Lawyers and domains: Rocket Internet and Konga to face off

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We told you things in Nigeria’s ecommerce space were about to heat up and at the center of the brewing storm is Konga and everyone’s favourite cookie-cutter company, Rocket Internet. It seems there can be only one in Africa’s ecommerce space and both companies want the title. Rocket is the owner/investor of Jumia, Konga’s biggest competitor.

According to Konga, there is systematic “action being taken to stifle the growth Konga.com” by Rocket Internet. It seems that the Berlin-based ecommerce maker has bought and kept on the domain names of Konga across the continent.

“They have registered 11 domain names related to Konga outside Nigeria and are taking other steps to stifle the growth of Nigerian businesses in the sectors they want to dominate,” said a Konga representative.

Currently the following domain names have been registered: konga.cd, konga.cm, konga.ly,konga.ma, konga.mu, konga.mw, konga.na, konga.sc, konga.sh, konga.co.ke and konga.co.za.

Konga hasn’t taken this lying down. A year ago the company registered jumai.com.ng, a common misspelling people use to when searching for Jumia, which redirects to Konga according to a TechLoy report.

So to court we will go

In order to fight back at what it believes to be an attempt to stifle its growth on the continent, Konga is taking Rocket to court.

“We are going ahead with legal actions in the different jurisdictions where these domain names were registered and we ask for your help as we embark on this journey,” says Konga’s rep.

Alluding to a calculated strategy to take down Konga a peg, the rep states that the “domain names were taken even before Konga had even had the chance to breathe”.

Konga, which has Naspers as an investor could make a formidable competitor for Rocket Internet across the continent once it begins its expansion plan. Currently Rocket has 13 ecommerce plays in key parts of the continent, through Jumia, Kaymu, its eBay clone and Zando in South Africa. The ecommerce platform believes that Rocket is “trying to do the same by establishing businesses in different other areas where Nigerians/Africans are trying to innovate”.

If this David is about to take on Rocket’s Goliath the battle could prove very interesting.

Rocket Internet is the equivalent of ecommerce’s MacDonald’s: a prefab manufacturer for online retail and merchandising. With a total of 75 companies under its control in 50 countries and more than 25 000 employees with combined annual revenue of more than US$4 billion, Rocket is a formidable foe.

All this comes on the heels of the departure of Jumia’s alleged co-founders and CEOs Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afaedor. The official story is that the two heads, who were hired to be co-founders (figureheads), are leaving to start their own ventures but according to sources inside Jumia, the exit all played out at the top-levels of Africa Internet Holding, the Rocket Internet branch that handles all its African investments. It’s quite unusual for company founders to just leave their own ventures without discussion about what will happen to their stake in the company. It has much been rumoured the Kehinde and Afaedor were only there to fulfill the company’s facade of being owned by Nigerians.

According to our source inside Jumia, a statement is imminent on the company’s plans for Nigeria including the naming of a new CEO and the confirming of the exits of the previous heads.

We have reached out to Rocket Internet and Jumia respectively for comment on this matter but have yet to receive a response.

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