Zeenat Moorad Associate editor: Financial Mail

Some years ago, I attended a retail conference where one of the speakers told anecdotes of how his company was navigating Africa’s infrastructure bottlenecks. He said scooters were the most adept in making deliveries in notoriously chaotic cities like Lagos and as most neighbourhoods didn’t have numbered address grids, drivers asked customers to direct them to their houses over their cellphones. These were, for all intents and purposes, bespoke solutions to the structural challenges many African cities present. Providing tailored solutions is key to cash in on the continent’s e-commerce boom, he said, noting how most customers were paying cash on delivery because very few of them had credit or debit cards, and many who did were afraid of being scammed. The speaker was Sacha Poignonnec, a former McKinsey consultant, who co-founded a company called Jumia. It’s come a long way since then. Jumia now accepts mobile money payments and is starting to use drones to deliver goods. Oh, and it...

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