Copia layoffs in Kenya signal more disruption of B2C buying platforms

By our News Team | 2023

Tough competition among Africa’s B2C e-commerce platforms in an economically challenging environment causes further redundancies.

The upheaval amongst Africa’s business-to-consumer e-commerce buying platforms continues, with Kenyan-based Copia recently laying off around 350 employees out of a workforce of 1,800. This equates to 20-25% of staff.

This is in addition to 50 Copia staff previously made redundant in Kenya in early 2023, and the closure of its Uganda business activities in April, which resulted in around 300 people losing their jobs.

E-commerce 2

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

The Ugandan business only operated for about two years and was supposed to signal an Africa expansion strategy for Copia, which uses an agent-led business model to target consumers in rural and partly urbanised areas. It sells both grocery and non-food products.

In a statement supplied to the Kenyan tech news website, Techweez, Copia said: “Given that the economic downturn and the constrained capital markets are likely to continue for some time, Copia is optimising a number of key processes in its operations in Kenya to provide a better service to its customers and to drive sustained operating profitability.”

It added “This limited restructuring process is intended to ensure that during these economically challenging times, we will continue to focus our resources on the critical levers of business success and remain a lean and sustainable business for the long-term.”

According to Techweez, with the recent rounds of layoffs, Copia joins a list of other technology companies that have downsized due to the uncertain economic landscape in Kenya.

African e-commerce environment in a state of flux

In its most recent issue, (Issue 2 2023), Strategic Marketing for Africa, the magazine of the African Marketing Confederation, reported that Africa’s B2C e-commerce sector, with its ‘Amazon lookalikes’ and ‘Walmart lookalikes’, is in a state of flux.

“The early disruptors are themselves being disrupted by new challengers, changing economic circumstances, and greater competition from the bricks-and-mortar retailers, which are evolving into sophisticated multi-channel and omni-channel operations,” the magazine said.

“There is also the reality that the sector’s success is based on satisfying the middle-class consumer with a reasonable level of disposable income, or those consumers just below it. In many sub-Saharan African countries, that segment varies from moderate in size to wafer-thin – and is likely shrinking as the global inflationary trends and economic instability of 2022-23 hit home.”

In its analysis of the Copia layoffs, Trend Type, the London-based emerging markets consultancy, says they are a sign of pressure in the wider ecommerce funding space in African markets – but particularly in Kenya, which has the highest number of grocery buying platforms of any country in Africa. These include Twiga, Wasoko, Marketforce and Nigerian-headquartered Omnibiz.

“In Copia’s favour it exited Uganda early to focus on Kenya. Wasoko, meanwhile, has exited Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire but still stretches across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and now Zambia,” Trend Type says.

“Twiga continues to operate in Uganda. Marketforce operates in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria. Omnibiz’s main market is Nigeria – Kenya is its expansion market.”

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.