’s that interview I did with Oliver Samwer in 2015, just one more time.

#airbnb, #alexander, #amazon, #berlin, #ceo, #companies, #delivery-hero, #e-commerce, #europe, #food, #forbes, #frankfurt, #global-founders-capital, #hellofresh, #internet, #jumia, #kicker, #listing, #marc, #oliver-samwer, #retailers, #rocket-internet, #tc, #uber, #zalando, #zoom

DHL acquires stake in Link Commerce developed by MallforAfrica

DHL has acquired a minority stake in Link Commerce, a turn-key e-commerce company that grew out of MallforAfrica.com — a Nigerian digital-retail startup.

Link Commerce offers a white-label solution for doing digital-sales in emerging markets.

Retailers can plug into the company’s e-commerce platform to create a web-based storefront that manages payments and logistics.

With the investment one of the world’s largest delivery services looks to build a broader client-base globally using a business built in Africa.

DHL is trying to get their hands more into global e-commerce…across the world and they figured our platform was a good way to do it,” Link Commerce CEO Chris Folayan told TechCrunch.

Folayan originally founded MallforAfrica, which paved the way for Link Commerce. DHL’s investment in the company —  the amount of which is undisclosed — has roots in collaboration with Folayan’s original startup.

MallforAfrica began a partnership with DHL in 2015 and launched DHL Africa eShop in 2019. The sales platform is powered by Link Commerce and has brought more than 200 U.S. and U.K. sellers — from Neiman Marcus to Carters — online to African consumers in 34 countries.

DHL AFRICA ESHOP MAP

Image Credits: DHL

Similar to MallforAfrica’s model, Africa eShop allows users to purchase goods directly from the websites of any of the app’s partners.

For the global retailers selling on Africa eShop, the hurdles that held back distribution on the continent — payments, currency risk, logistics — are handled by the underlying Link Commerce operating platform.

“That’s what our service does. It takes care of that whole ecosystem to enable global e-commerce to exist, no matter what country you’re in,” Folayan told TechCrunch in 2019.

Link Commerce was built out of Folayan’s startup MallforAfrica.com, which he founded in 2011 after studying and working in the U.S.

A common practice among Africans — that of giving lists of goods to family members abroad to buy and bring home — highlighted a gap between supply and demand for the continent’s consumer markets.

With MallforAfrica Folayan aimed to close that gap by allowing people on the continent to purchase goods from global retailers directly online.

MallforAfrica and Link Commerce founder Chris Folayan, Image Credits: MallforAfrica

The e-commerce site went on to onboard over 250 global retailers and now employs 30 people at order processing facilities in Oregon and the UK.

MallforAfrica’s Africa eShop expansion put it on a footing to compete with Pan African e-commerce leader Jumia — which went public on the NYSE in 2019 — and China’s Alibaba, anticipated to enter online retail on the continent at some point.

The Link Commerce, DHL deal won’t change that, but Folayan has shifted the hirearchy of his businesses to make Link Commerce the lead operation and Africa one market of many.

Image Credits: Link Commerce

“We changed the structure. So now Link Commerce is above MallforAfrica and MallforAfrica is now powered by Link Commerce,” Folayan explained on a recent call.

“Right now the focus is on Africa…but we’re taking this global,” he added.

Folayan and DHL plan to extend the platform to emerging markets around the world, where other companies may look to grow by wrapping an online store, payments, and logistics solution around their core business.

That could include any large entity that wants to launch an international e-commerce site, according to Folayan.

“Link Commerce is focused on banks, mobile companies, shipping companies and partnering with them to expand globally,” he said.

That’s a big leap from Folayan’s original venture, MallforAfrica.com

What began as a startup to sell brand name jeans and sneakers online in Africa, has pivoted to a global e-commerce fulfillment business partially owned by logistics giant DHL.

#africa, #alibaba, #ceo, #china, #chris-folayan, #delivery-services, #dhl, #e-commerce, #economy, #jumia, #mallforafrica-com, #marketing, #neiman-marcus, #online-retail, #online-shopping, #oregon, #retail, #rocket-internet, #tc, #trade, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Why COVID-19 could delay Interswitch, Africa’s next big IPO

The economic effects of COVID-19 could delay Africa’s next big IPO — that of Nigerian fintech unicorn Interswitch.

If so, it wouldn’t be the first time the Lagos-based payments company’s plans for going public were postponed; the tech world has been anticipating Interswitch’s stock market debut since 2016.

For the continent’s innovation ecosystem, there’s a lot riding on the digital finance company’s IPO. After e-commerce venture Jumia, it would become only the second listing of a VC-backed African tech company on a major exchange. And Interswitch’s stock market debut — when it occurs — could bring more investor attention and less controversy to the region’s startup scene.

What is Interswitch?

TechCrunch reached out to Interswitch on the window for listing, but the company declined to comment. The tech firm’s path from startup to IPO aspirant traces back to the vision of founder Mitchell Elegbe, a Nigerian electrical engineering graduate whose entire career has pretty much been Interswitch.

Africa’s tech scene is still fairly young, but it does have a timeline with several definitive points. An early one would be the success of mobile money in East Africa, with the launch of Safaricom’s M-Pesa in 2007. Another is the notable wave of VC-backed startups and founders that launched around 2010.

Interswitch CEO Mitchell Elegbe (Photo Credits: Interswitch)

With Interswtich, Elegbe pre-dated both by a number of years, founding his fintech company back in 2002 to connect Nigeria’s largely disconnected banking system. The firm became a pioneer of the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s economy.

Interswitch created the first electronic switch whereby Nigerian financial institutions could communicate and thereby operate ATMs and point of sales operations. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system.

#africa, #banking, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #e-commerce, #east-africa, #extra-crunch, #finance, #financial-technology, #helios-investment-partners, #interswitch, #jumia, #kenya, #lagos, #market-analysis, #mitchell-elegbe, #nigeria, #online-lending, #payments, #safaricom, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #uganda, #venture-capital, #verve, #visa

African fintech firm Flutterwave launches SME e-commerce portal

San Francisco and Lagos-based fintech startup Flutterwave has launched Flutterwave Store, a portal for African merchants to create digital shops to sell online.

The product is less Amazon and more eBay — with no inventory or warehouse requirements. Flutterwave insists the move doesn’t represent any shift away from its core payments business.

The company accelerated the development of Flutterwave Store in response to COVID-19, which has brought restrictive measures to SMEs and traders operating in Africa’s largest economies.

After creating a profile, users can showcase inventory and link up to a payment option. For pickup and delivery, Flutterwave Store operates through existing third party logistics providers, such as Sendy in Kenya and Sendbox in Nigeria.

The service will start in 15 African countries and the only fees Flutterwave will charge (for now) are on payments. Otherwise, it’s free for SMEs to create an online storefront and for buyers and sellers to transact goods.

While the initiative is born out of the spread of coronavirus cases in Africa, it will continue beyond the pandemic. And Flutterwave’s CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — is adamant Flutterwave Store is not a pivot for the fintech company, which is an alum of Silicon Valley accelerator Y-Combinator.

“It’s not a direction change. We’re still a B2B payment infrastructure company. We are not moving into becoming an online retailer, and no we’re not looking to become Jumia,” GB told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Flutterwave

He was referring to Africa’s largest e-commerce company, which operates in 11 countries and listed in an NYSE IPO last year.

Flutterwave has a very different business than the continent’s big e-commerce players and plans to stick with it, according to GB.

When it comes to reach, VC and partnerships, the startup is one of the more connected and visible operating in Africa’s tech ecosystem. The Nigerian-founded venture’s main business is providing B2B payments services for companies operating in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.

Launched in 2016, Flutterwave allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber and Booking.com.

In 2019, Flutterwave processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion, according to company data. Over the last 12 months the startup has been on a tear of investment, product and partnership activity.

In July 2019, Flutterwave joined forces with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China.

The Alipay collaboration followed one between Flutterwave and Visa to launch a consumer payment product for Africa, called GetBarter.

Then in January of this year, the startup raised a $35 million Series B round and announced a partnership with Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.

On the potential for Flutterwave Store, there’s certainly a large pool of traders and small businesses across Africa that could appreciate the opportunity to take their businesses online. The IFC has estimated that SMEs make up 90% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s business serving the region’s one-billion people.

Flutterwave confirmed Flutterwave Store’s initial 15 countries will include Africa’s top economies and population countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

Those markets already have a number of players driving digital commerce, including options for small businesses to post their wares online. Jumia’s Jumia Marketplace allows vendors register on its platform and use the company’s resources to do online retail.

Facebook has made a push into Africa that includes its overall push to get more users to sell on Facebook Marketplace. The social media giant now offers the service in Nigeria — with 200 million people and the continent’s largest economy.

GB Flutterwave disrupt

Flutterwave CEO GB, Image Credits: TechCrunch

eBay has not yet gone live in Africa with its business to consumer website, that allows any cottage industry to create a storefront. The American company does have an arrangement with e-commerce startup MallforAfrica.com for limited sales of African goods on eBay’s U.S. shopping site.

On where Flutterwave’s new product fits into Africa’s online sales space, CEO GB says Flutterwave Store will maintain a niche focus on mom and pop type businesses.

“The goal is not be become like eBay, that’s advocating for everybody. We’re just giving small merchants the infrastructure to create an online store at zero cost right from scratch,” he said.

That’s something Flutterwave expects to be useful to Africa’s SMEs through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

#africa, #african-business, #african-tech, #alibaba, #alibaba-group, #alipay, #amazon, #booking-com, #ceo, #china, #companies, #covid-19, #e-commerce, #ebay, #economy, #fintech-startup, #flutterwave, #ghana, #jumia, #kenya, #lagos, #mallforafrica-com, #nigeria, #olugbenga-agboola, #online-payments, #online-retailer, #online-shopping, #rocket-internet, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #techcrunch, #uber, #united-states, #worldpay, #ycombinator

Goldman backed ventures Jumia and Twiga partner on produce in Kenya

Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia and B2B agtech startup Twiga Foods are partnering to deliver produce in Kenya using adaptive measures during COVID-19.

In 2019, Jumia became the first VC funded tech company in Africa to list on a major exchange, the NYSE. Based in Nairobi, Twiga raised a $30 million Series B round in October and announced plans to expand its food supply-chain business to West Africa.

Both companies are backed by venture capital from U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs .

Per the partnership, Jumia will sell bundles of Twiga’s fresh produce on its e-commerce website. Jumia’s delivery fleet will pick up orders from Twiga’s sorting and distribution centers and then complete last mile, contact free delivery. The transactions will be cash only using Jumia’s JumiaPay app, according to Jumia Kenya CEO Sam Chappatte.

Image Credits: Jumia Kenya’s website

The arrangement is meant to leverage the strengths of both companies, while providing a safer and more affordable way for households to obtain foodstuffs through the coronavirus crisis, which started to hit East Africa last month.

Co-founded in Nairobi in 2014 by Peter Njonjo and Grant Brooke, Twiga Foods is focused primarily on connecting the produce of Kenya’s farmers more efficiently to pricing and marketplaces. The company serves around 3,000 outlets a day with produce through a network of 17,000 farmers and 8,000 vendors.

Twiga will benefit from Jumia’s B2C e-commerce platform and Twiga from Jumia’s B2B produce network, according to Jumia’s Kenya CEO.

On the product offerings, “We pulled together the core basics that a family would need for a week or two weeks,” Chappatte told TechCrunch on a call from Nairobi.

“It’s 28 kilograms of fruit and vegetables. It’s delivered in an hour and a half and they save 50% versus supermarkets.”

Image Credits: Jumia

The partnership comes as the coronavirus has hit Africa and actors across the continent’s tech ecosystem have begun to develop practices to maintain operations and stem the spread.

By WHO stats Tuesday there were 21,388 COVID-19 cases in Africa and 877 confirmed virus related deaths, up from 345 cases and 7 deaths on March 18. Kenya ranks 13th in coronavirus cases on the continent.

Countries such as South Africa, Kenya  and Nigeria — which happen to be Africa’s top tech hubs — have imposed social distancing and lockdown practices.

Chappatte believes the virus in Kenya is likely under-counted. Jumia is approaching what could become a worsening COVID-19 scenario in Kenya from two angles.

“One of the ways in which we’re facing up to the crisis and trying be as useful as possible to our communities is to remain an everyday service,” he said.

“The second piece is around the right to operate…engaging the government on how home delivery can be cashless, contactless and safe and therefore a useful service over this period.”

Like many tech ventures in Africa, Jumia needs to adapt to the health and economic realities of the coronavirus to continue to generate revenues. Since going public in April 2019 —  and being required to report quarterly financial performance — the company has faced increased pressure to demonstrate profitability.

Continued losses, a short-sell assault and an employee fraud scandal in 2019 led Jumia’s share price to plummet more than 50% since its April IPO, from  $14.50 on listing to $4.43, as of Monday.

The company weathered these events and CEO Sacha Poignonnec highlighted a bright spot in the 2019 results. Jumia finally got into the black on one key indicator, reaching a gross profit of €1.0 million after deducting fulfillment expenses in Q4 of last year.

The online retailer’s next earnings call is scheduled for May 13. It could provide a unique window into the extent COVID-19 in Africa has impacted the performance of one of the continent’s most visible tech companies.

#africa, #ceo, #countries, #e-commerce, #east-africa, #food-supply-chain, #goldman-sachs, #grant-brooke, #jumia, #kenya, #nairobi, #nigeria, #online-retailer, #peter-njonjo, #rocket-internet, #sacha-poignonnec, #sam-chappatte, #south-africa, #tc, #techcrunch, #twiga-foods, #united-states, #west-africa, #world-health-organization

Africa Roundup: Africa’s tech ecosystem responds to COVID-19

In March, the virus gripping the world — COVID-19 — started to spread in Africa. In short order, actors across the continent’s tech ecosystem began to step up to stem the spread.

Early in March Africa’s coronavirus cases by country were in the single digits, but by mid-month those numbers had spiked leading the World Health Organization to sound an alarm.

“About 10 days ago we had 5 countries affected, now we’ve got 30,” WHO Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti said at a press conference on March 19. “It’s has been an extremely rapid…evolution.” 

By the World Health Organization’s stats Tuesday there were 3671 COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa and 87 confirmed deaths related to the virus — up from 463 cases and 8 deaths on March 18.

As the COVID-19 began to grow in major economies, governments and startups in Africa started measures to shift a greater volume of transactions toward digital payments and away from cash — which the World Health Organization flagged as a conduit for the spread of the coronavirus.

Africa’s leader in digital payment adoption — Kenya — turned to mobile-money as a public-health tool.

At the urging of the Central Bank and President Uhuru Kenyatta, the country’s largest telecom, Safaricom, implemented a fee-waiver on East Africa’s leading mobile-money product, M-Pesa, to reduce the physical exchange of currency.

The company announced that all person-to-person (P2P) transactions under 1,000 Kenyan Schillings (≈ $10) would be free for three months.

Kenya has one of the highest rates of digital finance adoption in the world — largely due to the dominance of M-Pesa  in the country — with 32 million of its 53 million population subscribed to mobile-money accounts, according to Kenya’s Communications Authority.

On March 20, Ghana’s central bank directed mobile money providers to waive fees on transactions of GH₵100 (≈ $18), with restrictions on transactions to withdraw cash from mobile-wallets.

Ghana’s monetary body also eased KYC requirements on mobile-money, allowing citizens to use existing mobile phone registrations to open accounts with the major digital payment providers, according to a March 18 Bank of Ghana release.

Growth in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 200 million, prompted one of the country’s largest digital payments startups to act.

Lagos based venture Paga made fee adjustments, allowing merchants to accept payments from Paga customers for free — a measure “aimed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing cash handling in Nigeria,” according to a company release.

In March, Africa’s largest innovation incubator, CcHub, announced funding and engineering support to tech projects aimed at curbing COVID-19 and its social and economic impact.

The Lagos and Nairobi based organization posted an open application on its website to provide $5,000 to $100,000 funding blocks to companies with COVID-19 related projects.

CcHub’s CEO Bosun Tijani expressed concern for Africa’s ability to combat a coronavirus outbreak. “Quite a number of African countries, if they get to the level of Italy or the UK, I don’t think the system… is resilient enough to provide support to something like that,” Tijani said.

Cape Town based crowdsolving startup Zindi — that uses AI and machine learning to tackle complex problems — opened a challenge to the 12,000 registered engineers on its platform.

The competition, sponsored by AI4D, tasks scientists to create models that can use data to predict the global spread of COVID-19 over the next three months. The challenge is open until April 19, solutions will be evaluated against future numbers and the winner will receive $5,000.

Zindi will also sponsor a hackathon in April to find solutions to coronavirus related problems.

Image Credits: Sam Masikini via Zindi

On the digital retail front, Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia announced measures it would take on its network to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Nigeria headquartered operation — with online goods and services verticals in 11 African countries — said it would donate certified face masks to health ministries in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria and Uganda, drawing on its supply networks outside Africa.

The company has also offered African governments use of of its last-mile delivery network for distribution of supplies to healthcare facilities and workers.

Jumia is reviewing additional assets it can offer the public sector. “If governments find it helpful we’re willing to do it,” CEO Sacha Poignonnec told TechCrunch.

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African tech around the ‘net

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Zindi taps 12,000 African data scientists for solutions to COVID-19

Since its inception, Cape Town based crowdsolving startup Zindi has been building a database of data scientists across Africa.

It now has 12,000 registered on its its platform that uses AI and machine learning to tackle complex problems and will offer them cash-prizes to find solutions to curb COVID-19.

Zindi has an open challenge focused on stemming the spread and havoc of coronavirus and will introduce a hackathon in April. The current competition, sponsored by AI4D, tasks scientists to create models that can use data to predict the global spread of COVID-19 over the next three months.

The challenge is open until April 19, solutions will be evaluated against future numbers and the winner will receive $5000.

The competition fits with Zindi’s business model of building a platform that can aggregate pressing private or public-sector challenges and match the solution seekers to problem solvers.

Founded in 2018, the early-stage venture allows companies, NGOs or government institutions to host online competitions around data oriented issues.

Zindi’s model has gained the attention of some notable corporate names in and outside of Africa. Those who have hosted competitions include Microsoft, IBM and Liquid Telecom. Public sector actors — such as the government of South Africa and UNICEF — have also tapped Zindi for challenges as varied as traffic safety and disruptions in agriculture.

Zindi Team in Cape Town 1

Image Credits: Zindi

The startup’s CEO didn’t imagine a COVID-19 situation precisely, but sees it as one of the reasons she co-founded Zindi with South African Megan Yates and Ghanaian Ekow Duker.

The ability to apply Africa’s data science expertise, to solve problems around a complex health crisis such as COVID-19 is what Zindi was meant for, Lee explained to TechCrunch on a call from Cape Town.

“As an online platform, Zindi is well-positioned to mobilize data scientists at scale, across Africa and around the world, from the safety of their homes,” she said.

Lee explained that perception leads many to believe Africa is the victim or source of epidemics and disease. “We wanted to show Africa can actually also contribute to the solution for the globe.”

With COVID-19, Zindi is being employed to alleviate a problem that is also impacting its founder, staff and the world.

Lee spoke to TechCrunch while sheltering in place in Cape Town, as South Africa went into lockdown Friday due to coronavirus. Zindi’s founder explained she also has in-laws in New York and family in San Francisco living under similar circumstances due to the global spread of COVID-19.

Lee believes the startup’s competitions can produce solutions that nations in Africa could tap as the coronavirus spreads. “The government of Kenya just started a task force where they’re including companies from the ICT sector. So I think there could be interest,” she said.

Starting April, Zindi will launch six weekend hackathons focused on COVID-19.

That could be timely given the trend of COVID-19 in Africa. The continent’s cases by country were in the single digits in early March, but those numbers spiked last week — prompting the World Health Organization’s Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti to sound an alarm on the rapid evolution of the virus on the continent.

By the WHO’s stats Wednesday there were 1691 COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa and 29 confirmed deaths related to the virus — up from 463 cases and 10 deaths last Wednesday.

The trajectory of the coronavirus in Africa has prompted countries and startups, such as Zindi, to include the continent’s tech sector as part of a broader response. Central banks and fintech companies in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya have employed measures to encourage more mobile-money usage, vs. cash — which the World Health Organization flagged as a conduit for the spread of the virus.

The continent’s largest incubator, CcHub, launched a fund and open call for tech projects aimed at curbing COVID-19 and its social and economic impact.

Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia has offered African governments use of its last-mile delivery network for distribution of supplies to healthcare facilities and workers.

Zindi’s CEO Celina Lee anticipates the startup’s COVID-19 related competitions can provide additional means for policy-makers to combat the spread of the virus.

“The one that’s open right now should hopefully go into informing governments to be able to anticipate the spread of the disease and to more accurately predict the high risk areas in a country,” she said.

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Visa partners with Paga on payments and fintech for Africa and abroad

Visa has entered a partnership with Nigeria based startup Paga on payments and technology.

Founded in Lagos, Paga scaled its fintech business in West Africa, before targeting expansion in Ethiopia and Mexico.

The startup has created a multi-channel network for over 14 million customers in Nigeria to transfer money, pay-bills and buy things digitally through its mobile-app or 24,840 agents.

The new arrangement allows Paga account holders to transact on Visa’s global network. It will also see both companies work together on tech.

The collaboration reflects a strategy of the American financial services giant to expand in Africa working with the continent’s top startups.

Visa’s partnership with Paga doesn’t include investment in the startup, but it is expected to drive larger payment volumes for both companies — and Visa’s priorities in Africa.

“We want to digitize cash, that’s a strategic priority for us. We want to expand merchant access to payment acceptance and we want to drive financial inclusion,” said Otto Williams, Visa’s Head of Strategic Partnerships, Fintech and Ventures for Africa.

The Paga-Visa arrangement will bring new merchant options to Paga’s network.

“Based on the partnership we’re going to launch QR codes and NFC [payments] into the market in Nigeria — alternative ways of receiving payments than bringing out a physical card,” said Oviosu.

Tayo Oviosu

Visa and Paga’s engineering teams have already started working together, according to Oviosu, and Paga expects to roll-out these new options in Nigeria sometime in second-quarter 2020.

The startup is pivoting toward becoming less of a Nigeria-centered company and more an emerging markets fintech platform. In January, Paga acquired Ethiopian software development company Apposit, on plans to launch in the East African country.  After Nigeria, Ethiopia has Africa’s second-largest population of 114 million.

Paga has also opened an office in Mexico and will launch its payments products there this year.

“There are several very large countries around the world in Africa, Latin America, Asia where these [financial inclusion] problems still exist. So our strategy is not an African strategy…We want to go where these problems exist in a large way and build a global payments business,” Oviosu told Techcrunch in January.

The Visa-Paga partnership comes as fintech has become Africa’s best funded startup sector — according to latest VC reporting — with thousands of ventures vying to scale digital-finance products to the continent’s unbanked and underbanked consumers and SMEs.

As a company, Visa maintains multiple partnerships with Africa’s largest banks, but collaborating with the continent’s VC backed fintech ventures has taken center-stage. This was confirmed in Visa’s recent 2020 Investor Day presentation, which dedicated several slides to its strategy of “partnering with leading African players” in the startup ecosystem.

The global financial services company has entered into collaborations with several African fintech ventures, such as B2B payments company Flutterwave and South African startup Yoco, which is focused on enterprise payments services and hardware for SMEs.

Visa has also jumped into the venture funding realm in African fintech. In 2019 Nigerian financial services company Interswitch reached a $1 billion valuation and unicorn status after Visa acquired a minority equity stake.

Visa’s Otto Williams, who has taken a lead on the company’s Africa strategy, noted non-equity collaborations will remain the primary focus — though those could lead to VC down the road.

“If we have a commercial partnership in place that creates the right…investment thesis…you know those strategic partnerships inform venture investments,” Williams said.

Of course, Visa’s isn’t the only American financial services firm backing African tech companies. In 2019, its rival Mastercard invested $50 million in Pan-African e-commerce venture Jumia. The two are working together on developing fintech services across Jumia’s customer network.

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