Africa’s e-commerce firm eyes cooperation with China to boost sales amid COVID-19

Jumia’s office in Lagos, Nigeria. /VCG Photo

Africa’s leading e-commerce platform Jumia said on Wednesday that it expects more cooperation with Chinese suppliers to boost sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apoorva Kumar, executive vice president of logistics services at Jumia told Xinhua in Nairobi that as a digital marketplace it needs to respond to the needs of its consumers.

“I think the Chinese merchants have played a great role in supporting us and our platform to become relevant for the consumers of Africa because they have a huge assortment and almost everything that a consumer might need is produced and manufactured in China in a variety of ranges and colors,” Kumar said.

Jumia, which has been described as Africa’s Alibaba, currently operates in 14 African countries with some 6.8 million active users as of 30 June 2020.

Kumar noted that the choices which the Chinese suppliers bring to the digital platform are immense and this enables the digital marketplace to satisfy the daily needs of the customer by offering a broad variety of items at an affordable price.

“We have a very healthy percentage of our business coming from the sellers in China,” he added.

He observed that the African e-commerce firm has a lot to learn from Chinese e-commerce platforms which are inspirations to the industry in the continent.

“I mean, reading, learning and talking to them is like a school for us. So we spend a lot of time learning from their achievements,” he added.

He revealed that most of the technology they currently deploy as well as their logistics platform draws a lot of inspiration from the Chinese sellers.

Kumar told Xinhua that right now they are studying how to use games in their shopping platform to boost their revenues.

“If you go to Chinese apps, they engage you a lot, there is video streaming, there is human content, there is a point system. So we are learning a lot of these things,” he added.

“We are trying to learn a little bit from them and incorporate games in our business,” he observed.

Kumar revealed that Jumia, which was founded in 2012 in Nigeria as a digital platform, is always in constant evolution of thinking on how to meet customers’ needs in a field where Chinese online shopping apps have excelled.

“Similarly, in logistics, there is inspiration that is coming from Chinese firms such as AliExpress. So, there is a lot of learning and a lot of respect which comes from them,” he told Xinhua.

Kumar said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most important influence on businesses in 2020.

“Absolutely no organization or business can say that they were ready, or they were expecting this scenario. So it’s been a difficult and demanding period for every single business in the world,” he added.

Jumia noted that they have responded well to the changing environment in the pandemic.

“Because of the pandemic, digital adoption has become very strong and Jumia has been a catalyst as well as a beneficiary from it,” he said.

Kumar noted its e-commerce payment platform, Jumia pay has been very relevant during the COVID-19 period, because it has empowered and enabled digital payments.

“So overall, there has been a business shift towards digital payments in the economy in general and Jumia has benefited from it,” he said.

Kumar noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a change in the categories of goods that are available on the online marketplace.

“Today, we are able to facilitate a lot of fast-moving consumer goods such as groceries that meet daily needs,” he added.

Kumar said that in 2021, Jumia is expected to perform well even as it develops plans to operate around the pandemic.

“The foundations of the business have never been stronger, and we are very clear in our strategy that the path to profitability is consumer adoption and usage,” he said.

Kumar revealed that it will continue to use third-party logistics partners to deliver products to their clients after having developed a logistics ecosystem over a period of time,

“We offer them our technology, expertise, and we train them to deliver Jumia packages,” he said.

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