If African luxury consumers were frustrated by the many pain points in their shopping experience before 2020, the new normal feels even more alienating. While it may be a blessing for local luxury brands on the continent like Rich Mnisi and Xyza Savanna who seem to have benefitted from the increased attention and wallet share from clients like Langa, it is bad news for global brands looking to tap into the continent’s growing $6 billion luxury market. Unless, of course, e-commerce players step in to offer viable solutions to bridge the gap between international brands and African consumers — but will they?

A Dynamic But Fragmented Ecosystem

When Jumia launched in Nigeria in 2012, the e-commerce platform promised consumers a “local and global reach” and urged consumers to trust them with all their shopping needs. The company has since been credited with legitimising e-commerce in a nation that is highly entrepreneurial but one whose economy is still over-reliant on oil and gas revenues.

Jumia was co-founded by Sacha Poignonnec, Jeremy Hodara, Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Kofi Afaedor with financial backing from Rocket Internet, a German investment firm founded by the Samwer brothers that had successfully backed South African fashion retailer Zando in the same year. Jumia’s arch-rival, Konga, was founded in 2012 by Nigerian entrepreneur Sim Shagaya, from a four-bedroom apartment in a Lagos suburb with just 20 employees.

The bad blood that existed between the two competing e-commerce pioneers in the early years is well-known in investment circles. In 2014, Konga reportedly made plans to take legal action against Rocket Internet for allegedly buying Konga domain names in countries like South Africa and Kenya to stifle Konga’s expansion beyond Nigeria. The consequence of these early competitive manoeuvres is that Konga remains a purely domestic Nigerian player while Jumia has grown far and wide across the African continent with country-optimised sites for Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

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