[UPDATE April 12 2019]: It’s official; Jumia has finally IPOed. Read about it here.
Last week, barely a month after reports of its impending IPO intensified, Jumia made things official by filing to list on the New York Stock Exchange.
According to the FORM F-1 filed by Jumia with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the eCommerce giant’s principal executive office is based in Germany. This begs the question of whether Jumia is truly an African company after all.
The official name used in the filing is Jumia Technologies AG. The ‘AG’ behind the name is an abbreviation for Aktiengesellschaft, which is a German term for a stock corporation. But unlike its parent company, Rocket Internet AG whose shares are publicly traded in the Western European country, Jumia Technologies AG isn’t.
Prior to changing its name to Jumia Technologies AG in December 2018, the company had been conducting business as Africa Internet Holding GmbH (GmbH being the Germany equivalent of a private limited company) and its subsidiaries.
Jumia maintains locally registered subsidiaries in every African country it operates in. In Nigeria for instance, the company is running as Ecart Internet Services Nigeria Limited, which is referenced in the Initial Public Offering (IPO) filing as one of the companies subsidiaries.
There is no mention of Jumia’s African co-founders, Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afeador in the filing. Understandably so, as they both exited the company in 2014. As at press time, only Jumia’s Wikipedia page lists the former co-CEOs as one of the four co-founders.
Even ‘Vamido Global Services Nigeria Limited’, which one of the former co-CEOs said Jumia was registered as in the country, isn’t referenced in the filings either.
To the earlier question about the African identity of Jumia. What makes a company African? As stated in the filing, the company was incorporated in Germany with its central headquarters in the United Arab Emirates. Which means the company couldn’t have filed for IPO as African because it was never incorporated in the continent.
Jumia’s claim to an African identity appears to be on the ground that the continent is its major market. This is relatable, as companies primarily serving the continent are mostly considered as African startups in most funding reports about African companies. Even a number of prominent Nigerian internet companies are incorporated in the United States, perhaps for a better chance at getting foreign investment.
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The choice of Germany for the incorporation of Jumia maybe tied with its roots in Rocket Internet, which itself is a German company operating in Africa through locally incorporated companies as subsidiaries.