HumanIPO caught up with Africa Internet Holding (AIH) managing director Jeremy Hodara to discuss opportunities in Africa, AIH strategies and goals on the continent and the achievements of companies such as Jumia and Lendico.
HumanIPO: Can you sum up the AIH approach to starting businesses in Africa?
Hodara: AIH brings together all the key elements required to build great companies: team, concept, technology, and capital. Further, AIH is all about entrepreneurship and
we understand the importance of each individual local market in order to adapt to societies, needs and infrastructure.
Why do your startups expand to different locations so quickly?
We believe in online as a truly global megatrend and the African countries catching up faster than others. Our accelerated growth is proof that customers enjoy the services and products available. Thus, we work hard to bring these products across the whole African region to create jobs and accelerate the digital shift.
Have you identified specific industries you think are ripe?
The e-commerce sector is a particularly exciting area in Africa, because people are hungry for consumption. Whether it is fashion or technical devices, we deliver the same products as anywhere else in the world. But we cover diverse industries who are developing fast including traveling, finance, real estates, food or cars.
Can you see yourselves launching in any different industries?
Our portfolio is constantly expanding and we want to be as fast as the internet industry. So you never know what comes up. Our newest venture, Lendico, which launched in South Africa in April, marks AIH’s first move into the finance sector with a P2P lending platform.
Is yours a more European or African operation? What room is there for African entrepreneurs?
This is clearly an African operation. In our companies we have more than 2,500 entrepreneurs and they stand for our success stories and bring creativity, innovation and experience of the region to the project. Africans are born to be entrepreneurs and these talents join us every day. In Nigeria several new startups launched with people from our network. Employees who started their journey with us, made their experiences and now have their own businesses.
Is there a shortage of funding for startups in Africa?
Not at all – now is the perfect time to invest in Africa and its future. Of course, we had to overcome very difficult challenges – for example logistical setups – but now we are growing at a tremendous rate, and the potential is undoubtedly enormous
Which venture has gained the most traction?
Jumia naturally had a bit of a head start since it was the first AIH venture we launched in 2012, so now it is the most widely recognised around the world. Although Jumia has set the bar high for AIH ventures, the other eight ventures are fast catching up, and we are confident that they will all be household names throughout Africa by the end of the year.
How far in the future are returns for investors?
MTN, Millicom and Rocket Internet are all committed to the shared goal of developing digitalisation and e-commerce in Africa. Whilst this is a long-term project, AIH recognises the potential in the region and is acting to seize the opportunities these markets offer. Profitability is important, and is one of our objectives, but for now we focus on sustainable growth that will generate jobs and popularise e-commerce in the region. We want to be profitable once we have grown enough.
Have you had to rethink strategy at all since you entered Africa?
Our core values remain the same, but we certainly have to adapt our strategy for every new market we enter into. For Africa, this is even more important since the level of infrastructure varies so much from region to region.
What is MTN bringing to the table?
We work closely together and found a great partner with over 200 million subscribers. Just a few weeks ago we announced a partnership with Jumia Ivory Coast. Customers across Ivory Coast will now be able to pay for their purchases with MTN’s Mobile Money. We will roll out similar partnerships across the continent.