On many e-commerce platforms, fashion items are among the most — if not the most — sought-after. In Africa, for instance, fashion has held the top spot in Jumia for the largest category of items sold over the years. This means there’s no shortage of demand for fashion items across the continent, and the supply is picking up steam even in the high-end categories.
The luxury goods market in Africa and the Middle East was worth over $35 billion in 2019, with designer apparel and footwear generating more than $7 billion in retail alone. Behind such transactions is cross-border commerce, where African brands, via personal shoppers, export their items to a global audience. The more prominent scenario, however, is the opposite: In this case, African consumers get help from family and friends in the U.S. and U.K. to shop for and ship luxury items to them.
Several platforms have used tech to centralize these processes across various shopping brackets, while general e-commerce activities between African shoppers and global brands have occurred informally via long-held relationships. Jendaya, a one-year-old startup that acts as a gateway for global luxury brands to the African continent and for consumers in the rest of the world to discover African brands, is coming out stealth, having raised £1 million (~$1.2 million) in pre-seed funding.
The London-based but Africa-focused platform was founded by CEO Ayotunde Rufai, who had the idea to start Jendaya after repeatedly acting as a personal shopper for luxury items in the U.K. for relatives back in Nigeria. Other co-founders include COO Kemi Adetu, CCO Teni Sagoe, and CSO David Elikwu; split across London, New York, and Lagos, they launched Jendaya in December 2021.
“We wanted to make a platform where Africans on the continent should they want Gucci loafers or Bottega bags, they don’t have to jump through hoops or have a month or few weeks’ delays because they can have that in their hands in some days or a week, so that’s why we started Jendaya,” said Rufai.
From apparel to beauty and home decor to accessories, the e-commerce platform connects African and African diaspora luxury brands with high-end consumers worldwide and African shoppers to global brands. According to the statement shared by the company, it wants to shine a light on the abundance of talent and storytelling emanating from the region by positioning African names seamlessly in the same league as seasoned western labels such as Issey Miyake, Lanvin, and Givenchy.
“Jendaya is a luxury e-commerce platform for the Global Citizen — Africa included being the most important part because the African citizen is also very global, they’re very metropolitan, well traveled and exposed, they’re tastemakers,” said Rufai of the regular Jendaya shopper. “So these customers don’t just want Orange Culture, they want to mix the Orange Culture with Versace. They want to mix a Bottega with Valero and Casablancas and other new brands coming out worldwide. These consumers dictate our brand offerings in that sense.”