Lagos tech > Nairobi tech, Europe’s Libya hypocrisy, lost Somali tapes

Hi, Quartz Africa readers!

A necessary evolution

Back in 2013, when e-commerce was just starting to take off in Nigeria, I made my first online purchase. The experience captured the industry’s struggles at the time. It took five weeks for the perfume I ordered to be delivered. The reason given was the delivery personnel had problems finding my address in Lagos’ outer suburbs. Being a “pay on delivery” order, the company couldn’t notch that order as a sale until the delivery was completed, despite presumably incurring costs throughout the five-week period with delivery attempts. In many similar situations, the delayed deliveries have often resulted in order cancellations.

Like many others who had reservations about how well e-commerce could work in Nigeria’s complex market, the experience put a long-term dent in any hope we had arrived in a brand new world.

Earlier this week, several years—and tens of millions of investment dollars later, we were reminded just how tough e-commerce is in Africa’s largest economy. Konga, one of Nigeria’s biggest e-commerce players, fired around 60% of its staff and adopted several changes to the business model including shuttering its warehouse, starting to charge merchants to post items, and axing its popular pay-on-delivery option for customers. Some of Konga’s competitors had also stopped the pay-on-delivery option given security issues for delivery personnel and frequency of cancelled orders.

Running warehouses and managing inventory has been a major challenge for many of these companies. Importing popular shopping traditions like “Black Friday” didn’t do much to help either. Even though Black Friday quickly became Nigerian e-commerce’s biggest shopping day of the year, customers soon figured out that many of the discounts were not what they promised. This ended up handing the initiative to traditional retailers like Shoprite for the best deals.

There are those who believe shedding the pay-on-delivery option is the first step towards truly enabling digital commerce and resetting the industry. The timing could be fortuitous as several local payment startups have started to transform online transactions.  This will help e-commerce businesses focus on significantly improving service delivery and help reduce skepticism about the nascent industry.

While the pay-on-delivery option was a workaround in the early days of e-commerce, companies now appear to be evolving as they chase big dreams of dominating the retail. The first step, after all, is to know your market.

Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Lagos correspondent

Stories from this week

Lagos is set to shoot past Nairobi as Africa’s startup capital. Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos has eclipsed Nairobi as a hub for Africa’s  startups, attracting more investments and the opening of major tech hubs from Google and Facebook. And while Lagos is still the ultimate space to access both finance and customers, Nigeria’s southeast region has started producing its next generation of startups in a fast-growing tech ecosystem.

Europe’s outrage over the migrant slave trade in Libya is hypocritical. The recent images of captured African migrants being traded in Libya incited outrage in both African and European capitals. But as Joe Penney writes, the EU itself plays a role in abetting the mistreatment of these Africans with the strategy it has pursued in Libya to prevent migrants getting to Europe’s shores.

What France’s Macron really means when he says Africa needs to look after itself.

Long-time Francafrique watcher 

Siddhartha Mitter parses

the true meaning of French president Emmanuel Macron’s “Big Africa speech” during a state visit to Burkina Faso this week. “Where past presidents went formal and flowery, Macron went casual and scrappy.”

South Sudan’s young are coping with war by clubbing in the daytime. The devastating civil war that has plagued South Sudan has made it risky to get around the country, let alone move at night. With photos by Samir Bol, Lily Kuo reports from Juba on how young people have embraced daytime revelry to maintain some normalcy in the face of conflict.

The lost Somali tapes that are now nominated for a Grammy. The album Sweet as Broken Dates was compiled from Somali songs lost in a dusty archive in Hargeisa city. After decades of not being listened to, the classic mixtape is now nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Historical album.

Kenya’s fast-growing betting industry is leaving young people broke and suicidal. With the growth of betting platforms in Kenya has come the danger of compulsive gambling, leaving many young people broke and depressed. As Abdi Latif Dahir points out, this trend is enabled by the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile technology. 

Chart of the week

Broadband is still too expensive in most of Africa. In many African countries, the price for broadband internet is usually very expensive, especially in landlocked countries or rural areas. Besides pricing, inadequate digital infrastructure and achingly-slow download speeds continue to define the internet across Africa.

Image for article titled Lagos tech > Nairobi tech, Europe’s Libya hypocrisy, lost Somali tapes

Other Things We Liked

The dangers and opportunities of Nigeria’s garbage economy. The world is burdened ever more so by mounds of garbage, contributing to epidemics and deadly virus outbreaks. The situation is even more acute in Nigeria, where people have died from proximity and interaction with these heaps of waste, reports Kevin Sieff for the Washington Post.

The true story of the fake US embassy in Ghana. In 2016, the story of a fake US embassy operating in Ghana attracted the attention of both media outlets and foreign governments. For the Guardian, Yepoka Yeebo discovers in Accra there is a growing and vibrant shadow visa industry.

Tracing the humanitarian disaster plaguing Lake Chad. As Lake Chad shrinks rapidly, millions of people who depended on it are facing displacement, unable to fend for their families or find work. In The New Yorker, Ben Taub documents how the convergence of climate change, food insecurity, weak statehood, and violent extremism is creating a complex humanitarian emergency.

Keep an eye on

Abantu Book Festival (Dec. 7-10). The Abantu festival in Johannesburg features African literary works and is a space for black writers to showcase their work and engage in dialogue about topical issues.

African parliamentary delegations visit Israel (Dec. 5). The largest delegation of African parliamentary speakers representing Uganda, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Seychelles, and South Sudan are expected to visit the Israeli Knesset to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, Somali mixtapes and cheap African broadband coupons to You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.

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