The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa has accelerated digitization, pushing progress in online on the continent by at least five years, according to Diane Moalem, the group head of operations at Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM Africa), an operator of multiple marketplace businesses in the region.

In her upcoming presentation at the International Classified Marketplace Association (ICMA) conference — “How businesses can support customers through the Covid-19 marathon in emerging markets” — Moalem will detail the necessary steps that marketplace need to undertake to preserve and grow their client base at this difficult time.

What has been the severity of the impact at Roam Africa, the JV between One Africa Media and Switzerland-based publishing house Ringier?

“There have been positive and negative impacts. The negative was primarily in recruitment. The segment was hit by hiring freezes. Demand remained only for critical roles: sales, finance, marketing, customer service. However, the market also evolved. The biggest impact was actually seeing the difference between tech-enabled jobs compared to those that rely on one-to-one interactions. Tech jobs grew 20% on our platforms, logistics by 15%, while events for example plummeted to near zero,” Moalem told the AIM Group.

Roam Africa runs multiple recruitment marketplaces across Africa, including BrighterMonday in Kenya and Uganda, and Jobberman in Ghana and Nigeria.

Diane Moalem


“The positive impact has largely been on general classifieds. Pigiame in Kenya has been insane. Everyone got pushed online. People were looking for everything from home: home-goods, sports, furniture, kids, fashion, beauty. We had 289% listing growth from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021. It’s been really exciting to see that. And that’s been sustained; there have been slight ebbs and flows, but it’s been sustained month on month. We’ve seen a change in user behavior. It’s a permanent change,” Moalem said.

Covid-19 is already transforming Africa and will continue to do so over the next years. There’s little hope of getting vaccinations to most of the population quickly (less than 2% of the world’s vaccines have been administered in Africa), so people are learning to live with lockdowns and quarantines. Moalem sees a deep and long-lasting change in customer behavior, which has tremendously impacted Roam Africa businesses’ and other emerging markets.

As a result, Roam Africa has had to re-evaluate how its marketplaces deal with its customers, to assist and retain clients.

“For Cheki, the auto marketplace, we started asking ‘what does our dealer need? How do we help now more of their business is online?’ We have created a dealer dashboard and partnered with them to improve their experience. We’ve extended our reach and we’re more involved in making sure they follow up on leads, assessing the quality of the leads; it’s an after-sales service that really brings depth to the relationship,” Moalem told the AIM Group.

“We also championed customer usage of our systems. We got very deliberate about customer on-boarding. For example, in recruitment, if a customer knows how to use our tools, and if the user knows how to use the site, you wind up getting a better job fit; this allows the end user to start contributing to the company and thus the economy.”

Moalem told us that Roam Africa has expanded training and investment in sales staff and is investing into the team, to create continuity and be more agile.

Diane Moalem will be presenting at the ICMA conference, which takes place on May 5 and 6. For more details and registration, see here

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