Why is Zandaux Often called the “Alibaba of Africa”?
This is not the first time an e-commerce start-up in Africa has been likened to a global industry giant. In the early days of Jumia, the start-up was literally called “the Amazon of Africa” in both Africa and foreign press. It's indisputable that there are similarities in terms of business models between Zandaux and Alibaba. However, this cannot and should not provide the ground for the Zandaux start-up model to be called a local version of a global incumbent company.
Unlike China, Africa is a continent with 54 borders which are often characterized by extremely weak trade linkages between countries. While Chinese companies are directly exposed to their entire country's market potential of 1.4 billion people (as of 2022), in Africa the reality is different. The continent enjoys a highly coveted similar figure but local African businesses barely reach their countries' immediate neighbour's markets. As a result, a full continental market reach has always been an unrealistic expectation for African small and medium size businesses.
In short, Zandaux may have made use of the same technology which is e-commerce (widely available since the late 90s) as well as the business model, however, the problems and challenges addressed are very different. The Chinese business environment is not to be compared with Africa.
For those who are not familiar with Zandaux, it is an African B2B e-commerce start-up based in Nairobi. It provides African manufacturers, producers, suppliers, wholesalers, and distributors with a multi-vendor digital marketplace platform. With its holistic approach, the start-up seeks to support African small, medium, and big size enterprises by providing them with a direct channel to market their products across the continent. At Zandaux it is believed that the lack of intensive cross-border trading activities is due to the absence of market visibility.
For example, a small business in Ghana producing African artistic artefacts cannot sell in bulk to Kenya or any other country in Africa - not because there is no market for their merchandise, but because there is no visibility between the African markets. Zandaux is helping boost intra-Africa trade by creating opportunities for African local traders. The easy-to-access b2b digital marketplace is designed to make market information across the continent available to all. A logic that is completely in line with the start-up vision of becoming the world's most inclusive B2B e-commerce solution for small, medium, and large enterprises regardless of their country or region of origin.