CONTRIBUTED: By Kingsley ‘Bobby’ Collins
On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, the world awoke to the news that Jeff Bezos, founder of e-commerce giant, Amazon, had further left the rest of the world behind in the wealth accumulation race.
The Amazon boss and world’s richest man is now worth a record $211 billion.
In the process, he became the richest ever person in history and the first to gross $211bn. Reports in the media indicate that the last time anyone neared this amount was in January when Tesla boss, Elon Musk briefly hit $210 billion.
Bezos’ latest jump came after Amazon shares rose 4.7% after the Pentagon announced it was cancelling a cloud-computing contract with Microsoft Corp, which it had rivalled for the juicy contract. The development raised Bezos’s fortune by $8.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Interestingly, Bezos’ rise to the record books of stupendous wealth through his e-commerce money-spinner has also had a direct impact on his ex-wife.
Mackenzie Scott, who parted ways with the Amazon boss in 2019, also saw her wealth jump by $2.9bn on Tuesday, making her the 19th-richest person in the world, according to Forbes. Scott ended up with 4% of Amazon’s shares after she split from Bezos, having helped him start the e-commerce company in 1994 as the first employee. Despite publicly announcing that she has given away over $6bn since she divorced Bezos, the philanthropist ex-wife of the Amazon boss is still worth a massive $59bn. Meanwhile, Scott had recently re-married after falling in love with a science teacher, Dan Jewett, whom she met at her son’s school in Seattle.
Indeed, the rise of Jeff Bezos brings into glaring highlight the unmitigated power of e-commerce.
For many financial experts and other industry watchers, the potential is there for Bezos to eventually smash through the billionaire mark and become the world’s first trillionaire. This is hardly surprising when you consider the sheer potential of the industry and the way it has catapulted Bezos – whom many hardly gave a chance when he started out – to the zenith of the global rich list.
Global spend on e-commerce is at an all-time high and one can hardly bet against any seasoned player in this industry.
Empirical data from Statista, a German-headquartered company focused on market and consumer-based insights reveals that in 2020, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 4.28 trillion US dollars. Further, it projects that e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 5.4 trillion US dollars in 2022. With such huge figures swirling around the industry, it would hardly come as a surprise to see Amazon and its record-breaking former CEO, Bezos re-defining the definition and frontiers of wealth in the 21st Century.
Evidence from advanced economies the world over has shown that e-commerce and, by extension, technology remains arguably the most prominently positioned industry capable of determining the wealth of nations.
If you take a look at the top five list of the most valuable countries in the world, or better still, focus on how countries like the United States of America, the UK and China, have leveraged the power of local enterprise in creating thousands of jobs and ushering in prosperity for generations yet unborn, the pre-eminence of Big Tech and e-commerce behemoths in the mix, cannot be wished away. Undoubtedly, the example of Jeff Bezos, who is currently sprinting away from the rest of the world in the art and science of amassing sustainable wealth, is one that has shown that e-commerce is the future.
Gone are the days when crude oil or fossil fuel was considered the bastion of wealth generation; or when the strength of nations was illustrated in the amassing of arms and warheads.
The 21st Century is slap-bang in the middle of a global e-commerce race, one in which the second half of this century may well usher in a period where nations and entire continents will rely on mega-players as key partners to governments and other sub-national entities in the task of sustainable development and wealth creation.
But where does this leave Africa in the scheme of things?
In 2017, e-commerce in Africa was valued at $16.5 billion, with the sector expected to cross the $75 billion mark by 2025.
However, the reality is that the global e-commerce race is one in which Africa is currently punching lightly in. The continent is in need of a standard-bearer, a reliable leader which it can count on to hold its own in the global scheme of things.
Of all the current players in the African e-commerce space, Konga, a Nigerian-owned platform remains, in my estimation, the most equipped and best placed to deliver the goods.
The reasons are hardly far-fetched.
I have followed e-commerce globally for over 10 years and while Africa is still considered an outlier in the global e-commerce race, the massive strides recorded by Konga over the past three years make the company a powerful candidate that can rival the likes of Amazon and Alibaba, among others.
On a recent trip to Nigeria, I had confirmed the huge excitement that Konga was generating among investors in the international market over a potential listing on world renowned stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the London Stock Exchange. Konga is – to put it in the words of one of my acquaintances, a business partner and one of the UK’s most active angel investors – a pot of gold that he is waiting to put his last dollar in.
According to this acquaintance (who I cannot name owing to privacy concerns), Konga is a business out of Africa that himself and many others, who hold huge investment interest in e-commerce, are following closely. In his opinion, there is currently a waiting game for Konga to go public, even as he disclosed that he had recently reached out to the management of the company on this.
While in Nigeria, my research uncovered quite some interesting facts and opened my eyes to the buzz about Konga.
Indeed, there is hardly any other e-commerce player in Africa that can account for the leverage which Konga is currently enjoying as a result of its composite nature. Brick and mortar stores were a recent addition to the sphere of e-commerce which centred, from inception, on online shopping. But the management of Konga had the insight of being the first to fuse these two channels, thereby opening up a new frontier in the world of e-commerce. It is hardly surprising to see the likes of Amazon following suit.
But this is hardly what has made Konga the ideal candidate to defend Africa’s position in the global e-commerce race.
In Konga, Nigeria and Africa have a brand that has defied the pitfalls that have long been adduced as the downfall of most players on the continent. These include payments, logistics, technology, customer service, warehousing/inventory management, quality of products offered, ethics/corporate governance, strategy/tact and trust.
In all the aforementioned areas, Konga is winning.
Through KongaPay, a mobile wallet licensed by Nigeria’s Central Bank, Konga remains arguably the only e-commerce player in Africa with a certified payment system. Furthermore, Konga has resolved the challenge of logistics which it even aids other external parties troubleshoot through Kxpress, its in-house delivery company. No other company better understands the terrain in Africa’s biggest economy than Konga – a factor that testifies to the edge that the company holds even when pitted against global giants like Amazon and Alibaba on this turf. My findings also reveal that the company owns either directly or indirectly about 14 massive regional warehouses across Nigeria, including the biggest in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve-centre.
In the area of technology, Konga is believed to be home to a well-fortified arsenal of tech talents building and maintaining the many apps driving its operations and keeping many fintech platforms alive in Nigeria. This is in addition to its ongoing investment in cloud computing and AI.
There are reports that the company has also recently diversified into the healthcare sector, with feelers predicting that another major disruption is in the offing.
And in the area of products quality, ethics and trust, Konga has further put a big gap between itself and others. There is a general consensus among thousands of Nigerians who participated in a survey I carried out that Konga remains the most reliable and trusted player in Nigeria’s e-commerce market, which research shows, currently accounts for nearly 35% of the African whole.
Equally worth hailing is the fact that Konga, till date, is yet to raise any form of external investment. This is a big testimony to the belief of the management of the company in its strategies and long-term vision for the business.
There is no disputing the fact that the management of Konga has mined from the experience of its current owners – the Zinox Group – whom I understand, operate arguably Africa’s biggest technology group and who have been in business for many successful years. One can only advise the management of Konga to stay true to their tact and continue to interpret and align with the DNA of their business ideals.
In Konga, Africa has a battle-ready war-horse that the continent can ride on in unlocking the undoubted potential of e-commerce as the new gold.
The earlier the Nigerian Federal Government and its counterparts across the states wake up and embrace this powerful platform, the better for the future fortunes of the country.
Kingsley ‘Bobby’ Collins is a visiting researcher to Nigeria and a global e-commerce enthusiast