In 2021, Copia Group expanded into Uganda to provide "its unique mobile commerce service to millions of middle-class Ugandans". At the time, Tracey Turner, Copia Global Founder and Chair said that "Uganda has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world with a hard-working population and a dynamic entrepreneurial culture. Copia is designed specifically to serve this high growth but underserved consumer base who want access to high-quality products at the best prices."
He also described it as a next step in fulfilling Copia's mission. Barely two years later, the economic downturn and constrained capital markets has forced the company to shut its Ugandan operations. "This decision is consistent with many of the best companies in Africa and across the world, which are responding to the market environment and prioritizing profit," Tim Steel, CEO at Copia Global, said in a statement seen by Benjamindada.com.
Although this restructuring is the company's move to focus on profitability, the CEO says the company will relaunch in Uganda and other parts of the continent in the near future. According to Steel, "Our Uganda business successfully demonstrated the demand for and replicability of the Copia model in bringing e-commerce to the Africa mass market."
Just last year, Copia launched a 24,000 square feet Fulfillment Centre to make up for the increased demand for its services across 14 districts in the country.
With this exit, Steel said that the company will double down on its operations in Kenya. "The Kenya entity is rapidly growing its e-commerce service, providing middle-income consumers with an unrivaled high-quality, low-cost, distribution capability, built on a network of more than 50,000 agents. This service also provides local manufacturers with a unique, efficient route to market," he added.
In Kenya, Copia currently has about 11 regional depots and one fulfillment centre at Tatu City—Kenya's first operational special economic zone. Recently, the B2B e-commerce startup launched private label pulses as part of its growing range of private label offerings to its consumers, this was months after the company unveiled a new manufacturing unit to increase its output of affordable sugar and rice to the Kenyan market.
How Copia works?
Since its launch, Copia has drawn the attention of investors who have invested at least $103 million. Last year, the company raised $50 million in a Series C equity round led by Goodwell Investments.
"Copia's e-commerce model is built for the unique requirements of the African market and will save many Africans a lot of time and money. We see it as one of the next big leapfrogging technologies; just like mobile phones leapfrogged landlines and solar power leapfrogged the grid, Copia is leapfrogging retail," according to Els Boerhof, the managing partner at Goodwell Investments.
Unlike other e-commerce models, Copia customers walk into stores of partnered agents who place orders on their behalf, take payments and serve as delivery points. "We established relationships with agents in these areas because those agents are trusted members of the community and through them we build a direct relationship with the consumer," Steel said in a previous interview.
These users can also make orders through USSD codes and website; which mainly targets people in urban areas.