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Africans startled by European identity of the continent’s biggest online marketplace

April 17, 2019 at 03:00 pm | Money Moves

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

April 17, 2019 at 03:00 pm | Money Moves

Jumia staff celebrating their NYSE listing. Bell rang by Jumia Nigeria CEO Juliet Anammah.

Recently listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and considered to be Africa’s first startup to achieve that feat, e-commerce platform Jumia has been slammed by Africans for having two French top executives, headquarters in Germany and Dubai and developers in Portugal.

Its CEO, Sacha Poignonnec, incurred the wrath of many others during an interview on CNBC where he explained why the company’s technical talents were Europeans. “The reality is, in Africa there is not enough developers… We know that and we need to collectively address that because everything should be in Africa.”

His statement generated the hashtag #JumiaIsNotAfrican to take away the Africa tag associated with the company which was co-founded in 2012 and valued at more than $1 billion.

Many Africans have expressed serious reservations on social media against Jumia’s identity and seeming exploitation of the African market to promote their European agenda.

“Some of us are getting riled up about Jumia being considered to be African. It’s not for nothing. This colonial type business model is not new. Jumia is the modern day CFAO,” tweeted Cameroonian tech entrepreneur Rebecca Enonchong.

“We are upset because there is a painful not too distant history there. We don’t want this reproduced in our startup ecosystem. We welcome foreign founders to work side by side in our ecosystem. But we don’t want them to represent us, to speak for us, to pass for us,” she added.

“My standard for saying a startup is African is simple: the idea originates from Africa and it is founded by an African,” Nigerian tech veteran and investor, Victor Asemota, told Quartz Africa.

He also lamented about the use of African affiliation as a prop by some foreign companies. “Their real ambition is to gain quick recognition,” he is quoted as saying.

Jumia operates in 14 countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Algeria, Angola, and Senegal where its offices are occupied by local staff and country heads.

Co-founders Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara, two former employees of McKinsey, opened their first shop in Nigeria in 2012 alongside Nigerian Tunde Kehinde and Ghanaian Raphael Kofi Afaedor who both left the company in 2015.

Here are some reactions to Jumia’s European identity by Africans who believe that a company cannot be African because its primary market is the continent.

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