Kadry Diallo is the Co-Founder and CMO of ANKA (formerly Afrikrea). ANKA is an all-in-one SaaS solution to sell from anywhere, ship worldwide, and get paid faster on international and local African payment methods.
The company simplifies the way micro retailers (especially women) not just in Kenya but across Africa do business and has completed over $35 million in transactions for its 50,000 users in 174 countries worldwide. In January 2022, the company raised a pre-Series A round of $6.2 million with notable investors such as Alibaba’s Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai and Investisseurs & Partenaires. The funding is being used to build out its mobile infrastructure, allowing effortless global access for its retailers, as well as investing in further product development.
Passionate about driving entrepreneurship in Africa, Kadry grew to realise how untapped African wealth is and how frustrating it is for its aficionados. Having grown up between Mali and France, he was headed towards a career in corporate finance and obtained his Master 2 in Management, Control, and Organisational Audit from the University of Paris-Saclay.
During the pandemic, ANKA saw its retailer base almost double (from 6,246 to 12,123), with sellers GMV growing by 2.5X and ANKA’s revenue growing by 5X. Kadry is dedicated to his involvement in seeing women positioned as forbearers in business as well as making it easier for African sellers and entrepreneurs to profit.
We had some questions for Kadry and some of his biggest challenges and how ANKA managed to thrive during the pandemic.
Tech Nova (TN): What are the biggest challenges in trying to bring in more people to use your platform?
Kadry: “We proposed different services and it’s a constant challenge for our onboarding team to make sure that users understand all the services we propose and how they can use them to expand their business. Building a product that takes into account the payment and logistics specificity of each country is a technical challenge. It takes time but it’s also very interesting.”
TN: What are the major barriers to e-commerce in Africa when compared with the western world like the US and Europe?
Kadry: “The major barrier to e-commerce in Africa is the logistics part. It’s more expensive to ship a product from Nigeria to Cameroon, than from Nigeria to the USA. Western countries have built a logistics infrastructure that makes the shipping cost very reasonable. In Africa, the shipping costs are really expensive and that has a huge impact on the product costs and makes them less competitive. I will also mention the payment method too. In many African countries, people still use cash and mobile. It’s ok if you do business locally, but if you export abroad, it’s really difficult to get access to your money. This is why ANKA is focused on solving those problems. African sellers already have great products, the challenge is the logistics and payment.“
TN: During the pandemic, you increased your customer base by 2.5x. What made you stand out from other e-commerce platforms to achieve that milestone?
The major barrier to e-commerce in Africa is the logistics part. It’s more expensive to ship a product from Nigeria to Cameroon, than from Nigeria to the USA. Western countries have built a logistics infrastructure that makes the shipping cost very reasonable.
Kadry: “We changed our business model during the pandemic, and the timing was crucial. We switched to a subscription model and were less dependent on the global transaction on the Afrikrea Marketplace. We also started to offer different services during the pandemic in March 2020. While all the post offices were closed around the world, our sellers could use our DHL account for their shipping. That opened up a discussion about their day-to-day business issues and the different services we could offer to them. We understood that the focus should be on helping our sellers export their products. Instead of getting Africans to buy more or spend faster, ANKA will be one of the few companies that actually help them earn, own, and create at a global scale. ANKA differentiates itself as a platform for export rather than import, specifically for African products and we are currently the largest e-commerce exporter on the continent. Since our partnership with DHL, we have shipped more than 10 tons of cargo monthly from Africa.”
TN: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned while building ANKA?
Kadry: “African people have amazing products and services to offer to the world. We really can take part in the global economy. We only need good infrastructure, and this is the hardest part. Building infrastructure and gathering people into a community takes a lot of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the African e-commerce ecosystem won’t be built in a day.”
We want to become the “One-stop-shop” commerce aggregator for all emerging & fragmented areas of the world. Like Alibaba propelled China online and Shopify enabled web entrepreneurship, we are building the Operating System for global commerce starting with Africa. Our target is to onboard 100000 sellers in 5 years.
TN: What is a major misconception as a co-founder?
Kadry: “The biggest illusion I had before starting a business was that I would be free if I became my own boss. This is one of the biggest myths of entrepreneurship. Since I started Afrikrea and ANKA, everybody is my boss: sellers, buyers, employees, investors, and even your family. You always have to convince and sell your vision to keep everybody aligned.”
TN: In 5 years, where do you see ANKA and what do you hope the company accomplishes during that time span?
Kadry: “We want to become the “One-stop-shop” commerce aggregator for all emerging & fragmented areas of the world. Like Alibaba propelled China online and Shopify enabled web entrepreneurship, we are building the Operating System for global commerce starting with Africa. Our target is to onboard 100000 sellers in 5 years.”