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15 CEOs to watch 2015: Sim Shagaya

15 CEOs to watch 2015: Sim Shagaya

Sim Shagaya, Founder and CEO, Konga.Com, Nigeria

There are few companies that so aptly embody Nigeria’s nascent technology potential as Konga.com. The e-commerce business, which sells everything from books to white goods, has moved swiftly through the gears since launching in 2012, reaching a peak on the so-called ‘Black Friday’ sales, when 50m naira ($278,000) worth of deals were being processed by the site every hour.

To get there, however, the company has had to solve the myriad distribution and infrastructure challenges of working in Nigeria – not least the scant penetration of credit cards into the local economy.

At the head of this transformation from start-up to Nigeria’s e-commerce powerhouse is the company’s charismatic CEO, Sim Shagaya.

Shagaya went from two years in the Nigerian army to Harvard Business School, and then into a career in finance and technology, ending up back in Nigeria as head of Google’s African business. He went on to found a billboard advertising business before moving back into the online world.

International players have bet big on Konga.com. The Swedish venture capital fund Kinnevik put down $3.5m in 2013, and injected a further $25m in January 2014 – at the time, the single largest amount raised by any start-up in Africa. A month later, the South African media giant Naspers invested $50m. Both Naspers and Kinnevik added to their investments in a further round at the end of 2014.

The pace of Konga.com’s expansion in Nigeria will partly be determined by how rapidly broadband and banking services can reach the country’s enormous consumer base, but the company’s big investors will expect growth, and it is likely that the ‘African Amazon’ will be making a play for the continent’s other main markets in 2015.

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Written by Alexa Dalby

Alexa Dalby is a freelance arts and business journalist, with over 20 years varied experience of writing and broadcasting about Africa, and is currently assistant editor of African Business and African Banker magazines. She is a film critic and a specialist in African and Middle Eastern cinema.

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