Naspers, the most valuable company in Africa, has once again been defeated by an internet business in Nigeria. WeChat, the free messaging and calling app managed in Africa by Naspers has closed its Nigerian operations and moved to South Africa, reports say. WeChat was developed by China’s Tencent, which is 34% owned by Naspers.
Based in South Africa, Naspers has attempted to grow online business in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, for the past 10 years. It has tried marketplace websites, classifieds and apps, but it has had more misses than hits. In 2011, Naspers shut down Kalahari, its Amazon-inspired e-commerce platform, following slow growth in Nigeria and a year later, it collapsed its classifieds site Dealfish into OLX, buying a stake in the latter. In 2013, Naspers also shut down Mocality, its online business directory firm, in Nigeria and Kenya.
Other Naspers-backed businesses remain operational in Nigeria. Careers24, an online job portal, was launched in 2014 with the aim of usurping Jobberman as Nigeria’s leading job portal but it has so far failed to meet that target. BitX, a Singapore-based bitcoin startup launched last year in Nigeria and backed by Naspers, is yet to gain significant traction. Naspers’ 50% stake in Konga, a leading online mall and marketplace in Nigeria, is acknowledged as its sole “thriving” investment in the Nigerian internet space.
Naspers’ internet businesses account for more than two-thirds of its revenue. But the company’s value is driven by its stake in Tencent, acquired in 2001. Now worth about $70 billion, Naspers’ Tencent stake is about as valuable as the South African company’s entire market cap.