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Why we invested: Jumia, creating jobs to power last-mile e-commerce in Uganda

Jul 31, 2023 | Why We Invested

By Enock Wangila & Wairimu Gitahi 

Digital technologies are already reshaping work and creating new job prospects in Africa thanks largely to smartphone and mobile broadband penetration, which grew twentyfold between 2010 and 2020. These trends have fueled the rise of sectors like e-commerce and fintech. 

While mobile internet coverage is expanding, many people in rural areas remain excluded. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the widest coverage gap between rural and urban areas, at 17%. Addressing this “last mile” challenge is crucial in rural areas considering the limited internet coverage, lower digital literacy, and weak logistic and digital infrastructure, which contribute to the limited awareness, trust, and access to e-commerce opportunities.

Jumia is the largest pan-African e-commerce platform, present across 11 countries in Africa. It is ideally positioned to innovate ways and methods for reaching rural and remote users. To do so, the company launched the J-Force sales program, a gig-based model for independent sales agents to expand Jumia’s reach. J-Force agents give customers without internet access or low confidence in navigating e-commerce platforms an easier and more comfortable way to access e-commerce. Since over 70% of Uganda’s 48 million people live in rural areas, the success of the J-Force model is critical to access this bulk of the market. Moreover, we have seen that such agent models can create exciting opportunities for agents to earn a living.

Jumia introduced the J-Force model in response to the unique market conditions and consumer behaviors in Africa, where traditional e-commerce faced challenges due to low levels of trust and the prevalence of social commerce, which has gained significant popularity in Africa.

Anyone willing to sell Jumia goods can become a J-Force agent, provided they have a smartphone, internet access, and a valid email address. They also need to register an account with J-Force and get basic training. To make sales, agents require customers to simply identify the items they want via an app. Next, a J-Force customer service calls the customer to confirm the order. The order is then delivered within seven days, and the customer pays the agent on delivery. J-Force sales agents get a commission from every transaction, thereby contributing to productive livelihoods in Uganda.

The J-Force hybrid model offers a compelling proposition compared to the traditional youth employment programs that spend so much money on cash grants for inventory. These grants are risky because the invested stock might not sell or generate sufficient returns, and their high cost limits their capacity to create jobs at scale. In contrast, J-Force is an innovative solution that leverages technology, eliminating the need for upfront inventory investment, and does not require the agents to have prior experience. This level of autonomy and flexibility is particularly appealing to the youth and female demographic.

Uganda’s e-commerce market shows great promise for rapid growth. With a young population, growing internet access, and high demand for convenient and affordable products and services, the country is well-positioned to embrace the potential of e-commerce.

The non-stringent process of becoming a J-Force agent will create job opportunities for refugees. Uganda is home to the largest refugee population in Africa, with more than 1.5 million refugees residing there. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate among these refugees stands at 31%. In light of this situation, J-Force recognizes an opportunity to make a positive impact by providing informal employment opportunities for these refugees while increasing its market reach.

E-commerce has significant potential to create as many as 3 million jobs by 2025, directly in online marketplaces, supporting services, and spin-off economic activity. The success of e-commerce in Africa will depend on solutions providing hybrid offerings, such as Jumia’s J-Force platform, which captures rural and urban consumers who jointly make the critical mass required for sustainability.


The Jobtech Alliance is an ecosystem-building initiative around inclusive jobtech in Africa launched in late 2021. We’re interested in digital platforms which connect people to work opportunities that build livelihoods – this includes gigmatching platforms, job matching, e-commerce marketplaces, and more. The Jobtech Alliance helps jobtech platforms to grow and create more jobs.


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