Jumia Food delivery workers’ final payments are still missing

Evans Kidia started working for Kenyan logistics firm Tenadel in Nairobi in 2021. His work entailed delivering orders for Jumia Food, the food delivery app of Africa’s largest homegrown e-commerce company. At the end of each week, Kidia told Rest of World, the Tenadel executives would check the amount he made on the Jumia Food app and pay him after deducting a commission.

The 43-year-old father of four worked in this arrangement for over two years — until December 2023 when Jumia discontinued its food delivery business in seven African countries, including Kenya.

The day the app shut down, Kidia had some money left in his Jumia Food wallet, but he never received it. Five months on, Kidia has still not been able to recover the balance amount. He is in a peculiar position because his money has been held up on Jumia’s platform but he was never directly involved with the company. He has been chasing his former manager at Tenadel, but that hasn’t worked. “We meet from time to time. I asked him about the balance but he did not respond,” said Kidia, adding that riders like him, who were hired specifically to deliver for Jumia Food, were let go after the platform shut down.

Rest of World spoke to 12 former Jumia Food workers in Kenya and Nigeria who say they were not paid for their final weeks of work with the app because it shut down abruptly. Meanwhile, Jumia Food told Rest of World it had paid all its logistics partners the full amount it owed the delivery workers. Three former Jumia Food partners, including Tenadel, told Rest of World they had, in turn, paid out all the riders.

“Jumia takes all financial obligations seriously,” a company spokesperson said in an email on April 4 after Rest of World reported how Jumia Food’s closure in seven African markets had left workers abandoned. “All payments due to the 3PL (third-party logistics providers) were fulfilled by Jumia before Jumia Food closure; this was to allow 3PL to pay the salaries owed to their delivery agents. Furthermore, we have never received any complaints from delivery agents stating that they have not been paid by their employer.”

Jumia said it had over 600 logistics partners before it shut its food delivery business, but refused to share the exact number of workers on the app, stating that the figure changed often.

Following the April 4 storyabout how several Jumia Food workers had not been paid after it downsized its business, the company also told Rest of World it “did not directly employ most drivers.” But 31 former Jumia Food workers in Kenya and Nigeria told Rest of World they worked directly with the app with no involvement from a third-party player. At least nine of these workers said they have not been paid for the last week of work.

Jumia is responsible for how workers are treated, even if they are employed through a partner, according to Chinyere Emeshie, a former consultant at Fairwork, a research project at the Oxford Internet Institute.

“While the third-party logistics companies are the direct employers of some gig riders, they operate within the framework provided by Jumia Food, which plays a crucial role in shaping the working conditions (for these riders),” Emeshie told Rest of World. “Jumia Food also holds accountability … They can create policies and guidelines that help mitigate against unfair practices and ensure that gig workers are treated fairly.”

“We anticipated the closure because we saw all the signs before it happened.”

Lagos-based IClass Logistics was among Jumia Food’s logistics partners until the app exited the market in December. The company had more than 50 Jumia Food delivery workers at its peak, CEO Rasheed Kayode told Rest of World. He said his company had paid all the workers before the app ceased operations.

“We anticipated the closure because we saw all the signs before it happened and made lots of internal risk measures,” Kayode said. “IClass Logistics actually had a security deposit with Jumia, and based on our contract, account balancing is done over a period of time. There can be instances where outstanding deposits are owed on either side, and the deposit serves to settle those. So it will normally take a few weeks to balance out the outstanding with the security deposit we have with them.”

Tenadel’s managing director, David Abwao, told Rest of World his firm had paid all Jumia Food workers the full amount, too. “I would like to know the riders who said they have not received their payment,” he said. “The only thing that would make sense is to know the exact riders that did not get the money.”

Ayoade Ibrahim, a digital labor activist and co-founder of the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transporters of Nigeria, told Rest of World the agreements Jumia Food and its partners sign with gig workers are not transparent, leaving the workers vulnerable.

“In partnership, you have a right to know when the company is doing well or the company is not,” Ibrahim said. “That’s not the case here. Even with the riders who work directly with them, they just discard these riders … Look now, they don’t call them workers and don’t treat them like partners. You are just using them.”

Some delivery riders who worked directly with Jumia Food also said they haven’t been paid for the last week of work. “The company has some outstanding balance totaling to about 5,000 shillings ($38),” Wellington Ekabi, a Nairobi-based gig worker, told Rest of World. “I tried to reach out to them to no avail.” Ekabi had worked with Jumia Food for four years until its closure.

Opeyemi Moses, who worked directly with Jumia Food in Lagos for close to two years, told Rest of World he has been trying to recover over 30,000 naira ($22) that the company owes him.

“I have lost hope in them,” he said.

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