When global economy pundits describe Africa as the next frontier, they are merely reacting to strong stimulus coming from the continent, especially in the areas of improving agro-economy, commerce, internet penetration and increasing capacity to harness the abundance of raw materials within the continent.
Among these stimuli is e-commerce.
Africa is witnessing a quantum leap in internet penetration and increased deployment of internet-enabled handheld mobile devices. This is the fuel driving up e-commerce on the continent once considered a clear outsider in the tech-driven e-commerce ecosystem.
At the cusp of the growing e-commerce market in Africa is Konga, trading under the name konga.com. Since its acquisition in 2018 by Zinox Group, in one of the most discretely executed corporate ‘coups’ and seamless acquisitions on the continent, Konga has continued to beat the odds and confound book-makers.
Within the first two years after its acquisition, Konga had re-invented itself, growing its turnover by over 800 percent, cut inherited serial losses and re-focused its corporate values by being more customer-centric, while deploying superior technology to achieve more. Leveraging light-years-ahead technology, Konga has been able to run lean and mean, delivering last mile in real time ahead of the competition and offering a new threshold of value-for-money in a manner never before witnessed in Nigerian e-commerce bourse.
E-commerce business all over the world comes bundled with several complications. It’s expensive usually with initial huge losses. It’s technology-demanding and requires conscious long-term investment and patience. To ride the tide, operators must work round these treacherous complexities which include heavy investment in back-end technology, innovativeness to adapt to fast-changing consumer tastes and technical paradigm shifts. All of these would require seamless and steady retooling of strategies.
In Africa, e-Commerce is largely the playground of the youths. A huge chunk of the patronage comes from the youths, the nouveau riche, the upwardly mobile, dashing generation of purpose-driven, career-minded men and women who have little time to spare on making physical, in-shop purchases. Konga appeals to this group because its leadership is driven by young men and women who understand the tapestries and nuances of multi-tasking and time-management in the modern era.
Konga’s ownership is truly Africa. This gives it a head-start in the continent’s e-Commerce space. It has been able to combine indigenous manpower with a network of quality foreign technical service providers. An e-Commerce house is as good as its back-end. Top e-Commerce outposts in the world who have remained at the cutting edge of competition despite the inevitable turbulence share a common denominator.
They are the ones that spend big on infrastructure. Back-end infrastructure and manpower capacity drive the process. Konga understands this and has spared nothing in upscaling its infrastructure and upskilling its staff to global standard. Within the first two years of its acquisition, the investors quietly and deliberately built top-notch nationwide facilities and restructured the firm’s technologies to fit into the new vision and ambition of emerging as a global brand.
On May 1, 2018, barely three months after its acquisition, Zinox merged Konga.com with its omni-channel retail outfit, Yudala. The product of that mega-merger was a swifter, bigger company which retained the brand name, Konga. This was how arguably the biggest e-Commerce and retail company in Africa was born. But beyond that, Konga has continued to astound market watchers with its innovativeness in payment services, delivery to last mile and a steady decline in inherited market churn.
Statistics clearly show that soon after the acquisition, Konga customer churn dropped considerably. Customer churn is the rate at which customers stop doing business with an organisation. It’s the percentage of subscribers who discontinue their subscriptions to a service within a given period. In the e-Commerce market, customer churn has been a big issue as some customers after experiencing unsavoury transaction with an e-Commerce house, not only discontinue patronage but enlist to share their ugly experience with friends and people in their network (professionals, business associates and partners etc.) and, in the process win them over to also discontinue patronage of that organisation. This has been one of the downsides of some e-Commerce companies: their inability to retain existing customers, let alone grow their customer base.
A couple of factors are responsible for this. Lack of customer satisfaction, late and untimely delivery of goods to clients, foisting substandard products on customers and poor customer care service are among the reasons for customer-hesitancy and eventual withdrawal of patronage. This is at the root of the poor marketplace performance of many e-Commerce outposts. The new owners of Konga have overcome these drawbacks, using high-end technologies, leveraging on their affiliations with global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and clear understanding of the Nigerian environment.
A handy advantage of the new Konga is the combination of the online e-commerce strength of Konga.com and the nationwide branch network of Yudala. This has helped them to deliver truely omnichannel retail for the first time in Africa.
The heavy behind-the-scene investment in infrastructure within the first 18 months of acquisition coupled with the reliance on physical Experience Centres (neighbourhood well-stocked physical Konga stores) largely ignited the fire of sustainability and profitability. This explains the miracle of Konga breaking even barely three years after the acquisition.
A combination of these factors plus the company’s ability to disrupt the market form the basis for the new push by Konga to list at the London Stock Exchange (LSE). Analysts believe that with its strong showing in Africa, Konga listing on the LSE would raise the bar for African investors hunting fortunes in the global market. It’s considered the game-changer for African investors.
Konga, as an African brand, has shown capacity to adapt, innovate and create value for both customers and investors. Going global will only help its team of young outliers rack up return on investment as well as improve the continent’s business profile on the global investment index.
Data from Statista, a renowned statistics portal, reported that the total value of e-Commerce in Africa grossed $16.5 billion in 2017 and is expected to hit $29 billion by 2022. It’s no surprise that Konga has become the fastest-growing e-Commerce house in Africa. This further underscores the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) e-Commerce Index Report 2018 which placed Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya as accounting for more than half of the online shoppers in Africa.
Nigeria is reputed as Africa’s largest business to consumer e-commerce market in terms of both number of shoppers and revenue and Konga is at the core of this market volume. This is what it’s taking to the global market: an ingrained ability to re-invent itself at all times, innovate through the contours of competition and grow its customer base. When tomorrow comes and Konga, the e-commerce heartbeat of Africa, lists at the LSE, Africa would have made a bold statement: We are not the continent ruined, we are the continent ready to roll.
Author: Ray Umukoro, pan-Africa ICT blogger, writes from Lagos