Building the future of tech with Jumia’s new Tech Centers in Egypt
Robust technology and effective teams are essential for every thriving e-commerce marketplace, but the reality is that these areas may present a challenge. While it may seem like it would be easy for multinational companies to assemble the best tech teams from a resource perspective, hiring, training, and retaining talented workers is often a real challenge.
In order to succeed in today’s fast-growing e-commerce sector, academic qualifications are not enough. The e-commerce leaders of tomorrow must be creative and intuitive thinkers with the ability to develop solutions that aren’t merely good, but also speak to the unique characteristics of the populations they are targeting.
In addition to developing resonant solutions, tech talent should also be able to adjust to the ever-evolving demands of serving consumers in the post-pandemic era of remote and hybrid working. As Jumia started zeroing in on this intersection, we realized the talent pool available to draw from had shrunk significantly.
Responding through the Tech Center approach
Building on the Porto Tech Center inaugurated in 2012, we reached out for more tech talent from Africa, with new recruits from Egypt in 2019. This effort eventually evolved beyond hand-picking a few candidates for a local team to instituting an entire Tech Center in Cairo in October 2021 and another in Alexandria in January 2022.
During this drive, we focused on building a tech team that represented our core company values and reflected the people we intended to serve. As a result, the Cairo Tech Center steadily grew into a more than 160-member force that continues to expand.
This team spans various disciplines such as Backend and Frontend Development, Mobile Engineering, Product, UI/UX Design, Security, Tech Support, Site Reliability Engineering, Data Engineering, Engineering Management and a lot more.
The new team quickly embarked on creating solutions for various aspects of our e-commerce operations, such as Marketing Digital Services (MDS). Our efforts resulted in new platforms that would improve the user experience for vendors while also simplifying monitoring, auditing and other internal processes.
By leaning on Behavior-Driven Development, UI/UX Design and other modern techniques, we also improved several facets of the Jumia Food platform’s user experience. These included navigation, recommendations, visibility into the delivery process, checkout and payments, among other areas.
We also directed our efforts to the Global Vendor Center platform and JumiaPay App. These included fortifying the back-end architecture supporting the rapid expansion of product and service offerings on the JumiaPay platform. We’ve continuously realized a more reliable and secure infrastructure, streamlined employee workflows, improved customer experiences and made service delivery partnerships more efficient.
Tailoring our solutions to the bottlenecks in African markets
While internet and smartphone penetration in many African countries has increased, these products and services remain largely concentrated in urban areas. This means that as we tried to get our services to more people in the countries where we operate, we quickly hit a tech ceiling.
The Tech Center has responded to this challenge in numerous ways, such as:
Optimizing our apps to achieve adequate performance amidst low connectivity and consume less memory to ensure a decent user experience on lower-specification devices.
Building web applications to facilitate the execution of the JForce program, an initiative that enables customers to shop on behalf of their friends, family, neighbors and other parties.
Creating seamless links between our online platforms and the Help Center, making it easier for support agents to assist customers in placing orders, tracking shipments and gaining information on new offers through offline channels such as phone calls and text messaging (SMS).
Benefits of the Tech Center approach and future endeavors
The Jumia Tech Team has spearheaded monthly virtual town-hall meetings across different continents (Africa and Europe) with Global leads, involving the Chief Technical Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Product Officer, amongst other personnel. These meetings get team members in various countries acquainted with our tech philosophy and definition of e-commerce success. They also help track progress after deployment and ascertain necessary changes regarding their respective roles in achieving our combined objectives.
This approach has also birthed the first fully-fledged Jumia Tech Center in Africa based in Cairo. The new center offers employment opportunities to Egyptians but also to any tech talent from the continent while also creating chances for them to learn from their counterparts in other highly-competitive foreign markets. The massive success of our Tech Center in Cairo at sourcing candidates who develop solutions relevant to their country has spawned a new branch in Alexandria. The strong entrepreneurial community, bustling startup ecosystem and influx of quality talent in the second city of Egypt has bolstered this expansion. We are also in the process of building tech teams in other African cities such as Nairobi to expand the Tech Center approach.
Based on our discoveries about the tech talent landscape in Africa, we have come up with many initiatives to foster tech talent development at earlier education stages. These include our budding partnership with the German University of Cairo (GUC) to conduct occasional lectures on the latest tech and e-commerce trends. We have also participated in a GUC program involving mock interviews to train tech students to stand out in the recruitment process. Different tech meet-ups were done in Cairo during March 2022 and offered invitations to those interested in learning more about projects such as JumiaPay and its underlying infrastructure.
As an organization that takes pride in utilizing technology to advance e-commerce in Africa, Jumia believes in using our reach to grow and diversify the talent pools available to us. Ultimately, we hope to provide them with the best possible opportunities to showcase their abilities and improve the quality of their lives while at it.
Mahmoud Mubarak, Head of Technology at Jumia Egypt
Working in the tech industry for more than 12 years with skills gained in software development, team and people management, Mahmoud has vast knowledge working with microservice architecture, AWS cloud system, manipulating and administering distributed systems (Linux-based petabyte-scale cluster), monitoring and supporting HPC operations. Mahmoud joined Jumia in 2021 as head of Technology which adds to the already established working experience in e-commerce with well-established multinational companies, fast-growing startups and industry-based research organizations.