By Mark Kawalya
Copia Global, a Kenyan e-commerce startup, has closed operations in Uganda less than two years after the firm set up shop in the country. The startup cited the current economic downturn and capital shortfalls as some of the factors that led to the decision.
The decision to enter the Ugandan market was backed up by a drive to provide a mobile commerce service to millions of Ugandans. At the time, Tracey Turner, Copia Global Founder and Chair, said that “Uganda has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world, with a hard-working population and a dynamic entrepreneurial culture. Copia is designed specifically to serve this high growth but underserved consumer base who wants access to high-quality products at the best prices.”
After raising US$50 million last year, the firm embarked on a plan of expanding its footprint into several African markets including Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia. Mozambique. Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
More than 350 jobs in Uganda are expected to be impacted, according to information from the firm.
By pausing its African expansion and suspending operations in Uganda, Copia will be able to accelerate its drive to profitability. The firm will focus its resources on operations in Kenya, enabling the business to reach profitability faster, before resuming its African expansion plan.
“The Kenya entity is rapidly growing its e-commerce service, providing middle-income consumers with an unrivaled high-quality, low-cost, distribution capability, built on a network of more than 50,000 agents. This service also provides local manufacturers with a unique, efficient route to market,” Tim Steel Copia Global’s CEO said.
He added that the company will seek to relaunch in Uganda and other parts of Africa in the future when conditions are more favourable. “Our Uganda business successfully demonstrated the demand for and replicability of the Copia model in bringing e-commerce to the Africa mass market.” He added.
Copia has set up 11 regional depots and one fulfillment center in Kenya at Tatu City. The startup recently added private label pulses to its private label range of goods it offers its clientele. This followed the setting of a new manufacturing unit to boost the firms output of reasonably priced sugar and rice for the Kenyan market.