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

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.

“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

Reaction needs an action… boycott their platform or products unless they have 60 % of employees in Africa.

— Jean Njoroge PhD (@shirojean) April 15, 2019

So Jumia scammed our minds to believe that it was ours, which was the only reason why we trusted them enough to support them. Sad

— G (@geesus_x) April 14, 2019

What needs to be done for Afrika needs to be done by afrikaans. Jumia is like the white colonial settlers who while partitioning afrika amongst themselves during dinner parties understood its potential, but unwilling to give its people any legitimate share of their(our*) profit.

— Najma_ (@najmagulled) April 15, 2019

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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