Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec step down as Jumia co-CEOs

African e-commerce giant Jumia has made a change in management as co-founders Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec step down effective today as co-CEOs, according to a statement seen by TechCrunch.

The two founders, who until today shared the chief executive role, have been at the helm of Africa’s only publicly traded company on the NYSE for over a decade, overseeing Jumia’s pan-African expansion across 11 countries as well as its product journey that now includes a marketplace, JumiaPay, its payment arm and a logistics platform.

Francis Dufay, who previously held the CEO role at one of Jumia’s top markets, Ivory Coast, will now replace both co-founders as acting CEO, the company’s Supervisory Board said in the statement. Dufay has been with Jumia since 2014, holding multiple senior leadership roles, more recently, executive VP Africa, responsible for the group’s e-commerce business across the continent.

According to the Supervisory Board, Dufay and Antoine Maillet-Mezeray -- previously Jumia’s Group chief financial officer -- have been appointed members of the company’s Management Board. Maillet-Mezeray, having stayed with Jumia for over six years and driving the company’s finance function and “further developing it in a public market context,” has earned a promotion too: executive vice president, Finance & Operations.

“We thank Jeremy and Sacha for their leadership over the last decade to envision and build a company that became the leading pan-African e-commerce player,” Jonathan Klein, chairman of the Supervisory Board, said of the announcement.

As we look ahead to the next chapter of Jumia’s journey, we want to bring more focus to the core e-commerce business as part of a more simplified and efficient organization with stronger fundamentals and a clearer path to profitability. We look forward to working closely with Francis, Antoine and the leadership team to execute these objectives and continue our mission of offering a compelling e-commerce platform to consumers, sellers and the broader Jumia ecosystem in Africa.”

Dufay and Maillet-Mezeray have their work cut out for them. Under the previous management, Jumia never turned a profitable quarter since it went public in 2019 despite the former co-CEOs consistently mentioning how the company was intentional about its path to profitability during quarterly calls. For instance, last quarter, Poignonnec told TechCrunch that Jumia-- projected to have an adjusted EBITDA loss of up to $220 million this year -- was progressing on its path to profitability thanks to more consumers placing more orders leading to expanded revenues and disciplined cost control. “We’re going to double down on that to show some meaningful steps toward profitability, which remains the central objective of our strategy,” the co-chief executive said in the August interview.

His and Hodara’s resignations mean that responsibility is now the new management’s headache. According to the statement seen by TechCrunch, the acting CEO Dufay and his leadership team will be mandated to focus on reducing Jumia’s operating losses and setting the company on a “clear path to profitability.” The newly inaugurated executives are also expected to build more robust fundamentals for the platform’s e-commerce business by refocusing teams and resources on activities and projects that deliver the best-added value to consumers, sellers, and the broader Jumia ecosystem.

These are just the first set of changes at the company. We should expect more senior management shake-ups as the search for a permanent CEO continues. The Supervisory Board said its picks have to be “leaders and decision centers closer to consumers and sellers in Africa,” It will provide more details regarding these moves during its Q3 earnings call this month.

“We are proud to have built Jumia, pioneering e-commerce on the continent and creating along the way a unique culture and a great platform in which millions of consumers and thousands of sellers find great value,” said Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec on their exit. “It is time for us to pass the baton to a new team. We are excited for all that is to come for the business and look forward to cheering the company on from a new vantage point.” They penned their thoughts concerning their exits on LinkedIn here and here.

Hodara and Poignonnec launched Jumia alongside Tunde Kehinde and Kofi Afaedor in 2012. Within its first few years of operation, Jumia faced heavy competition from Konga as the battle for Nigeria’s e-commerce space picked up. However, it wasn’t long before it outpaced its rival thanks to an enormous investment arsenal. The e-commerce platform, which became Africa’s first unicorn in 2016, raised over $850 million over the next couple of years, money it used to expand into new markets and set the stage for its IPO three years later.

But Jumia’s experience at the bourse has been a rollercoaster. The e-commerce giant went public at $14.50 a share at a $1.2 billion valuation; these numbers rose to $49.77 and $3.8 billion the same week. However, after battling several fraud allegations, public relations crises, and increasing losses in back-to-back quarterly reports, investors’ confidence has waned in the company’s ability to become a profitable business. Part of this is evident in Jumia’s share price, which has stayed below $10 throughout 2022; it currently trades at $4.22 per share with a market cap of $420 million.

Despite its setbacks, Jumia has progressed in some aspects of its business, especially in everyday items like FMCG and food delivery. In Q2 2022, Jumia also recorded varying double-digit growth in orders, active quarterly customers, GMV, and revenue. Same with the TPV of its payments arm, JumiaPay; its logistics business, on the other hand, grew in triple-digit quarter-over-quarter in terms of the volume of packages processed.

The article has been updated to include more information on the new management's objectives and Jumia's performance.