1. What was your first job?
I worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company in Brussels, Belgium.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I think about the team that we are building here. We started from almost zero, we hired locally, and we are now seeing a new generation of leaders and managers emerge within the company. The second thing is to prove that e-commerce is right for this country. It is very promising and we have already reached a big scale. However, we still need to prove that we can make a successful e-commerce model in Côte d’Ivoire and in Africa in general, and that is a challenge.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I think I owe a lot to the colleagues I met during my few years in consulting at McKinsey in Brussels. I don’t define myself as a risk taker, and several people in the leadership group there enabled me to make steps that the younger me would not have risked on his own. This is how I first got to work in Ethiopia, then Mauritania, Togo, South Africa, and finally decided to make the move to West Africa.
4. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
“My job is to make other people shine,” a director in my previous job once told me. It was partly meant as a joke… but it actually struck me as brilliant. I discovered over time that the greatest skill of a manager is to develop, and motivate other people in the company. This doesn’t come by doing their job. It is by making sure that they get the best share of the spotlight and feel a strong ownership over their work. It makes your team more excited and effective, your life easier, and your company better.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I would say one of my strongest qualities is adaptability. I have seen many start-ups and projects as a consultant. You always have to reboot your software and think of what works in your environment. If you think of e-commerce in Côte d’Ivoire, there is no recipe that you know will work every day. I have been here two years, and I keep discovering and adapting to new things.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
On the job. I learnt a lot in business school, but it was mostly through activities that gave me leadership positions in the student unions and associations. The school gives you a framework and intelligibility, but the job teaches you real stuff.
7. How do you relax?
I try to sleep for eight hours a day. People forget to sleep yet it is very important. We are lucky here that the beach is not too far away so it is easy to unwind on the weekend.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
9. Your favourite job interview question?
I ask them for a list of the challenges of e-commerce in Africa. I want to see if they are able to have a critical view of the business. This is important because from the outside e-commerce is a flashy business but when you look at it in detail it is about logistics – it is boring and it has a lot of challenges.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
You should deliver the same quality that you would offer in New York. People here who have the power to purchase goods and services want the exact quality of service that customers in New York and Paris aspire for. You can’t say this is Africa, so you will do half the job. No, customers here are just as demanding as consumers in international markets.
Francis Dufay is the managing director for online retail platform Jumia in Côte d’Ivoire. Jumia is a subsidiary of the Africa Internet Group (AIG).