Africa’s first tech unicorn listed on the NYSE

I’ve had many conversations with South Africans who tend to look down on the rest of Africa. They have a “single story” idea of what life is like across our borders and so assume that the best of anything in Africa should surely be South African.

It is probably the same ignorant mindset that has led to xenophobic attacks in S.A. Seeing and hearing all of this deepens my obsession with Africa’s economic development.

I think we’ve endured (and continue to endure) so much suffering and I so badly want Africa and all its people to prosper hence the fact that the richest man in Africa is not only black but is also not South African excites me. Mr. Aliko Dangote is proudly brought to us by Nigeria, just like Africa’s largest e-commerce platform Jumia.

Jumia made history last week when it became the first African unicorn to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. A unicorn is a technology start-up company worth $1 billion or more. Shares started trading at $14.50 and the company hopes to raise $196 million by selling 13.5 million ADR shares.

Since the listing, many critics have questioned Jumia’s African credentials arguing that it has french founders, Its parent company is headquartered in Germany or that its technical development centre is in Portugal. That is all inconsequential.

The company was established in Lagos by Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec (Both French) together with Turide Kehinde and Raphael Kofi Afeador who are Nigerian and who later left the company to pursue other business ventures.

It operates in 14 countries (all African), its headquarters are in Ikeja, Lagos, it employs Africans and its largest shareholder is MTN. By my standards, it is African. (We’ll put aside the fact that MTN is planning on reducing its stake in the company for now).

Some critics also argued that Jumia is not profitable and has experienced losses every year since its inception. Even so, the company’s revenue has increased meaning there is a market for their service and it is growing.

This listing is a milestone well worth celebrating, not just for Jumia but for African e-commerce as a whole and I’m glad the honour did not go to a South African company.

Africa’s first tech unicorn listed on the NYSE
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