Kenyan eCommerce startup, Copia Global, has announced the expansion of its services to Uganda. Having established its presence in the Kenyan market, where it claims to serve over one million customers, the startup has its sights on Uganda’s growing middle class.
Copia Global operates a different model from most eCommerce platforms. Rather than depending on a website, it uses a network of agents spread across the country. When customers need an item, they visit an agent with a digital device to place their order.
After placing their order, the agent sends it to Copia Global, who processes and delivers it within two days when the customer returns to pick it up. By adopting this model, the company can serve people who do not own digital devices or cannot access the Internet. Interestingly, it does all this using USSD technology.
While the startup has a website, it is mainly for customers who live in urban areas. This way, they can order goods and have them delivered to people living in rural communities where Copia Global has agents.
This model is perfect for Uganda, where despite 47% of the population owning mobile subscriptions, only 12 million Ugandans use the Internet. However, its combination of an online and offline model is not exactly novel. In 2019, eCommerce giant, Jumia, partnered with Vivo Energy to use its service stations as pick-up and drop-off points for customers.
According to Founder and Chairman, Tracey Turner, “Uganda has one of the fastest-growing middle classes in the world with a hardworking population and a dynamic entrepreneurial culture. Copia is designed specifically to serve this high growth but underserved consumer base who want access to high-quality products at the best prices.”
According to Crunchbase, the startup has raised $53 million in funding from investors, including LGT Lightstone, Endeavor Catalyst, and Goodwell Investments.
eCommerce startups in Africa have primarily struggled to show a viable market for their services, with Konga sold in 2018 and Jumia’s business struggling despite listing on the New York Stock Exchange. While models like Copia Global’s that seek to serve low-income consumers might seem like the way to go, eCommerce startups need to serve a larger market to make as much revenue as the giants do.