Rocket Internet’s Africa Internet Group raises $326M from Goldman Sachs and others

By Jon Russel for Techcrunch

Fresh from pulling in $83 million from European insurance giant AXA last month, Africa Internet Group (AIG) — the Rocket Internet-backed company behind e-commerce siteJumia — has announced that it has raised a much larger €300 million ($326 million) in fresh funding.

That sum includes that previously disclosed chunk of money from AXA — which valued AIG at over $1 billion, by the way, making it Africa’s first tech unicorn — and participation from existing stakeholders MTN, an Africa mobile operator, and Rocket Internet as well as new backer Goldman Sachs. (Rocket Internet watchers will recall Goldman invested in Food Panda last year, and Rocket Internet tends to attract repeat investors once they buy into its philosophy.)

Jumia is one of Rocket Internet’s (many) Amazon-like emerging market e-commerce plays. The company was formed in 2012, and today it covers 11 African countries. Unlike some of Rocket Internet’s vertical plays, Jumia covers fashion, electronics and more. The idea is to put a tent pole down in Africa’s emerging online commerce early on, and then reap the rewards as increased Internet access and growing middle classes increase demand for e-commerce. That’s the same blueprint Rocket Internet companies employ in Latin America, Asia and other places, but Africa is a more extreme testbed.

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AIG runs a number of Rocket Internet-backed services in Africa, including its Uber rival Easy Taxi, Hellofood and travel booking site Jovago, but this new funding has been earmarked for Jumia. AIG was pretty general about how it will deployed stating only that it will “significantly strengthen the balance sheet of AIG enabling the company to leverage the significant growth of Jumia and to capitalize on the significant opportunities in Africa.”

“From the very first investment in Jumia, we have been consistently impressed by both the high-quality management team and growth trajectory. We believe that Jumia is a proven winner and that it will continue to be the leading e-commerce platform in Africa,” Rocket Internet CEO Oliver Samwer said in a canned statement.

 Last month we reported that Jumia is exploring new financial products, inspired by Asia, to help overcome issues like low credit card penetration and bank usage and enable more consumers and retailers to use its service. You can imagine that the new round will go towards these initiatives and other projects that help increase awareness of Jumia and grow the size of its addressable market.

“Many of the consumers and small businesses we work with do not have access to financing, credit ratings, or other financial services,” AIG CEO Sacha Poignonnec told TechCrunch contributor Jake Bright. “We’ve been looking at some examples in India and Indonesia where consumers can gain access to loans, ratings, and financial services through performance on e-commerce platforms.”

AIG may now be a unicorn, but the company isn’t talking about its profit or loss figures for now. Poignonnec did disclose that the company did €206 million ($224 million) in revenue during the first nine months of last year, a figure that he said represents 265 percent growth on the previous year. But that’s all we have for now. The main focus is certainly on future growth and potential, as is the case with many of Rocket Internet’s green field projects in emerging markets.

“We are impressed by AIG’s pan-African operations and execution capabilities, and believe the combination of strategic partners and management’s demonstrated expertise uniquely position the company’s ecosystem to play a leading role in the development of Africa’s online economy”, Goldman Sachs’ Jules Frebault said in a statement.


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