How Antler East Africa is building early-stage startups with experienced professionals

Antler is an early-stage venture capital firm which can also be described as a “company builder.” It helps founders build complementary co-founding teams, provides support with deep business model validation and a global platform for scaling their businesses. To date, Antler has invested in and helped build over 250 companies. Of these companies, 40% have at least one female co-founder, and the founders represent more than 70 nationalities.

Founded in 2017 by serial entrepreneur, Marcus Grimeland, and a team of experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and company builders worldwide, Antler has raised more than $75 million to help entrepreneurs spread across nine of the world’s major entrepreneurial hubs. They include Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Nairobi, New York, Oslo, Singapore, Stockholm and Sydney.

Antler’s only office in Africa is in Nairobi, and it is run and led by women.

Marie Nielsen, founder of a paper recycling company in Ethiopia called Penda Paper Recycling, is a partner at the firm. She was an associate partner at Mckinsey & Company responsible for opening their Addis Ababa office. Melalite Ayenew is the firm’s tech partner. Her prior experience includes Oracle, Bain & Company, and Princeton Consultants. Selam Kebede is the firm’s director and leads operations. Before joining Antler, she worked for a couple of VCs and entrepreneurship support organizations.

Turning professionals to founders

Similar to other locations around the world, Antler East Africa runs two cohorts in a year. The firm is particular about adopting a people-first approach, and they bring together professionals with, on average, 10 years of experience in their respective industries. These professionals who become founders ideate, iterate and create solutions typically based on insights they have gathered or problems observed during the course of their past professional experience in their respective industries. After six months of incubation, the firm invests in the teams they can help further. Typically in the pre-seed stage, Antler cuts $100,000 checks for a 20% equity in each selected team.  

“Our process is very hands-on; by working with the co-founders over several months, we get the opportunity to help shape the business models and perform extensive due diligence before investing,” Nielsen said to TechCrunch.

The due diligence Nielsen talks about is supported by the global Antler platform, where they pull upon its network of more than 400 experts across technologies and industries. After the pre-seed investments, Antler East Africa claims to continue to support the teams as they hit the ground running and start raising funds from follow-on investors

Ayenew adds that the firm is also exploring the opportunity to invest in pre-existing, early-stage startups developed outside its program, but early enough for them to come in and still provide value in addition to the monetary investment.

Given that Nairobi is Antler’s only office in Africa, the team looks out for founders working on pan-African problems and solutions. It has attracted founders from more than 15 African countries, which plays a large role in maintaining its cohorts’ outlook to be organically pan-African.

To date, Antler East Africa has invested in a broad range of technology companies in the B2B, B2C and direct-to-consumer space, ranging from emerging sectors like robotics and AI to sectors such as health tech, fintech, and proptech. From its last two cohorts, Antler East Africa has invested in six startups. They include:

Cooked, a subscription-based meal kit provider, helps consumers search for, shop, and cook food at home better. Cooked operates with weekly and monthly subscriptions and delivers products home to its customers on pre-agreed days of the week. The founders have more than 20 years of experience in finance, food, and restaurants industries between themselves. 

UNCOVER claims to be building the continent’s most trusted skincare brand and content platform by partnering with top skincare labs in Korea. The company carried out a skincare survey with responses from 1,000 Kenyan women and claims the data obtained will help develop viral knowledge platforms and effective customized products.

Having spent its early days in FMCG, and particularly with small traders, ChapChapGo identified that the lack of simple and affordable tools tailored to the local context was a major challenge for Kenyan businesses to adopt e-commerce. ChapChapGo enables businesses to transact online in a few minutes with simple invoicing, automatic reconciliation, and faster M-PESA checkouts.

Image Credits: Antler East Africa

Anyi Health wants to improve access to financial support for primary healthcare seekers. In Nigeria and many other African countries, patients unable to pay their hospital bills are detained in the hospital or left untreated. Anyi Health aims to solve this through a mobile-based point-of-need credit facility, where patients can apply for credit directly at the hospital. The company just started its MVP pilot with three hospitals in Lagos, Nigeria and is looking to raise a $300k seed round based on pilot proof of concept

AIFluence is an AI-driven influencer marketing platform. Founded by advertising veterans, AIfluence enables brands in Africa to make a better decision when launching, managing and evaluating their influencer marketing campaigns. The company has signed customer contracts worth more than $600,000 with leading international and African companies, including Sony and Safaricom.

Digiduka positions itself as the digital service solution for Kenya’s cash economy. Its thesis is that payment solutions in Africa have two problems shutting out millions of potential users. One is high transaction fees, ranging as high as 9% per transaction, and the other, inconvenient payment modes. With the CEO and CTO having between themselves over 15 years of experience working with leading African telcos and as a technical lead for various startups, they aim to build the unified digital services solution of choice for both consumers and smaller retailers in Kenya.

Antler East Africa’s next cohort is in April, and Kebede says by bringing brilliant and experienced people together to create outstanding businesses in Africa, they hope that Antler “will help foster organizations that change the way people think, are sustainable and innovative as well as encourage other people to realize their own business goals.”

#africa, #antler, #diversity, #entrepreneurship, #kenya, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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How African startups raised investments in 2020

The venture capital scene in Africa has consistently grown, with an influx of capital from local and international investors reaching unprecedented heights in recent years. To understand how much growth has occurred, African startups raised a meagre $400 million in 2015 compared to the $2 billion that came into the continent in 2019, according to Africa-focused fund Partech Africa.

However, that figure isn’t the only yardstick. With other outlets like media publications WeeTracker and Disrupt Africa disclosing different results for the African venture capital market, we compared and contrasted their results last year. The result of that investigation detailed differences in methodology, as well as similarities.

In comparison to Partech’s $2 billion figure for 2019, WeeTracker estimated that African startups raised $1.3 billion while Disrupt Africa, $496 million for the same year.

It was expected that these figures would increase in 2020. But with the pandemic bringing in utter confusion and panic, companies downsized as investors re-strategized, and due diligence slowed during the first few months of the year. Also, new predictions came into light in May with some pegging expected deals to close between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion by the end of the year.

Investments did pick up, and from July, VC funding on the continent had a bullish run until December. Although 2020 didn’t witness the series of mammoth deals in 2019 and didn’t reach the $2 billion mark, it proved to be a good year for acquisitions. Sendwave’s $500 million purchase by WorldRemit; Network International buying DPO Group for $288 million; and Stripe’s larger than $200 million acquisition of Paystack were high-profile examples.

To better understand how VCs invested in Africa during 2020, we’ll look into data from Partech Africa, Briter Bridges and Disrupt Africa.

Behind the numbers

In 2019, Partech Africa reported that a total of $2 billion went into African startups. For 2020, the number dropped to $1.43 billion. Briter Bridges pegged total 2020 VC for African startups at $1.31 billion (for disclosed and undisclosed amounts), up from $1.27 billion in 2019.  Disrupt Africa noted an increase in its figures moving from $496 million in 2019 to $700 million in 2020. 

Just as last year, contrasting methodologies from the type of deals reviewed, to the definition of an African startup contributed to the numbers’ disparity. 

Cyril Collon, general partner at Partech says the firm’s numbers are based on equity deals greater than $200,000. Also, it defines African startups “as companies with their primary market, in terms of operations or revenues, in Africa not based on HQ or incorporation,” he said. “When these companies evolve to go global, we still count them as African companies.”

Briter Bridges has a similar methodology. According to Dario Giuliani, the firm’s director, the research organisation avoided using geography to define an African startup due to factors contributing to business identities like taxation, customers, IP, and management team.

For Disrupt Africa, the startups featured in its report are seven years or less in operation, still scaling, and a potential to achieve profitability. It excluded “companies that are spin-offs of corporates or any other large entity, or that have developed past the point of being a startup, by our definition of one.”

The continued dominance of fintech and the Big Four

Despite the drop in total funding, Partech says African startups closed more total deals in 2020 than previous years. According to the firm, 347 startups completed 359 deals compared in 2020 compared to 250 deals in 2019. This can be attributed to an increase in seed rounds (up 88% from 2019) and bridge rounds due to shortage of cash amidst a pandemic-induced lockdown.

A common theme in the three reports shows fintech, healthtech, and cleantech in the top five sectors. But, as expected, fintech retained the lion’s share of African VC funding.  

According to Partech, fintech represented 25% of total African funding raised last year, with agritech, logistics & mobility, off-grid tech, and healthtech sectors following behind.

Briter Bridges reported that fintech companies accounted for 31% of the total VC funding over the same time period. Cleantech came second; healthtech, third; agritech and data analytics, in fourth and fifth.

Fintech startups raised 24.9% of the total African VC funding counted by Disrupt Africa. E-commerce, healthtech, logistics, and energy startups followed respectively.

2020 also showed the Big Four countries’ preponderance in terms of investment destination, at least in two out of the three reports.

The countries remained unchanged on Partech’s top five as Nigeria remained the VC’s top destination with $307 million. At a close second was Kenya accounting for $304 million of the total investments in the continent. Egypt came third with its startups raising $269 million, while $259 million flowed into South African startups. Rounding up the top five was Ghana with $111 million, displacing Rwanda which was fifth in Partech’s 2019 list.

The sequence remained unchanged from Disrupt Africa’s 2019 list as well. Funding raised by Kenyan startups reached $191.4 million; Nigeria followed with $150.4 million; South Africa, third at $142.5 million; Egypt came a close fourth with $141.4 million; while Ghanaian startups raised $19.9 million.

Briter Bridges took a different approach. Whereas Partech and Disrupt Africa highlighted funding activities per country of origin and operations, Briter Bridges chose to attribute funding to the startups’ place of incorporation or headquarters. This premise slightly altered the Big Four’s positions. Startups headquartered in the US received $471.8 million of the total funding, according to Briter Bridges. Those in South Africa claimed $119.7 million. Mauritius-headquartered companies received $110 million while African startups headquartered in the U.K. and Kenya raised $107.6 million and $77.1 million respectively.

On why Briter Bridges went with this narrative, Giuliani said the company wants its data to be an impartial conversation starter which can be used to investigate more complex dynamics such as the need for better policies, regulation, or financial availability.

This speaks particularly to the absence of Nigeria as a primary location for incorporation. Due to unfriendly regulations, business and tax conditions, Nigerian startups are increasingly incorporating their startups abroad and other African countries like Seychelles and Mauritius. It’s a trend that may well continue as most foreign VCs prefer African startups to be incorporated in countries with business-friendly investment laws.

Regional and gender diversity check

With an increase in startup activity in Francophone Africa, one would’ve expected an uptick in VC funding in the region. Well, that’s not exactly the case. Senegal, the region’s top destination for VC funding dropped from $16 million in 2019 to $8.8 million in 2020 according to Partech. The country was 9th on the list while Ivory Coast, placed 10th, raised a meagre sum of $6.5 million.

However, the good news is that 22 other countries received investments outside this Big Four this year, according to Partech data. Will we see this continue? And if yes, which countries will likely join the nine-figure club?

Tidjane Deme, a general partner of Partech Africa, believes Ghana might be next. He references how it previously used to be a Big 3 of Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa before Egypt became a dominant force, and says a similar event might happen with the West African country.

“We see a clear diversification happening as investors are going into more markets. Ghana, for instance, is already attracting above $100 million. Of course, we all wish it would happen faster, but we also recognize that this is a learning process for both investors entering new markets and for founders learning about this game.”

Ghana also emerged in Giuliani’s forecast. He adds the likes of Tunisia, Morocco, Rwanda as second-tier countries quickly entering global investors’ radar and building more sophisticated ecosystems.

Tom Jackson, co-founder of Disrupt Africa, doesn’t mention any names. But he thinks that while there are some positives from other markets, the Big Four dominance will continue.

“Funding will filter down to other markets more and more, and there are already positive signs in that regard. But the space is still relatively early-stage and those four big markets have a big head start and will remain far ahead for years to come,” he said.

Another diversity check that cannot be overlooked is that of gender. Despite all the talk of inclusion, Briter Bridges reported that 15% of the funded startups in 2020 had women as founders, co-founders, or C-level executives. Partech, on the other hand, places this number at 14%. There’s still a lot of work to be done to increase this figure, and we might see more early-stage firms looking to plug that gap.

#africa, #egypt, #funding, #ghana, #kenya, #nigeria, #partech, #south-africa, #startups, #tc

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15-Year Sentence for Pennsylvania Man Who Abused Girls at Orphanage in Kenya

Two of the victims were 11 years old when the abuse began, Gregory Dow admitted to the authorities.

#child-abuse-and-neglect, #kenya, #orphans-and-orphanages, #pennsylvania, #sex-crimes, #women-and-girls

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The Last Two Northern White Rhinos On Earth

What will we lose when Najin and Fatu die?

#animals, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #kenya, #rhinoceroses, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching

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As Virus Resurges in Africa, Doctors Fear the Worst Is Yet to Come

The coronavirus killed far fewer people in Africa than in Europe and the Americas, leading to a widespread perception that it was a disease of the West. Now, a tide of new cases on the continent is raising alarms.

#africa, #africa-centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #african-union, #black-people, #cape-town-south-africa, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #deaths-fatalities, #durban-south-africa, #egypt, #elderly, #ethiopia, #hargeisa-somaliland, #johannesburg-south-africa, #kenya, #morocco, #nairobi-kenya, #nigeria, #port-elizabeth-south-africa, #quarantines, #ramaphosa-cyril, #rationing-and-allocation-of-resources, #shabab, #somalia, #south-africa, #tedros-adhanom-ghebreyesus, #tunisia, #uganda, #vaccination-and-immunization, #ventilators-medical, #world-health-organization, #zimbabwe

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A Flying Elephant, a Teacher’s Hugs: 12 Tales of Pandemic Resilience

The virus has been crushing spirits around the world, but some people refuse to be bowed. Here are their stories.

#belarus, #bolivia, #brazil, #cambodia, #china, #cochabamba-bolivia, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #france, #great-britain, #india, #iran, #italy, #kenya, #kibera-nairobi-kenya, #mexico-city-mexico, #minsk-belarus, #trieste-italy, #wuhan-china

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Umba, a digital bank for emerging markets, raises $2M Seed funding to expand across Africa

Umba, a digital bank for emerging markets and aiming first at Africa, has secured a $2 million seed funding round from new investors including Lachy Groom, ex-Head of Issuing at Stripe; Ludlow Ventures; Frontline Ventures and Act Venture.

Currently operating in Kenya and Nigeria, Umba offers a digital financial service alternative to legacy African banks. Its mobile app gives customers a free checking account, free instant peer-to-peer money transfers, lending, deposits, BillPay and cashback. This is in contrast to the generally high-cost barriers found among traditional banking institutions in African countries.

Right now it’s available in Kenya and Nigeria, which have a combined population of over a quarter of a billion people.

Umba competes with Kudao, Carbon, Eversend and ‘Chip or cash’ methods.

Umba’s CEO, Tiernan Kennedy said: “From the outset we built our platform to serve multiple markets, currencies and payment infrastructures. This flexibility is an extremely important consideration as it’s much harder to upgrade your systems at a later date. For example, bank and debit card penetration is high in Nigeria, so Umba is deeply integrated into those payment methods, while across Kenya and East Africa mobile money is dominant so our platform is tightly integrated with those services, too.”

Ludlow Ventures Partner, Brett DeMarrais said: “Umba is the first investment we’ve made in the African market and it’s one we were excited to participate in. The team at Umba have an excellent service that drives down the cost of banking for their customers and democratizes access. The move away from physical branch infrastructure was already underway and it has accelerated this year. It’s clear the African market is maturing and that we’re entering a very interesting phase.”

The news comes shortly after Stripe’s $200M acquisition of Nigerian payment service startup Paystack as well as the acquisition of DPO Group for $288m and Sendwave for $500m, showing a booming ecosystem breaking records in venture rounds and acquisitions.

#africa, #articles, #bank, #banking, #brett-demarrais, #business, #ceo, #east-africa, #economy, #europe, #frontline-ventures, #kenya, #lachy-groom, #ludlow-ventures, #nigeria, #paystack, #stripe, #tc

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Somalia Severs Diplomatic Ties With Kenya

Somalia accused its East African neighbor of meddling in its internal affairs, weeks before a crucial general election.

#al-qaeda, #jubaland-somalia, #kenya, #mogadishu-somalia, #mohamed-mohamed-abdullahi, #shabab, #somalia, #terrorism

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How Covid-19’s Social Effects Hurt Girls in Kenya

In Samburu County, economic and social strife from the pandemic is helping turn a generation of girls into commodities.

#child-marriages, #female-genital-mutilation, #kenya, #kenyatta-uhuru-muigai, #women-and-girls, #youth

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Fishing by Lantern on an Island in Kenya

On Lake Victoria, attracting baitfish with lanterns extends as far back as anyone can remember. But overfishing may jeopardize the tradition.

#africa, #boats-and-boating, #kenya, #lake-victoria, #luo-tribe, #travel-and-vacations

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Trump Orders All American Troops Out of Somalia

While the number of troops — about 700 — is small, it is a continuation of President Trump’s efforts to withdraw the United States from what he has described as endless wars.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-department, #drones-pilotless-planes, #esper-mark-t, #iraq-war-2003-11, #kenya, #maier-christopher-p, #miller-christopher-c-1965, #september-11-2001, #shabab, #somalia, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #world-trade-center-manhattan-ny

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SunCulture wants to turn Africa into the world’s next bread basket, one solar water pump at a time

The world’s food supply must double by the year 2050 to meet the demands from a growing population, according to a report from the United Nations. And as pressure mounts to find new crop land to support the growth, the world’s eyes are increasingly turning to the African continent as the next potential global breadbasket.

While Africa has 65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, according to the African Development Bank, the countries on the continent face significant obstacles as they look to boost the productivity of their agricultural industries.

On the continent, 80% of families depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but only 4% use irrigation. Many families also lack access to reliable and affordable electricity. It’s these twin problems that Samir Ibrahim and his co-founder at SunCulture, Charlie Nichols, have spent the last eight years trying to solve.

Armed with a new financing model and purpose-built small solar power generators and water pumps, Nichols and Ibrahim, have already built a network of customers using their equipment to increase incomes by anywhere from five to ten times their previous levels by growing higher-value cash crops, cultivating more land and raising more livestock.

The company also has just closed on $14 million in funding to expand its business across Africa.

“We have to double the amount of food we have to create by 2050, and if you look at where there are enough resources to grow food and a lot of point — all signs point to Africa. You have a lot of farmers and a lot of land, and a lot of resources,” Ibrahim said.

African small farmers face two big problems as they look to increase productivity, Ibrahim said. One is access to markets, which alone is a huge source of food waste, and the other is food security because of a lack of stable growing conditions exacerbated by climate change.

As one small farmer told The Economist earlier this year, ““The rainy season is not predictable. When it is supposed to rain it doesn’t, then it all comes at once.”

Ibrahim, who graduated from New York University in 2011, had long been drawn to the African continent. His father was born in Tanzania and his mother grew up in Kenya and they eventually found their way to the U.S. But growing up, Ibrahim was told stories about East Africa.

While pursuing a business degree at NYU Ibrahim met Nichols, who had been working on large scale solar projects in the U.S., at an event for budding entrepreneurs in New York.

The two began a friendship and discussed potential business opportunities stemming from a paper Nichols had read about renewable energy applications in the agriculture industry.

After winning second place in a business plan competition sponsored by NYU, the two men decided to prove that they should have won first. They booked tickets to Kenya and tried to launch a pilot program for their business selling solar-powered water pumps and generators.

Conceptually solar water pumping systems have been around for decades. But as the costs of solar equipment and energy storage have declined the systems that leverage those components have become more accessible to a broader swath of the global population.

That timing is part of what has enabled SunCulture to succeed where other companies have stumbled. “We moved here at a time when [solar] reached grid parity in a lot of markets. It was at a time when a lot of development financiers were funding the nexus between agriculture and energy,” said Ibrahim.

Initially, the company sold its integrated energy generation and water pumping systems to the middle income farmers who hold jobs in cities like Nairobi and cultivate crops on land they own in rural areas. These “telephone farmers” were willing to spend the $5000 required to install SunCulture’s initial systems.

Now, the cost of a system is somewhere between $500 and $1000 and is more accessible for the 570 million farming households across the word — with the company’s “pay-as-you-grow” model.

It’s a spin on what’s become a popular business model for the distribution of solar systems of all types across Africa. Investors have poured nearly $1 billion into the development of off-grid solar energy and retail technology companies like M-kopa, Greenlight Planet, d.light design, ZOLA Electric, and SolarHome, according to Ibrahim. In some ways, SunCulture just extends that model to agricultural applications.

“We have had to bundle services and financing. The reason this particularly works is because our customers are increasing their incomes four or five times,” said Ibrahim. “Most of the money has been going to consuming power. This is the first time there has been productive power.”

 SunCulture’s hardware consists of 300 watt solar panels and a 440 watt-hour battery system. The batteries can support up to four lights, two phones and a plug-in submersible water pump. 

The company’s best selling product line can support irrigation for a two-and-a-half acre farm, Ibrahim said. “We see ourselves as an entry point for other types of appliances. We’re growing to be the largest solar company for Africa.”

With the $14 million in funding, from investors including Energy Access Ventures (EAV), Électricité de France (EDF), Acumen Capital Partners (ACP), and Dream Project Incubators (DPI), SunCulture will expand its footprint in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Togo, and Cote D’Ivoire, the company said. 

Ekta Partners acted as the financial advisor for the deal, while CrossBoundary provided additional advisory support, including an analysis on the market opportunity and competitive landscape, under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Kenya Investment Mechanism Program

#africa, #agriculture, #alternative-energy, #articles, #co-founder, #east-africa, #economist, #electricity, #energy, #ethiopia, #financial-advisor, #food, #food-supply, #food-waste, #kenya, #nairobi, #new-york, #new-york-university, #renewable-energy, #senegal, #solar-energy, #solar-power, #tanzania, #tc, #uganda, #united-nations, #united-states

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Loon’s stratospheric balloons are now teaching themselves to fly better thanks to Google AI

Alphabet’s Loon has been using algorithmic processes to optimize the flight of its stratospheric balloons for years now – and setting records for time spent aloft as a result. But the company is now deploying a new navigation system that has the potential to be much better, and it’s using true reinforcement learning AI to teach itself to optimize navigation better than humans ever could.

Loon developed the new reinforcement learning system, which it says is the first to be used in an actual product aerospace context, with its Alphabet colleagues at Google AI in Montreal over the past couple of years. Unlike its past algorithmic navigation software, this one is devised entirely by machine – a machine that’s able to calculate the optimal navigation path for the balloons much more quickly than the human-made system could, and with much more efficiency, meaning the balloons use much less power to travel the same or greater distances than before.

How does Loon know it’s better? They actually pitted the new AI navigation against their human algorithm-based prior system directly, with a 39 day test that flew over the Pacific Ocean. The reinforcement learning model kept the Loon balloon aloft over target areas for longer continuous periods, using less energy than the older system, and it even came up with some new navigational moves that the team has never seen or conceived of before.

After this and other tests proved such dramatic successes, Loon actually then went ahead and deployed across its entire production fleet, which is currently deployed across parts of Africa to serve commercial customers in Kenya.

This is one of few real-world examples of an AI system that employs reinforcement learning to actively teach itself to perform better being used in a real-life setting, to control the performance of real hardware operating in a production capacity and serving paying customers. It’s a remarkable achievement, and definitely one that will be watched closely by others in aerospace and beyond.

#aerospace, #africa, #alphabet, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #balloon, #cybernetics, #google, #kenya, #montreal, #robotics, #science-and-technology, #tc, #x

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African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .

As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.

“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.

“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.

On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.

Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.

Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.

In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.

This year, Network International purchased East African payments startup DPO for $288 million and in August WorldRemit acquired Africa focused remittance company Sendwave for $500 million.

One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.

In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.

For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi (R) and Maijid Moujaled; Image Credits: Chipper Cash

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.

Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.

“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”

#500-startups, #africa, #amazon, #america, #apple, #banking, #bezos-expeditions, #chipper-cash, #e-commerce, #facebook, #financial-services, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #ham-serunjogi, #hsbc, #interswitch, #iowa, #jeff-bezos, #joe-montana, #kenya, #liquid-2-ventures, #maijid-moujaled, #mastercard, #mobile-payments, #nigeria, #online-payments, #p2p, #paystack, #ribbit, #ribbit-capital, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #series-b, #south-africa, #stripe, #tanzania, #tc, #tesla, #uganda, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #worldremit, #yahoo

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Nigeria’s Autochek raises $3.4M for car sales and service platform

Nigeria based startup Autochek looks to bring the sales and servicing of cars in Africa online. The newly founded venture has closed a $3.4 million seed-round co-led by TLcom Capital and 4DX ventures toward that aim.

The raise comes fresh off of Autochek’s September acquisition of digital car sales marketplace Cheki in Nigeria and Ghana. It also follows the recent departure of Autochek CEO Etop Ikpe from Cars45 — the startup he co-founded in 2016, now owned by Amsterdam based OLX Group.

That’s a lot of news in a short-time for Ikpe. His new company will likely be in direct competition with his previous venture (also located in Nigeria). Still, the Nigerian entrepreneur — who built his early tech credentials at e-commerce startups DealDey and Konga — says Autochek is a new model.

“It’s different in the type of technology we’re building and that it’s asset light. I don’t have any inventory. I don’t buy cars. I don’t transact any [physical] cars. I don’t own any inspection locations. I don’t own any dealerships,” Ikpe told TechCrunch on a call from Lagos.

Autochek’s model, according to its CEO, is aimed at creating the digital infrastructure for a new system to better coordinate sales, servicing, and vehicle records of the car market in Nigeria and broader Africa.

Autochek CEO Etop Ikpe, Image Credit: Autochek

Ikpe characterizes that market as still largely informal and fragmented. “We’re basically focused on technology solutions to build the rails of [Africa’s] automotive sector to run on. We’re focusing on three foundations of the market: transactions and trading, maintenance, and financing,” he said.

Autochek’s platform — managed by a developer team in Lagos and Nairobi — is a network for consumers and businesses to buy cars, sell cars, service cars, and finance cars sales.

On the financing side, the startup launched with 10 bank partnerships in Nigeria and two in Ghana, according to Ikpe. Creating more financing options is both a big opportunity for the startup and consumers, he explained. “The used car market in Africa is a $45 billion a year market that has only a 5% financing penetration rate…so there’s huge upside for growth.”

Image Credit: Autochek

Across its core product offerings, Autochek has created a network of partners and standards. The company generates revenues through fees charged on consumer transactions and commissions paid by dealers and service shops on the platform. Consumers can sign up and use the Autochek app for free.

On the sudden departure from his previous startup, Cars45, “I left because I wanted to build something else,” explained Ikpe. There’s been plenty of speculation in local tech press as to what happened, including reports of forced exits by investors. Ikpe declined to get into the details except to say, “I’ve resigned. I’ve moved on and I’m focused on doing what I’m doing right now.”

In addition to its operations in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and top VC destination — Autochek plans to use its seed-financing to expand services and geographic scope. The startup will add associated auto related services, such as insurance and blue book pricing products. Autochek is also eying possible entry in new countries such as Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Algeria. More M&A could also be in play. “Acquisitions are going to be a core part of our expansion strategy,” said Ikpe.

TLcom Capital Partner Andreata Muforo confirmed the fund’s co-lead on the $3.4 million seed round. Speaking to TechCrunch on a call from Nairobi, she named Autochek’s asset light model, Ikpe’s repeat founder status, and the fund’s view of auto sales and service as an underserved market in Africa as reasons for backing the venture. Golden Palm Investments, Lateral Capital, MSA Capital, and Kepple Africa Ventures also joined the investment round.

While fintech gains the majority of VC financing across Africa’s top tech hubs — such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa — mobility related startups operating on the continent have attracted notable support. Drone delivery venture Zipline and trucking logistics company Kobo360 have both received backing from Goldman Sachs. In 2019, FlexClub, a South African startup that matches investors and drivers to cars for ride-hailing services, used a $1.3 million round to expand to Mexico in partnership with Uber.

#africa, #berlin, #cars45, #ceo, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #kenya, #kobo360, #lagos, #mexico, #nairobi, #nigeria, #private-equity, #south-africa, #startup-company, #tc, #tlcom-capital, #uber

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In Kenya, a Cherished Fig Tree Gets a Reprieve

The 100-year-old tree, slated for removal to make room for a new expressway, will be preserved following a backlash from environmentalists concerned about shrinking green spaces in Nairobi.

#china, #infrastructure-public-works, #kenya, #nairobi-kenya, #nairobi-expressway-kenya, #roads-and-traffic, #trees-and-shrubs

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Alphabet delivers wireless Internet over light beams from 20km away

A wireless communication terminal on the rooftop of a large building in Kenya.

Enlarge / Piloting Taara’s wireless optical communication links in Kenya. (credit: Allphabet)

Alphabet will soon deliver wireless Internet over light beams in Kenya using a technology that can cover distances of up to 20km. Alphabet’s Project Taara, unveiled under a different name in 2017, conducted a series of pilots in Kenya last year and is now partnering with a telecom company to deliver Internet access in remote parts of Africa.

Kenya will get the technology first, with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa to follow. Project Taara General Manager Mahesh Krishnaswamy described the project in an announcement from Alphabet today:

Project Taara is now working with Econet and its subsidiaries, Liquid Telecom and Econet Group, to expand and enhance affordable, high-speed Internet to communities across their networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Taara’s links will begin rolling out across Liquid Telecom’s networks in Kenya first, and will help provide high-speed connectivity in places where it’s challenging to lay fiber cables, or where deploying fiber might be too costly or dangerous—for example over rivers, across national parks, or in post-conflict zones.

Like fiber, without cables

Illustration of a Project Taara terminal delivering Internet access from a tall building to a remote area.

Illustration of a Project Taara terminal delivering Internet access from a tall building to a remote area. (credit: Alphabet)

Similar to fiber-optic cables, Taara’s technology uses light to transmit data, but without the cables. Krishnaswamy continued:

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#africa, #alphabet, #biz-it, #kenya, #project-loon, #project-taara, #wireless-internet

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Alphabet’s X partners with Econet Group to roll out Project Taara wireless light-beam broadband in Africa

Alphabet’s X ‘Moonshot Factory’ subsidiary has a lot of cutting edge projects in development, so it’s always exciting when one of them gets ready for real-world deployment. On Tuesday, X announced that its ‘Project Taara’ high-speed optical wireless broadband endeavor is working with internet provider Econet and its subsidiaries to begin rolling out its tech across Sub-Saharan Africa.

This deployment follows a series of small pilots in Kenya specifically, but now Taara and Econet are ready to start adding high-speed wireless optical links to supplement and enhance Econet service reach more broadly, starting with Liquid Telecom customers in Kenya. Taara is yet another approach to extending the reach of broadband networks to parts of the Earth that have typically not had access or high-speed connections, due primarily to infrastructure challenges.

X’s Taara is essentially a fiber optic network cable without the cable – it uses a narrow, invisible beam of light to transmit data between two terminals that can span up to nearly 12.5 miles, while providing transfer speeds up to 20 Gbps, which means they can be used to connect thousands of customers or households while providing speeds high enough for streaming high quality video.

Image Credits: X, the moonshot factory

Taara’s technology can essentially be used to patch gaps in traditional fiber optic networks, spanning rivers or crossing terrain that would be hard or impossible to span using either under or aboveground cable. They do require unbroken line of sight, so X sets them atop tall structures to help ensure that’s achieved, and it also means they’re best suited to plugging holes in traditional networks, not necessarily building out entirely new ones. But contrasted to efforts like Alphabet’s Loon stratospheric balloons or SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-based network, it’s relatively easy and cheap to get this up and running and working with existing network infrastructure.

X has been piloting Taara in a number of deployments around the world, but this is a sign that it’s maturing towards a commercialization stage that could see it in service as a supplement to existing networks in a lot more places relatively soon.

#alphabet, #broadband, #fiber-optic, #internet, #kenya, #liquid-telecom, #science, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #telecommunications, #wireless-broadband

0

A Famed Fig Tree’s Days Are Numbered as a New Highway Plows Through

A tree that has graced a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, for nearly a century is slated to be taken down to make way for a highway through the city intended to reduce traffic jams.

#environment, #kenya, #kikuyu-tribe, #nairobi-kenya, #roads-and-traffic, #trees-and-shrubs, #wangari-maathai

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Apeel gets more cash to fight poverty and food insecurity in emerging markets with its food-preserving tech

In the first real test of the potentially transformative power of its food-preserving technology, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Apeel Sciences is bringing its innovative food treatment and supply chain management services to distribution centers in select markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The goal is to alleviate food insecurity among farmers, who comprise one of the most susceptible populations to issues of malnutrition, according to Apeel’s chief executive James Rogers.

“The majority of fruits and vegetables grown on this planet are grown by small farmers and two thirds of the people who are food insecure are also farmers,” said Rogers. 

The reason why farmers are more at-risk than other populations stems from their inability to get the most value out of their crops, because of the threat of spoilage, Rogers said

By introducing its preservative technologies that deter spoilage and providing willing buyers among existing Apeel customers in markets like the U.S., Denmark, Germany and Switzerland Rogers said the company can have an outsized impact to improve the amount of money going into a farmer’s pocket.

“The program with the IFC is to build supply chains out,” he said. “The value is not just in the longer-lasting produce, it’s in the market access for that longer lasting produce.”

The initial markets will be in Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Vietnam where Appeal’s tech will treat avocados, pineapples, asparagus, and citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges.

In some ways it’s the culmination of the work that Appeal has been doing for the past several years, getting grocers around the world to buy into its approach to reducing waste.

The company has always put smallholder farmers at the center of its company mission — ever since Appeal was founded in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development. The intention was always to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables produced by farmers without access to the modern refrigerated supply chain. It’s just that for the past several years, the company had to refine its technology and build out a retail network.

To further that aim, Apeel has raised over $360 million, including a $250 million round of funding which closed earlier this year.

The fruition of Rogers’ plans will be as the company brings demand from international markets to these local growers through regional exporters.

Without access to a refrigerated supply chain, much of what small farmers produce can only reach local markets where supply exceeds demand. The perishability of crops creates market conditions where these fruits and vegetables can’t make it to export, creating market dynamics that exacerbate poverty and increase food loss and food waste among the people who make their living farming, Appeal said.

“With extra time we can link those small producers into the global food system and help them collect the economic value that’s intrinsic to that natural resource,” said Rogers. 

The introduction of new demand from international markets, which can be fulfilled if crops are treated with Appeal’s technology can create a virtuous cycle that will ideally increase prices for crops and bring bigger payouts to farmers. At least that’s the vision that Rogers has for the latest implementations of Appeal’s technology at regional distribution hubs.

There’s the potential that the middle men who’re distributing the produce to foreign buyers may collect most of the value from the introduction of Appeal’s technology, but Rogers dismisses that scenario.

“The work is to incorporate those small producers more directly into the supply chain of the exporter. Now that there’s familiarity with the technology you can utilize the tech to create cooperative value and use those cooperatives to unlock value for the very small producers,” he said. “By growing the demand for produce in those markets that supply has to come from somewhere. The exporters earn their cut on a volume basis. The way they increase their value is to grow their volume. They want to grow the volume that’s suitable for export and the demand. Then the challenge flips and it becomes not a demand challenge but a supply challenge. And they have to incentivize people to feed into that supply.” 

To finance this international rollout, Appeal has raised another $30 million in funding from investors including the International Finance Corp., Temasek and Astanor Ventures .

“Innovative technologies can change the course of development in emerging markets and save livelihoods, economies, and in this case, food,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, interim Managing Director and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer, of IFC, in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Apeel to invest in a game-changing technology that can limit food waste by half, enhance sustainability, and mitigate climate change.”

#agriculture, #apeel-sciences, #articles, #astanor-ventures, #bill-melinda-gates-foundation, #denmark, #distribution, #food-waste, #kenya, #latin-america, #marketplace, #tc, #temasek, #uganda, #united-states

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‘It’s a New Day’: Sudan Exults to Be Taken Off List of Terror States

President Trump said on Monday that the U.S. plans to lift Sudan’s 27-year designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, enabling Sudan to access international financial networks.

#al-qaeda, #bashir-omar-hassan-al, #cole-uss, #hamdok-abdalla, #kenya, #presidential-election-of-2020, #sudan, #tanzania, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j

0

2 Men Found Guilty of Aiding 2013 Kenya Mall Attack

The verdicts came seven years after 67 people were killed by Shabab militants at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

#al-qaeda, #kenya, #nairobi-kenya, #nairobi-kenya-westgate-mall-shootings-2013, #shabab, #terrorism

0

Eliud Kipchoge Emerges as the Philosopher-King of Running

He is already the greatest marathoner ever, but Kipchoge, who competes in London on Sunday, has evolved into something of a Zen master as well. Where does that come from? Look to his heritage.

#kenya, #kipchoge-eliud, #london-marathon, #marathon-running, #race-and-ethnicity

0

Why Male Baboons Benefit From Female Friends

These male monkeys lived longer if they socialized with females, with or without benefits.

#animal-behavior, #friendship, #kenya, #monkeys-and-apes, #philosophical-transactions-of-the-royal-society-b-journal, #reproduction-biological, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

0

Trump Is Wrong about TikTok. China’s Plans Are Much More Sinister.

The West still doesn’t understand the scale of Beijing’s soft-power ambitions.

#5g-wireless-communications, #australia, #beijing-bytedance-technology-co-ltd, #blacklisting, #chiang-kai-shek, #china, #communist-party-of-china, #computers-and-the-internet, #confucius-institutes, #darwin-australia, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #huawei-technologies-co-ltd, #india, #indian-ocean, #kenya, #kiribati, #maldives, #mao-zedong, #military-bases-and-installations, #mobile-applications, #myanmar, #pakistan, #panama-canal-and-canal-zone, #propaganda, #solomon-islands, #sri-lanka, #the-art-of-war-book, #the-romance-of-the-three-kingdoms-book, #tiktok-bytedance, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #xi-jinping

0

Interswitch to revive its Africa venture fund, CEO confirms

Pan-African fintech company Interswitch plans to fire up its corporate venture arm again—according to CEO Mitchell Elegbe—who spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt on Wednesday.

The Nigerian founder didn’t offer much new on the Lagos-based firm’s expected IPO, but he did reveal Interswitch will revive investments in African startups.

Founded by Elegbe in 2002, Interswitch pioneered the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly cash-based economy. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population of 200 million people. Interswitch has expanded to offer personal and business payment products in 23 Africa countries.

The fintech firm achieved unicorn status in 2019 after a $200 million equity investment by Visa gave it a $1 billion valuation.

Reviving venture investing

Interswitch, which is well beyond startup phase, launched a $10 million venture arm in 2015 that has been dormant since 2016, after it acquired Vanso—a Nigerian fintech security company.

But Interswitch will soon be back in the business of making startup bets and acquisitions, according to Elegbe. “We’ve just certified a team and the plan is to begin to make those kinds of investments again.”

He offered a glimpse into the new fund’s focus. “This time around we want to make financial investments and also leverage the network that Interswitch has and put that at the disposal of these companies,” Elegbe told TechCrunch.

“We’ll be very selective in the companies we invest in. They should be companies that Interswitch clearly as an entity can add value to. They should be companies that help accelerate growth by the virtue of what we do and the customers that we have,” he said.

Recent venture events in African tech have likely pressed Interswitch to get back in the investing arena. As an ecosystem, VC on the continent has increased (roughly) by a factor of four over last five years, to around $2 billion in 2019. But most of that has come from single-entity investment funds, while corporate venture funding (and tech M&A activity) has remained light. That’s shifted over the last several months and the entire uptick has occurred in African fintech around entities that could be viewed as Interswitch competitors.

In July, Dubai’s Network International acquired Kenya -based payment mobile payment processing company DPO for $288 million. Shortly after the acquisition, DPO’s CEO Eran Feinstein said the company would pursue more African acquisitions on its own. In June, another mobile-money payment processor, MFS Africa, acquired digital finance company Beyonic. And in August, South Africa’s Standard Bank—Africa’s largest by assets and lending—acquired a stake in fintech security firm TradeSafe.

Since the rise of Safaricom’s dominant M-Pesa mobile money product in Kenya, fintech in Africa has become infinitely larger and more competitive. The sector has hundreds of startups and now receives nearly 50% of all VC investment on the continent.

The opportunity investors and founders are chasing is bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data, and mobile-based finance platforms have presented the best use-cases to shift that across the region.

Interswitch has established itself as a leader in the Africa’s digital finance race. But it’s hard to envision how it can maintain or extend that role without an active venture arm that invests in and acquires innovative, young fintech startups.

No news on IPO

Elegbe had less to offer on Interswitch’s long-anticipated IPO. Asked if the company still planned to list publicly, he offered up a non-answer answer. “At this point in time we’re focused on growing the business and creating value for our customers and that is the our primary focus.”

When pressed “yes or no” on whether an IPO was still a possibility Elegbe confirmed it was. “We have private equity investors and at some point in the life of the business they want exits.” he said. “When it is time for them to exit there are various options on the table and an IPO is an option.”

There’s been talk of an Interswitch IPO for years. In 2016, Elegbe told TechCrunch a dual-listing on the Lagos and London Stock Exchanges was possible. Then word came through other Interswitch channels that it was delayed due to recession and currency volatility in Nigeria in 2017. In November 2019, a source with knowledge of the situation told TechCrunch on background, “an IPO is still very much in the cards; likely sometime in the first half of 2020.” Then came the Covid-19 crisis and the accompanying global economic slump, which may have delayed Interswitch’s IPO plans yet again.

If and when the company goes public, it would be a major event for Nigerian and African fintech. No VC backed fintech firm on the continent has listed globally. Exits for Interswitch’s investors would likely attract to Nigeria and broader Africa more VC from major funds—many of whom remain on the fence about startup opportunities on the continent.

Focus on Africa

On global product expansion, Interswitch plans to maintain an African focus for now, Elegbe explained. “There are enough opportunities for Interswitch on the continent. We’d like to be in as many African countries as possible…and position Interswitch as the (financial) gateway to the continent,” he said.

Elegbe explained the company would continue to work through alliances with major financial services firms to open up global financial access for its African client base. In August 2019, Interswitch launched a partnership that allows its Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network.

CEO Mitchell Elegbe concluded his Disrupt session with some perspective on balancing the stigmas and possibilities of doing business in Nigeria. Over recent years the country has shifted to become an unofficial hub for big tech expansion, VC investment, and startup formation in Africa. But Nigeria continues to have a difficult operating environment with regard to infrastructure and is often associated with political corruption and instability in its Northeast region due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Nigeria has a very large population and a very large market. We have lots of challenges that need to be solved, but it makes sense to me that lots of money is finding its way to Nigeria because the opportunity is there,” he said.

Elegbe’s advice to tech investors considering the country, “Don’t take a short-termist view. There are good people on the ground doing fantastic work—honest people who want to make impact. You need to  seek those people out.”

#africa, #african-tech, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #dubai, #economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #interswitch, #kenya, #lagos, #m-pesa, #mitchell-elegbe, #money, #nigeria, #safaricom, #south-africa, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #venture-capital, #visa, #world-bank

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U.S. Military Seeks Authority to Expand Counterterrorism Drone War to Kenya

Draft rules for potential airstrikes, drawn up after a Shabab attack at a base in January, are said to be limited and would require Kenyan assent.

#defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #drones-pilotless-planes, #kenya, #military-bases-and-installations, #shabab, #somalia, #terrorism, #united-states-africa-command, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Interswitch CEO Mitchell Elegbe to discuss African fintech at TechCrunch Disrupt

The CEO of Pan-African fintech unicorn, Mitchell Elegbe, is set to speak at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020 on September 16. He founded the company in Lagos in 2002 to connect Nigeria’s — then — largely disconnected banking system.

Over the next decade plus, Interswitch accelerated the adoption of digital payments across Africa and now stands as one of the continent’s rare fintech unicorns. The company is poised to list on a global exchange, which would also create Africa’s next big tech IPO.

At Disrupt 2020, TechCrunch will seek Elegbe’s perspective on the continent’s fintech scene, Interswitch’s venture plans, and the economic impact of Covid-19 on African startups. This year’s event is 100% virtual, making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to sign in and learn more about Elegbe’s company and digital innovation in Africa.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time — or more — in the near future. When measured by monetary values, the continent’s tech ecosystem is small by Shenzhen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at year-over-year expansion in venture capital, startup formation and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest-growing tech markets in the world.

Bringing the continent’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Interswitch became a pioneer of building the infrastructure to digitize finance on the continent. The company pre-dates the rise of mobile money in Kenya through Safaricom’s M-Pesa product, which is one of Africa’s most recognized fintech use-cases. 

Interswitch’s path from startup to unicorn traces back to the vision of CEO Mitchell Elegbe, who was a Nigerian electrical engineering graduate before founding the firm in 2002. The company has since produced a run of product innovation and expansion, starting in Nigeria. Interswitch created the first electronic switch whereby Nigerian financial institutions could communicate and operate ATMs and point of sales operations. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system.

Interswitch has since moved into high-volume personal and business finance, with its Verve payment cards and Quickteller payment app. The fintech firm (now well beyond startup phase) has also shaped a Pan-African and global reach — selling its products in 23 African countries with a physical presence in Uganda, Gambia and Kenya . In August 2019, Interswitch launched a partnership that allows its Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network.

Interswitch Quickteller

Image Credits: Interswitch

Interswitch also launched a venture arm in 2015 called its global ePayment Growth Fund. Another milestone came in November 2019 when Interswitch achieved a $1 billion unicorn valuation after Visa took a reported $200 million minority stake in the company. Other Interswitch backers include IFC and Helios Investment Partners.

The company’s Nigerian origins and operations have become more significant as Nigeria is now Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy. The West African country has become the continent’s unofficial tech hub and fintech capital. Nigerian startups now raise the majority of Africa’s annual VC haul, according to a study by Partech.

Heading into 2020, the momentum was there and the pieces were falling in place for Interswitch to mark that next big achievement — an IPO. Where that listing stands for the firm, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, is one of many topics TechCrunch is excited to discuss with CEO Mitchell Elegbe at Disrupt 2020.

The event runs from September 14 through September 18 and (as mentioned) is 100% virtual this year, making it possible for anyone from London to Lagos to sign in. Get your front row seat to see Mitchell Elegbe live with a Disrupt Digital Pro Pass or a Digital Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. We’re excited to see you there.

#africa, #african-business, #african-tech, #bangalore, #banking, #ceo, #disrupt-2020, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-technology, #helios-investment-partners, #interswitch, #kenya, #lagos, #london, #mitchell-elegbe, #money, #nigeria, #private-equity, #safaricom, #san-francisco, #shenzhen, #startup-company, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #uganda, #venture-capital, #world-bank

0

Do Safari Companies Really Want African Travelers?

During these lean times for tourism, travel companies are appealing to residents with special rates. But locals ask: Why didn’t you reach out before?

#africa, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #kenya, #local-tourism, #safaris, #south-africa, #tanzania, #travel-and-vacations

0

Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.

Faced with plunging profits and a climate crisis that threatens fossil fuels, the industry is demanding a trade deal that weakens Kenya’s rules on plastics and on imports of American trash.

#american-chemistry-council, #basel-action-network, #center-for-international-environmental-law, #chemicals, #environment, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #international-trade-and-world-market, #kenya, #plastic-bags, #plastics, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #united-states, #waste-materials-and-disposal

0

Kenya’s Health Workers, Unprotected and Falling Ill, Walk Off Job

Hundreds of health workers have tested positive and some have died, while health facilities are overwhelmed and government officials are accused of stealing funds for medical supplies.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #corruption-institutional, #doctors, #kenya, #nairobi-kenya, #strikes, #ventilators-medical

0

Kenya’s Unusual Solution to the School Problem: Cancel the Year and Start Over

Some students were taking classes online, while others couldn’t. So the government scrapped the school year for all. But the move may just make educational inequality worse.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #e-learning, #education-k-12, #income-inequality, #kenya, #nairobi-kenya, #private-and-sectarian-schools

0

China Is Harvesting DNA From Millions of People. Is This the Future of Policing?

The Chinese police are systematically collecting genomic data from tens of millions of people.

#australia, #biometrics, #california, #chengdu-china, #china, #commerce-department, #dna-deoxyribonucleic-acid, #europe, #forensic-science, #fujian-province-china, #gedmatch-inc, #government-contracts-and-procurement, #guizhou-china, #hunan-province-china, #india, #inner-mongolia, #kenya, #kuwait, #malaysia, #minorities, #muslims-and-islam, #police, #police-department-nyc, #politics-and-government, #privacy, #surveillance-of-citizens-by-government, #thailand, #thermo-fisher-scientific-inc, #tibet, #united-states, #xinjiang-china

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Used Clothes Ban May Crimp Kenyan Style. It May Also Lift Local Design.

Kenya has halted imports of secondhand clothes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The move limits fashion selection, but opens doors for the country’s designers and manufacturers.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fashion-and-apparel, #international-trade-and-world-market, #kenya, #nairobi-kenya, #textiles, #thrift-shops

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Alphabet’s Loon launches its balloon-powered Kenyan internet service

Alphabet’s Loon has officially begun operating its commercial internet service in Kenya . This is the first large-scale commercial offering that makes use of Loon’s high-altitude balloons, which essentially work as cell service towers that drift on currents in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Loon’s Kenyan service is offered in partnership with local telecom provider Telkom Kenya, and provides cellular service through their network to an area covering roughly 50,000 square kilometres (31,000 square miles) that normally hasn’t had reliable service due to the difficulty of setting up ground infrastructure in the mountainous terrain.

Loon has been working towards deploying its first commercial service deployment in Kenya since it announced the signed deal in 2019, but the company says that the mission has taken on even greater significance and importance since the onset of COVID-19, which has meant that reliable connectivity, especially in light of the restrictions upon travel that the epidemic has placed, making the ability to remotely contact doctors, family members and others all the more important.

Some of the technical details of how Loon’s stratospheric balloons will offer this continuous service, and what kind of network quality people can expect include that the fleet includes around 35 balloons acting together which are moving constantly to maintain the target area coverage. Average speeds look to be around 18.9Mbps down, and 4.74 Mbps up, with 19 second latency, and real-world testing has shown that this has served well for use across voice and video calls, as well as YouTube streaming, WhatsApp use and more, according to Loon.

The path followed by Alphabet’s balloons as they provide service to the target area in Kenya.

The company actually began testing its service earlier this year, with many customers connecting to the network without even realizing it during those tests, and Loon says it has served over 35,000 customers and provided the services listed during those tests.

Prior to today’s commercial service launch, Loon has also employed its balloons to provide emergency service to areas affected by disaster, including Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. It’s now working with a number of commercial telecom partners to deploy non-emergency service in a number of underserved regions globally.

#aerospace, #balloon, #internet-service, #internet-service-providers, #kenya, #loon, #mbps, #puerto-rico, #tc, #whatsapp, #x

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A Bird? A Plane? No, It’s a Google Balloon Beaming the Internet

A commercial deal in Kenya marks the first application of balloon-powered internet in Africa, the region with the lowest percentage of internet users globally.

#balloons-aeronautics, #cellular-telephones, #computers-and-the-internet, #google-inc, #hurricane-maria-2017, #kenya, #loon-llc, #telkom-kenya, #wireless-communications

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Laid Off and Locked Up: Virus Traps Domestic Workers in Arab States

The pandemic and economic crises have caused many workers to lose their jobs. Some have been detained, abused, deprived of wages and stranded far from home with nowhere to turn for help.

#abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates, #africa, #bahrain, #beirut-lebanon, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #dubai-united-arab-emirates, #ethiopia, #foreign-workers, #immigration-and-emigration, #kenya, #kuwait, #labor-and-jobs, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #lebanon, #middle-east, #migrant-labor-non-agriculture, #saudi-arabia, #uganda, #united-arab-emirates, #wages-and-salaries, #women-and-girls, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

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George Floyd’s Killing Prompts Africans to Call for Police Reform at Home

Africans are increasingly pushing to hold police agencies to account and “decolonize” the repressive institutions they inherited from colonial rulers.

#africa, #black-lives-matter-movement, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #kenya, #moyo-yassin-d-2020, #nigeria, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #police-reform, #senegal, #south-africa

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Coronavirus Is Battering Africa’s Growing Middle Class

From Kenya to Nigeria, South Africa to Rwanda, the pandemic is decimating the livelihoods of the once-stable workers who were helping to drive Africa’s economic expansion.

#bonfire-adventures, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #curfews, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #kenya, #middle-class, #nigeria, #rwanda, #south-africa

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African payment startup Chipper Cash raises $13.8M Series A

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has closed a $13.8 million Series A funding round led by Deciens Capital and plans to hire 30 new staff globally.

The raise caps an event filled run for the San Francisco based payments company, founded two years ago by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled.

The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds.

Two years and $22 million in total capital raised later, Chipper Cash offers its mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

“We’re now at over one and a half million users and doing over a $100 million dollars a month in volume,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Chipper Cash does not release audited financial data, but does share internal performance accounting with investors. Deciens Capital and Raptor Group co-led the startup’s Series A financing, with repeat support from 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures .

Deciens Capital founder Dan Kimmerling confirmed the fund’s lead on the investment and review of Chipper Cash’s payment value and volume metrics.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout: a merchant-focused, fee-based mobile payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business.

The company will use its latest round to hire up to 30 people across operations in San Francisco, Lagos, London, Nairobi and New York — according to Serunjogi.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has already brought on a new compliance officer, Lisa Dawson, whose background includes stints with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Citigroup’s anti-money laundering department.

“You know in the world we live in the AML side is very important so it’s an area that we want to invest in from the get go,” said Serunjogi.

He confirmed Dawson’s role aligned with getting Chipper Cash ready to meet regulatory requirements for new markets, but declined to name specific countries.

With the round announcement, Chipper Cash also revealed a corporate social responsibility component to its business. Related to current U.S. events, the startup has formed the Chipper Fund for Black Lives.

“We’ve been huge beneficiaries of the generosity and openness of this country and its entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Serunjogi. “But growing up in Africa, we’ve were able to navigate [the U.S.] without the traumas and baggage our African American friends have gone through living in America.”

The Chipper Fund for Black Lives will give 5 to 10 grants of $5,000 to $10,000. “The plan is to give that to…people or causes who are furthering social justice reforms,” said Serunjogi.

In Africa, Chipper Cash has placed itself in the continent’s major digital payments markets. As a sector, fintech has become Africa’s highest funded tech space, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Those ventures, and a number of the continent’s established banks, are in a race to build market share through financial inclusion.

By several estimates — including The Global Findex Database — the continent is home to the largest percentage of the world’s unbanked population, with a sizable number of underbanked consumers and SMEs.

Increasingly, Nigeria has become the most significant fintech market in Africa, with the continent’s largest economy and population of 200 million.

Chipper Cash expanded there in 2019 and faces competition from a number of players, including local payments venture Paga. More recently, outside entrants have jumped into Nigeria’s fintech scene.

In 2019, Chinese investors put $220 million into OPay (owned by Opera) and PalmPay — two fledgling startups with plans to scale first in West Africa and then the broader continent.

Over the next several years, expect to see market events — such as fails, acquisitions, or IPOs — determine how well funded fintech startups, including Chipper Cash, fare in Africa’s fintech arena.

#africa, #african-tech, #america, #chipper-cash, #citigroup, #deciens-capital, #entrepreneurship, #ghana, #ham-serunjogi, #iowa, #joe-montana, #kenya, #lagos, #liquid-2-ventures, #london, #nairobi, #new-york, #nigeria, #p2p, #paga, #private-equity, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #startup-company, #tanzania, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #uganda, #united-states, #west-africa, #yahoo

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