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E-commerce : Jumia’s 8 years in Uganda

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firm, Jumia Uganda, a subsidiary of the pan African e-commerce company, Jumia Group on June 10, celebrated eight years of business operations at a mini-press conference held in Kampala, where top officials said they are here for the long term.

Jumia provides an online platform for vendors of goods to connect and sell to potential buyers in Uganda. The celebrations were held at a time Uganda, like other countries around the world, was recording slow growth in economic activity due to lockdown measures put in place, targeting the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Ron Kawamara, the company’s chief executive officer, described the eight years as successful, having started with zero vendors on the platform to 5, 000 unique sellers by press time.

Without revealing actual numbers because of the rules governing their operations as a listed entity, Kawamara said that they had attracted tens of logistics firms to the platform, hundreds and thousands of active buyers and huge revenues over the eight year period.

“There was no e-commerce in Uganda eight years ago,” he said, “the largest impact has been mindset change where vendors are now able to connect with buyers and transact business in real time.”

He said that slightly over 60% of the goods are directly transported using vehicles to the upcountry markets for those that have not yet embraced e-commerce trading for various reasons.

But with time, he said, more buyers outside Kampala, the capital city will join the bandwagon of buying goods online.

He listed the challenges that their business has faced in last eight years as; the high cost of internet, limited infrastructure such as roads, lack of clear regulations on data security and protection, and a gap in skills attained by graduates that are supposed to drive software/IT development to facilitate e-commerce. These challenges, he said, are the reason why, the country still lags behind in terms of e-commerce trade (at 1%) compared to countries like China that are at 20%.

Officials said the challenges at hand require solutions from the state/government, private sector and other parties like development partners.

Future plans

Kawamara said that the company is here to stay and will heavily invest in innovations directed towards pricing, payments options, marketing, skills acquisition to support growth businesses that are listed on their platform. He added that they plan to unveil a product called ‘Jumia Pay’ which will facilitate credit extension to vendors intending to expand their business operations.

The good thing, he said, vendors and the general public are ready. “Ugandans adapt to technology faster than in most markets,” Kawamara said.

Kawamara’s future plan comes at the right time since it would ensure continuity of the business in Uganda unlike in other markets like Rwanda, Tanzania and Cameroon where the group closed shop. Apart from Uganda, Jumia operates in Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

Innocent Namanya, the key accounts manager at Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, one of the partners with Jumia, said their relationship is being cemented by the growing number of corporate individuals that are increasingly joining the internet to do shopping and related transactions. “We are happy to be part of this platform,” Namanya said.

The Jumia Food Country Manager, Timothy Mugume, said their business has recently grown on the Jumia platform as many people realized the need to purchase online instead of visiting restaurants as the country was undergoing a lockdown caused by coronavirus. He said, that their business unit will grow in line with the Jumia’s growth strategy of reaching more clients.

Meanwhile, as part of the celebrations, Kawamara, announced the return of its annual campaign known as “Jumia Anniversary”.

The campaign which will run from June 15 – 30 [of June] will offer customers that visit the Jumia app discounts of up to 50% off on a wide range of products.

He said the campaign will focus on offering consumers the much needed products and delivering them safely to their homes.

“This has been an unprecedented time for all of us, our consumers, our vendors and our partners,” he said, “With this campaign, we are offering consumers bigger discounts to a wider assortment of products and for our vendors we are offering them a platform where they can sell their products and access customers with the help of our last-mile distribution network.”

The campaign will also include deals from restaurants, supermarkets and fresh food market vendors registered on the Jumia Food platform.

Mugume [Jumia Food Country Manager] said, by keeping with safety measures, customers will be able to opt for the ‘contactless safe delivery’ option that has been implemented through MTN mobile money.