8 July 2019
It was October 2018 when I first arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, to initiate the development of a B2B e-commerce business with our client team. Six months later, we successfully launched the B2B order platform– a great achievement anywhere in the world, not least in a market like Nigeria.
Leading in the continent in digital solutions
Nigeria is a very interesting place when it comes to digital development: on the one hand, the country is leading the continent in digital solutions, with Jumia – the African answer to Amazon, now active in 14 African countries across multiple verticals – being the first African unicorn with a very recent successful billion-dollar IPO. Also, fintech is booming and solutions are well embedded in Nigerians’ day-to-day lives. They make transactions using USSD services, eWallets are popular, and multiple solutions for receiving loans (real-time!) are used by both consumers and businesses. On the other hand, these solutions do not reach all 200M Nigerians, as the country remains hugely divided when it comes to income and opportunity.
This created many interesting challenges for launching our platform: Internet access is unpredictable, users have very old phones and do not know how to use them, people are not necessarily literate, and so on. Our primary objective was to ensure that our customers would always be able to order products through the platform despite this challenging context. This led to some major adjustments to the order platform, such as creating offline functionalities. But also smaller changes, such as including the difference between what was ordered and what was delivered on the invoice so as to enable business owners to check that their staff had paid the correct amount.
How we worked together
One of my main roles within the team was keeping the team extremely focused on developing what the customer really needs. Initially, I was in the lead for the project and most workstreams (product ownership, system integrations, deployment preparations, etc.) while we built e-commerce skills and handed over to the local team. In turn, the client team brought with them valuable market expertise, knowledge of local systems and access to the client organisation. Now that the time has come for me to leave Lagos, I feel confident that the local team can comfortably run the project and that the platform will be a huge success!