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2019-08-19 09:20:23

In this article, I’ll be talking about what exactly design thinking is, how to build better African businesses using design thinking and a case studies.


Design Thinking is a concept developed by IDEO founder David Kelley who describes design thinking as ‘a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.’ Let me break it down for you a little! In a nutshell, design thinking is basically ‘a human-centered approach to solving problems using the designer’s toolkit’. 

What’s a Designer’s Toolkit? 

Just like carpenters have their own set of tools for their craft, designers also have numerous tools at their disposal they make use of to solve everyday design challenges and come up with solutions to creative problems. These tools include; interviews, questionnaires, journey maps, posted notes, etc. (For more information on the design toolkit please look for the book ‘A Guide To Human-Centered Design’ by Ideo

Case Study: Jumia

Dubbed Africa’s ‘Amazon’, Jumia is the continent’s largest e-commerce platform by market share surpassing global giants like Amazon and China’s Alibaba by a margin. Jumia also achieved a first for an African based company, becoming the first African tech startup to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) 

In 2012 Jumia founders, Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec decided to team up to establish an African e-commerce platform. Their idea was to connect customers with different sellers, vendors and Small & Medium Enterprises (SME’s) around the continent. Rather than cut and paste the Amazon or Alibaba way of doing business, the founders decided that Jumia was to be a platform that addressed the needs of African consumers from the ground up

After conducting thorough research, Jumia noted that the main reason e-commerce hadn’t pick up in Africa was that consumers were at the time, not generally well versed in the concept of online shopping and were consequently very skeptical to pay for goods before receiving them. They also observed that unlike other regions where credit and debit cards were the preferred modes of payment, the use of Mobile Money to pay for goods and services was becoming a more popular and acceptable mode of payment in this part of the world. 

Realizing the opportunities that stood to be gained from their research, Jumia purposed to overcome these challenges by running extensive online campaigns to educate African consumers on this new phenomenon that was ‘online shopping’ and the dos and dont’s of e-commerce. Additionally, they introduced a Mobile Money payment option for purchasing goods on the platform and the choice to pay for goods on delivery for skeptical users. Doing this meant that Jumia addressed most of its users needs which in my view is what designing thinking is about. As a result, Jumia ended up being very successful and by 2019, it has managed to serve more than 4.3 million African customers. 

Takeout From Jumia On How To Build Better Enterprises. 

The story of Jumia’s journey is a lesson that a good business model should have a user-centered approach to problem-solving. For instance; unlike the western world, African consumers have their own unique set of  habits, therefore when you simply take something that works elsewhere and throw your money into it hoping it will work out for the best is a misguided notion and time & time again this strategy has been proven to be a total disaster! Why? Most entrepreneurs and foreign investors coming into African markets will fail to realize that the business models that work in the western world do so because there’s already a proven working structure for these specific markets which in most instances does not translate to success if these same structures are duplicated and applied in Africa. 

Building better businesses that work for Africans will require entrepreneurs and foreign investors who focus on developing customized structures for their innovations to work. As an entrepreneur, you need to understand the people you want to serve and their problems before providing actual solutions. This is where design thinking comes in as it will help you in identifying the problem, ideation and testing the solution before it’s implemented. This way resources are saved and solutions that you come up with are almost guaranteed to work if the process has been carried out well.  

Thank you for reading the blog post. If you found it informative and helpful please remember to share or even leave your comment below.

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