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Shop Without The Drop

Traditional shopping is becoming obsolete as a West African duo bring Nigerians a click closer to their goods.



When Raphael Afaedor and Tunde Kehinde met a few years ago, they exchanged business cards for more than one reason.

Ghanaian-born Afaedor quit his job as a business development manager at Notore Chemical Industries to start an e-commerce company. Shortly after that , he was contacted by the Samwer brothers’ German-based incubator, Rocket Internet, to bring their African ambitions to life.

“I thought e-commerce was an area that required people with a specific type of experience and know-how. I believed I was one of those people. My heart was also bent on building something from scratch. So, I took the opportunity,” says Afaedor.

Nigerian-born-and-bred Kehinde—who worked as a business development manager for multinational beverage company Diageo and later launched a dating site for African professionals in the diaspora—had a constant itch to do something bigger on the continent.

“The opportunity came up when I found Raphael: a strong co-founder, a good financial backing and a chance to do the project in my own country. We immediately went for it and decided to launch Kasuwa, now Jumia,” he says.

Their ideas aligned and the timing couldn’t have been better for these two Havard Business School MBA graduates.

Together, they set off to pioneer the internet revolution and to organize retailing and the e-commerce market place in Nigeria differently. They rolled out two services: Sabunta and Kasuwa. The former is an online fashion store and the latter sells general merchandise. These services were merged to house a wider range of merchandise. This saw the birth of, the now-well-known, Jumia.

At the Jumia head office in Lagos, there is a beehive of activity: a young, energetic workforce taps furiously at their keyboards and engages customers telephonically, in a bid to build a one-stop shop for Nigeria’s ever-demanding consumer market.

At one end, doors are being opened to receive ordered goods. Products range from clothing and cosmetics to electronics and household merchandise. Merchandise is hand delivered from a warehouse in a matter of days, regardless of their location within the country.

Nigeria has more than 45 million internet users, around 28% of its population, which makes it the African nation with the highest number of internet users—followed by Egypt and Morocco, according to the latest internet world statistic figures. The introduction of mobile phone data and fixed wireless access services coupled with higher computer and internet literacy rates in the past few years have contributed to this boost in online shopping trends in Nigeria. According to Funke Opeke, CEO of Main One Cable Company—which has laid a 7,000km fiber optic cable linking West Africa to Europe—this number is about to increase.

“At least one in three people in Nigeria could have direct internet access during the course of 2013.”

Nigerian consumers, however, have shown little confidence in online purchases in the past for fear of fraudulent activity. A few players are taking advantage of the burgeoning e-commerce space, which helps local brands get their merchandise online. As a result, similar services in Nigeria, such as Konga and DealDey, have emerged in the past few years. These websites provide an alternative shopping experience for Nigerians.

“Lagos is the prime location to be in. The numbers are here, the banking systems are better developed here and there is a lot of activity,” says Afaedor.

Despite a growing popularity in Nigeria, the journey was hardly a walk in the park for the two business partners. As many Nigerian start-ups will agree, challenges are inevitable.

The operational costs of doing business in Nigeria, with infrastructural deficits, was more than a concern. So was finding and building a competent team.

“In our case, it was necessary to have a mind shift and focus on the bigger picture. The opportunities are here in Nigeria. This was a gap we identified and had to fill, regardless of the existing bottlenecks of doing business in Nigeria,” says Afaedor.

Barely a year old, Jumia now boasts around 50,000 online visits a day, with a daily subscriber base of more than 150,000 and is already ranked as the seventh most viewed local content site in Nigeria. It has grown significantly with new product lines and brands on its site with a good consideration for Nigeria’s online payment skeptism, which has been cleverly allayed by introducing a cash-on-delivery feature.

While their ultimate goal is market domination, the immediate concerns for Afaedor and Kehinde are new services, brands and products and to sell everything any Nigerian could possibly need. As it turns out, the fastest moving goods are fashion products, particularly clothing items.

Besides bringing a wide range of products to Nigerian households, Afaedor and Kehinde are also focused on building a dynamic in-house team.

“We pride ourselves in making this a great place to work as service is key,” says Kehinde, who co-manages a team of 200.

E-commerce is here to stay as Afaedor and Kehinde are on a mission to mitigate the tedium of shopping. So, click away as shopping is about to become faster and more convenient.


Farmer Forays: ‘Creating A New Line Of Business’



Shola Ladoja; image supplied

Nigerian agripreneur Shola Ladoja, the founder of Simply Green, says the pandemic-induced lockdown brought with it logistic adversity, but also more local sales.  

With the marauding coronavirus disrupting lives and businesses in Nigeria, the financial stability of a majority of the country’s 200 million inhabitants has been severely affected.

The significant toll it has taken on economic activities has forced many small and medium enterprises to reimagine new ways of staying afloat. Covid-19 is also set to radically aggravate food insecurity in Africa. In spite of Nigeria’s dependence on oil, agriculture remains an important cornerstone for its economy, providing employment for millions especially in the informal sector.

The threat of starvation is so present that in a public address in May, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, urged Nigerian farmers to produce enough for the country to eat, saying that the country has “no money to import” food.

But every cloud has a silver lining. The food shortage has presented some agripreneurs in Nigeria with serendipitous opportunities.

Shola Ladoja is the founder of Simply Green, which is a farm-to-table company specializing in vegetables, fruits, juices, spices and herbs. The border lockdown has meant that many of the retail and supermarket chains can no longer import foreign produce into the country.

But this hurdle created a new opportunity for Ladoja.

“[Previously], I tried to get my juices into local stores in Nigeria but they all turned me down and most of them wanted to buy imported juices. The lockdown meant that they had to buy a local brand like mine because they could not get them from abroad anymore. We are now able to sell a lot more during this time than previous years,” says Ladoja.

On the logistics side, however, Ladoja has also felt the pinch of the pandemic like most business that require consistent movement of goods and services. The lockdown scenario prevented his workers from coming in and as a result, the company’s daily delivery of juices, has come to an abrupt stop.  

Ladoja has had to start thinking outside the box to make ends meet.

“We have come up with a fruit and vegetable box, which we sell directly on our website to our customers. So, they can now buy lettuce, kale and carrots, which we have never done before. So, this period has forced us to think about how we can expand the business and this time we actually created a new line of business, which was not in the plans for this year,” says Ladoja.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), even before the Covid-19 crisis, farmers had not been able to satisfy the demands of Nigeria’s population.

“I feel like the government should give out grants and loans and support for small businesses so that they don’t crash. I have friends who have complained they are going to shut down their businesses because they haven’t been paid for two months. A lot of people cannot sell their produce in Lagos because the markets are closed which is going to affect a lot of farmers at this time,” says Ladoja.

Nigeria used to import over a million tonnes of rice from Thailand annually. That number has been significantly reduced with the implementation of high import taxes. This has led to an abnormal increase in food prices in Nigeria since the onset of the coronavirus with the UN estimating the number of people facing acute food security stands to rise to 265 million globally in 2020 as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Nigeria has substantially increased domestic rice production in the pandemic but is still a long way from reaching the levels needed for the country to sufficiently feed itself. Coupled with the decline in global oil prices, it is safe to say the adverse economic impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s most populous country is going to be felt for a long time to come.

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All For Grooming Future Leaders



Katlego Thwane has had to dip into his own savings, with the Covid-19 crisis, to fund his noble cause, teaching the underprivileged in a South African township.

He is in his twenties, yet turning around the destiny of underprivileged young people around him.

Katlego Thwane, a 28-year-old born and bred in South Africa’s lively township of Soweto, is an educator and founder of the Atlegang Bana Foundation here that caters to primary school learners who struggle to keep up at school and need additional help.

“Our foundation also provides for needy learners from underprivileged backgrounds. One of my biggest campaigns at the foundation every year is to give confidence and motivation to learners for the year ahead,” says Thwane.

He has bagged numerous awards and accolades for his work, as a 2017 Young Community Shaper, 2018 Lead SA hero and featuring on live television show Big Up on SABC Mzansi in 2018.

Growing up, he was a “naughty boy”, as he describes himself, but says many are now astonished at the serious, ambitious young man he has become.

“Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I love seeing change, transformation and grooming leaders, and value their education while being innovative in taking our country forward.”

Thwane has recently established a clothing brand, BANA, under the Atlegang Bana Foundation. He is also currently handing out food parcels to the needy in his community, in partnership with Hollywoodbets.

“The virus has affected us immensely with many parents losing their jobs or taking salary cuts, we are not receiving the financial support as before. This has led to me [dipping] into my own personal pocket and [using it] to buy tutors data for teaching virtually,” says Thwane.

Most schools continue operating online because learners haven’t as yet returned to school, however, this has come with its share of setbacks.

Makosha Masedi, a parent of a Grade 4 learner, says her challenges come with network issues and understanding the tasks given to the child.

“Some of the programs that the work is loaded on to is not friendly for all devices, so submitting and retrieving becomes a problem, as also understanding some of the work,” rues Masedi.

But Thwane powers on, hoping for a better tomorrow, for himself and his country.

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The Mother-Daughter Duo Behind A New Inclusive Community Teaching Budding Professionals How To Better Engage At Work




Mother-daughter cofounders Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor launched Medley to help young professionals gain the skills they need to bring their most authentic selves to work. COURTESY OF MEDLEY

Edith Cooper, who spent more than 20 years as an executive at Goldman Sachs, knows what it’s like to stand out in a workplace. Being one of few people of color in a sea of white faces over the course of her career hasn’t been easy. But rather than dwell on this reality, Cooper, who now sits on the boards of Etsy and Slack, has championed her differences. That’s what helped her rise through the ranks at the bank to eventually head its human resources department, an accomplishment she says was a result of her ability to connect with people of all backgrounds.

That quality would continue to work to her advantage: As Goldman Sachs evolved, so did its staff. Diversity was reflected not only in employees’ skin colors and genders, but also in their ages and geographical origins. Cooper was awakened to the fact that if the company was going to thrive, it would need to create an environment wherein its multifaceted staff could feel comfortable embracing their differences and, in turn, learn from them. 

“If you can figure out an environment where people can thrive together, it’s powerful,” Cooper says. But it’s a process that takes time, especially if newer, more inexperienced employees aren’t equipped with the proper skills to navigate this balance between professionalism and open expression. 

That is in part what inspired Cooper’s new startup, Medley, which she launched with her daughter Jordan Taylor, a former chief of staff at Mic and Harvard Business School Baker Scholar, to provide a community in which young professionals can gain the skills they need to bring their most authentic selves to work without fear. In light of the heightened tension surrounding ongoing racial injustice that’s inevitably seeping into workplace communication, it’s an ideal time to learn this skill.

Taylor has also had her fair share of experiences being the “only one in the room,” but as an emerging leader, rather than an established executive like her mother. Graduating in the top 5% of her class and being one the first 20 Black students to be named a Baker Scholar meant she was constantly figuring out how to relate to peers in predominantly white spaces. She figured it out, but Medley is a platform she wishes had been around when she was finding her voice among people whose backgrounds were much different than hers.

Medley groups young professionals in their 20s and 30s with other like-minded members whose workplace values, concerns and priorities align. The professionals that make up these eight-person groups differ, however, in terms of gender and ethnic background, which Cooper and Taylor hope will translate to increased empathy that members can apply within their respective workplaces.

“This idea of people being able to bring their true selves to work and to be able to talk through what that looks like is at the core of what Medley is offering,” says Cooper.

In addition to full access to workshops, panels and conversations led by experts across industries, members commit to a 90-minute virtual meeting each month, facilitated by a Medley-certified coach and focused on addressing and reflecting on ongoing experiences in their personal and professional lives. Cooper credits Medley’s robust network of coaches to the guidance she gained from Merche Del Valle, former global head of coaching at Goldman Sachs and a certified lifestyle, nutrition and wellness coach.

Merging personal wellness and professional development in group discussions is a priority. “You can’t just look at your career in a vacuum,” says Taylor. “In order to meet your potential, the ability to have a more holistic approach is incredibly important.”

To ensure that people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have the ability to join the community, Medley offers a sliding scale fee ranging from $50 to $250, depending on the financial situation of prospective members. Cooper and Taylor are also in conversations with companies interested in partnering with Medley to give their staff reimbursement for membership. 

With the help of investors including Away cofounder Jen Rubio, dtx company founder and CEO Tim Armstrong and MIC cofounder and former CEO Chris Altchek, who contributed more than $1 million to the project, Medley was ready to launch in May 2020 as an in-person membership hub in New York City. Shelter-in-place mandates halted the launch, but also presented an opportunity for Medley to instead be virtual and incorporate international members. The more springing corporate workers that can benefit from the community’s aim to build the next generation of confident, communicative professionals the better, the mother-daughter team notes.

“Medley gives people an opportunity to be a better human in relation to the people they work with and quite frankly in society,” Taylor says.

Brianne Garrett, Forbes Staff, Leadership

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