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Kenyan E-commerce Firm Copia Global Shuts Down, Lays Off Remaining Workforce

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In a devastating turn of events, Copia Global, a prominent Kenyan B2B e-commerce platform, has reportedly decided to close its operations and terminate the employment of its entire remaining staff. This move comes just weeks after the company had already laid off over 1,000 workers, citing challenges in securing additional funding.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Copia Global will be distributing termination letters to its remaining 1,500 employees on Friday, June 7, 2024. This final round of layoffs effectively brings an end to the once-promising startup’s journey.

The writing had been on the wall for some time. Last month, when Copia announced the initial wave of job cuts affecting over 1,000 employees, CEO Tim Steel had warned that future uncertainty might force the company to take further drastic measures, including potential closure, if the layoffs failed to alleviate the financial strain.

Launched in 2012, Copia Global had managed to secure a total of $123 million in funding across eight rounds. However, despite announcing a $20 million Series C extension round in December 2023, the company’s struggles to secure additional capital ultimately proved insurmountable.

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On May 24, 2024, Copia Global revealed that it was entering administration, with KPMG’s Makenzi Muthusi and Julius Ngonga overseeing the process. Just a week later, on May 31, the e-commerce platform temporarily suspended orders in six Kenyan markets, including Naivasha, Machakos, Meru, Embu, Kericho, and Eldoret, with employees in those regions reportedly placed on leave.

This isn’t the first time Copia Global has downsized its operations. In April 2023, the company had ceased its operations in Uganda, less than a year after launching there, and let go of up to 700 staff members to focus solely on the Kenyan market due to the “economic downturn and constrained capital markets.” Additionally, in July 2023, Copia had terminated the employment of 350 more staff members in Kenya after initially laying off 50 employees in the country and over 300 in Uganda.

Despite efforts to boost sales, including a partnership with Visa and a campaign for its mobile app in November 2023, Copia Global’s struggles persisted.

According to reports, Muthusi, one of the administrators overseeing Copia Global’s administration process, clarified that while funds had been allocated for May salaries, delays arose due to administrative issues with bank accounts.

Under the administrators’ guidance, Copia Global had been attempting to implement a strategy focused on cost-cutting and profitability. However, with the complete dissolution of its workforce, the e-commerce platform’s future prospects appear bleak.

The closure of Copia Global marks a significant setback for the Kenyan e-commerce industry and serves as a cautionary tale about the challenges of sustaining a business in an increasingly competitive and capital-intensive market.

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