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Qefira, one of Ethiopia’s prominent online marketplaces, has ceased its operations after its new owners made the decision to shut it down.

Qefira launched nearly a decade ago, was operated by Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM), a company with a range of online marketplaces across Africa. Alongside Qefira, some of the marketplaces operated by ROAM included pigiame in Kenya and Expat-Dakar in Ghana. These platforms facilitated B2C and C2C advertising and offered branding opportunities through listings.

“While Qefira was locally incorporated in Ethiopia with some Ethiopian shareholders for legal purposes, its true ownership belonged to ROAM,” a person close to the case told Shega on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the Media.

However, in December 2022, Ringier, a Swiss media and technology company and a shareholder in ROAM, entered into an agreement to acquire all shares in ROAM from its co-shareholders.

“Following this acquisition, the new management decided to shut down the Ethiopian business (Qefira) due to operational difficulties,” stated the source.

According to the source, in the past ROAM faced various challenges, including difficulties in repatriating revenue outside of Ethiopia and legal obstacles related to shareholders.

“The requirement for a certain percentage of Qefira’s ownership to be held by Ethiopians made it challenging to secure investment or sell shares, as the shares owned by Ethiopians couldn’t be diluted,” the source added.

With 200,000–450,000 monthly visits, Qefira was one of the most popular websites in the country. Operating as a marketplace, Qefira provided a platform for buyers and sellers to connect, facilitating their interaction without offering online payment or delivery services. These tasks were intended to be handled by the involved parties themselves, while the Platform made money through ads.

Users had the opportunity to buy and sell various items, including real estate properties and cosmetics, which were categorized into 11 different categories.

Its parent company on the other hand ROAM, was formed in 2014 when Ringier Africa and One Africa Media (OAM) agreed to merge their pan-African Classifieds assets to create and grow Africa’s largest classifieds group.

ROAM also holds Africa’s leading recruitment marketplaces, such as Jobberman and BrighterMonday.  Along these brands, Qefira is listed as one of the brands operated by ROAM on its website.

A screenshot of ROAM's website showing the list of brands it operates.
A screenshot of ROAM’s website showing the list of brands it operates.

Furthermore, according to the Ringier Annual Report 2022, which was released following its full acquisition of ROAM, Qefira is listed as one of the brands in the company’s portfolio.

The Ringer Group comprises around 140 companies in 19 countries, which operate a range of leading media brands, digital platforms, and marketplaces.

In an email sent to Shega, Ringier confirmed that it’s the owner of Qefira.

“[Ringer] is currently evaluating future strategic options for the platform and has decided to temporarily cease operations,” said Ringier Corporate Communications.

Ringer further stated that, as discussions are still ongoing, it cannot further elaborate on details.

“Though legal frameworks in Ethiopia exist for foreign investors to repatriate their profits to their country, the practice is rather complicated and challenging. In fact, very few foreign companies manage to do so,” explained Yehulashet Tamiru, a lawyer, consultant, and researcher, in an interview with Shega.

Regarding shareholder status, Yehulashet points out there are several reasons why foreign investors choose to have local shareholders in the companies they set up.

“These reasons could range from reducing foreign direct investment requirements to participating in areas reserved for local nationals or sectors designated for joint investment with nationals,” added Yehualshet.

Who is Hahuzon?

A few days after Qefira went down, former users of the website received an SMS message from Hahuzon, a recently launched marketplace. The message informed them that Qefira was undergoing a system change, and suggested they could now use Hahuzone instead.

Hahuzon also shares the same contact phone number that was used by Qefira. However, the insider notes that there is no official connection between ROAM and Hahuzone.


The article has been updated on June 16, 2023, to include the response of Ringer.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.