African e-commerce darling Copia files for administration as funding dries up

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

Copia, which delivers household goods and appliances to more than 500,000 hard-to-reach rural customers, has been known as Kenya’s “rural” Copia has now filed for administration after a turbulent year and difficulty fundraising.

Copia Global, which oversees the operations of Copia Kenya, was unable to attract capital on acceptable terms, Copia said in a statement. “Copia Global is now winding down, leaving the Copia Kenya business in a new position to raise capital directly.”

Impact investors including Goodwell, LGT Group, Sorenson Impact Foundation, as well as development finance institutions like the US Development Finance Corp. and Germany’s DEG, had rallied behind the company’s mission to help rural households access goods as conveniently as wealthier consumers in advanced economies.

“Even though we’ve taken a loss, if the company continues to function, then our capital will have had the impact we intended,” Goodwell’s Lilian Oyando told ImpactAlpha.


Africa’s funding drought has claimed several once-high flying startups. Startups on the continent raised just $542 million in the first quarter of the year, less than one-fourth of the $2.3 billion they took in in the same quarter of 2022. Kenya’s logistics startups, including iProcure, Twiga and Sendy, have had a particularly hard time (see, “Trouble at Twiga”).

Goodwell’s Nico Blaauw says capital raised during the funding boom of 2020 and 2021 wasn’t well matched to a sector that wasn’t fully proven. “You can build an e-commerce business for rural clients, but in order to build that, you need scale, and you need longitude. It’s 10 or 12 years, minimum,” he said.

With Copia, “we’ve seen that the model works, but there was not enough patient capital to get them to profitability,” he added.

Under administration

The wind-down of Copia Global means a write-down for its equity investors but not an end to its operations in Kenya. The company will continue running a scaled-down version of its ordering and delivery routes while the team continues fundraising.

Copia last July attempted a “limited restructure of its operations” after multiple rounds of layoffs and a decision to pull out of its second market, Uganda. Investors, including Goodwell, Sorenson, LGT, DEG, the DFC and Enza Capital, gave the company a $20 million equity injection in December.

Investors appointed to the board ex-Metaswitch CEO John Lazar to the board to help the company digitize its network of more than 30,000 rural distribution agents and shift more to online ordering in order to “change the game on unit economics and efficiencies.”

The pandemic ignited a startup wave in Africa seeking to build viable and inclusive mass-market businesses by helping households, small businesses and supply chains with digital upgrades that could improve access to products and services in underserved communities. Copia, whose early focus was largely offline rural customers, may not have made the digital shift early enough.

Copia did not immediately reply to ImpactAlpha’s request for comment.