Jumia Enlists Andre Iguodala for Some Muscle in Silicon Valley

The move comes as online competition intensifies in Africa

The tech-savvy NBA player will serve as an ambassador for the Nigerian ecommerce platform in Silicon Valley. Getty Images
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Full-time NBA player and part-time tech enthusiast/investor Andre Iguodala is joining African ecommerce platform Jumia as an ambassador and a board member.

Iguodala will promote business development and technology in the U.S. on behalf of Lagos-based Jumia, the online marketplace founded in 2012 that sells 6 million products from more than 50,000 brands in 14 African countries, including Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa and Egypt.

“We appreciate his commitment and passion for the tech industry and for Africa, and we can’t wait to collaborate and accelerate our impact on the continent,” said Jumia co-founder Sacha Poignonnec in a statement. “Having Andre join our board sends the world the message that Africa has successful companies and great entrepreneurs, and that athletes can play a key role in contributing to their success.”

Iguodala, a 14-year NBA veteran who plays for the Golden State Warriors, is also passionate about the tech industry. Per his NBA.com profile, he even cited post-NBA career opportunities in the Bay Area as one of the reasons he signed with the Warriors in 2013.

Iguodala is indeed active in Silicon Valley. He and teammate Stephen Curry led the inaugural Players Technology Summit in 2017, which brought together the tech, VC and sports communities. Iguodala also headed up the NBPA Tech Summit in 2016, which helped provide current and former NBA players with connections to media and tech executives to identify opportunities during and after their basketball careers. Additionally, he spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in September 2015 about basketball, business and tech.

According to Jumia, he is also a prolific investor in ecommerce startups, including sneaker marketplace Goat, men’s wellness startup Hims, electric scooter company Lime, health and beauty company Walker & Co., direct-to-consumer footwear brand AllBirds, mattress company Casper and socks startup Stance. Now, he will evangelize for Jumia in Silicon Valley.

“Because of my Nigerian heritage, Jumia’s use of technology to deliver innovative online services to consumers and improve the quality of everyday life in Africa is very important to me,” Iguodala said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this unique enterprise that is shaping the future of digital Africa.”

"Because of my Nigerian heritage, Jumia’s use of technology to deliver innovative online services to consumers and improve the quality of everyday life in Africa is very important to me."
-Andre Iguodala

Jumia has worked with consumers in Africa across delivery, pickup and payment. It collaborates with local companies that are familiar with neighborhoods that do not necessarily have addresses, and it introduced pickup stations in cities like Accra, Lagos and Nairobi for customers who want a physical presence. Jumia also allows customers to pay in cash or use a Paypal-like service called JumiaPay, as many consumers are unbanked—or, if they do have credit/debit cards, they don’t want to use them online.

The addition of the NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist certainly gives Jumia star power—and it comes at a time when ecommerce is growing on the African continent. Jumia’s biggest competitor is, arguably, Walmart, which has held a majority stake in African consumer goods retailer Massmart since 2010. Massmart has more than 425 locations in Africa (although 389 of those locations are in South Africa).

In a fact sheet about its operations in Africa last fall, Walmart cited rapid growth in online shopping and digital activation, which has changed how consumers shop. It said online sales grew by 47 percent in 2017. “We are continually expanding and improving our online/e-commerce offering at [electronics retailer] DionWired, Makro and Builders to meet this behavior,” it said.

Walmart has also created a Massmart-led Supplier Development Programme in South Africa to provide small- and medium-sized businesses—particularly those run by women and people of color—access to Massmart’s supply chain, which is notably Jumia-like.

Amazon, on the other hand, is clearly a strong competitor in global markets like the U.K., Germany and Japan, but its presence in Africa is more limited. In March 2017, it announced its acquisition of online marketplace Souq, which operates in Egypt, as well as in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. In December 2017, it announced the Amazon Global Store for customers in the UAE, but it appears to have since expanded to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Like Jumia, Souq caters to the local market by enabling shoppers to buy products in Arabic or English, to pay in AED and to select multiple payment options, including cash on delivery. In addition, customers see prices inclusive of import fee deposits so there are no surprise fees later on. It also boasts hassle-free customs clearance and customer service in Arabic or English.

“We’re trusted by millions, because we don’t just deliver to your doorstep—we were born here,” Souq says.

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.