Africa is the last frontier and probably the largest remaining classifieds opportunity in the world, and the interest from the giants of the internet is escalating. The big names already investing across the continent include South African media giant Naspers and the Swiss media conglomerate Ringier, but it seems that the real emerging leader is a consortium of local players funded by Tiger Global Management (TGM) of New York.
Justin Clarke, CEO of South Africa-based Private Property Holdings, has announced that the company is merging its interests with Kenya-based Cheki Africa Media to form Africa's largest online classifieds group by traffic, page views, ad volume and revenue. The new group will be renamed One Africa Media.
Private Property Holdings was established in 1999 and has spent ten years building South Africa's premier property portal before taking an investment from TGM and starting to make tactical investments across the continent. In 2010 Clarke was introduced by TGM to Carey Eaton, the founder of Cheki, and they made further investments together until merging the assets earlier this year.
One Africa Media has three main shareholders: Eaton, Clarke and TGM. Clarke is responsible for the real estate and travel portals while Eaton is building the jobs and cars boards.
The company operates the #1 players across these verticals in three economic hubs covering east, south and west Africa. The company has five brands, namely PrivateProperty, Cheki, Jobberman, BrighterMonday and SafariNow. These brands are the longest-established brands in Africa in their segments, and have all started to monetise, although some are still very early.
"This is also a differentiator and we decided that early monetisation helps to build the understanding that there is value in internet advertising. We keep the rates low but encourage some payment for the advertising service which in turn ensures that we can show benefit to the advertisers," says Clarke.
When asked how they had managed to compete with such big players and build such a compelling group, Clarke says: "We are just more passionate about local solutions. We operate on the ground with local entrepreneurs and allow the model to develop in a direction influenced by local conditions. Both myself and Carey are 2nd and 3rd generation Africans and we have over 350 people sitting between Lagos, Nairobi and South Africa, who understand what local browsers want from a marketplace, and we live it every day."
Eaton, previously CIO of jobs giant Seek.com.au, who has returned home to his native Nairobi, is really excited by what is happening across the continent. "With real broadband capability only having become available to most of sub-Saharan Africa towards the end of 2009 it is an incredibly exciting environment. It has enjoyed explosive growth and 500 million people have connected to the digital world in the last five years. Six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and results show that this mobile market is the fastest-growing in the world. Also, the most mature mobile-payment systems can be found here. This is the ideal environment for a classifieds business to thrive with little competition from large print conglomerates as is the case in many mature markets."
1999: Justin Clarke co-founded PrivateProperty.co.za
, now South Africa's leading property website
2010: Carey Eaton founded Cheki
, now eastern and western Africa's largest automotive marketplace portal
2010: PrivateProperty Holdings invested in Safarinow.com
, South Africa's leading travel and accommodation booking website
2010: Eaton and Clarke met through Tiger Global Management, which had earlier invested in Private Property Holdings
2011: Private Property Holdings invested in Cheki Africa Media to fund further strategic investments across Africa
2011: Cheki Africa Media invested in BrighterMonday.com
(east Africa's #1 jobs brand) and Jobberman.com
(west Africa's #1 jobs brand)
2012: Private Property Holdings invested in West Africa's leading property website, PropertiesNG, which it rebranded to PrivateProperty.com.ng
2013: The cross-Africa assets of Cheki were rolled up into Private Property Holdings and the merged group was renamed One Africa Media