Browse Tag

Africa

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South African Payment Platform Yoco Raises $83M For Expansion

You’ve probably heard the phrase “small business is the backbone of the economy” before, and for good reason: it is true. Small businesses employ a huge percentage of workers around the globe.

But in countries like South Africa, where more payments are going digital and more customers are looking to swipe their debit and credit cards, smaller businesses still largely do not accept digital payments, potentially missing out on customers accustomed to not carrying any cash.

The fintech company Yoco has decided to tackle this problem head on, using its portable card machines as a way for small businesses and merchants to accept digital payments in person.

yoco

Yoco’s Strategy

Yoco’s strategy to gain a foothold in the industry is twofold: the company aims to be the most recognizable brand in the market and to make the adoption of their portable card machines as seamless as possible for their customers.

And this strategy appears to be working, as the company boasts that it is adding up to 500 merchants a day and has processed over $1 billion in payments, and growing. The company is carving out a market for itself and building a reputation in the process.

$83 Million In Funding

It’s no wonder that Yoco was able to raise $83 million from the Dragoneer Investment Group, a major investor in Chime and Square as well. This makes Yoco the most valuable startup in all of South Africa.

It has raised the most funding of any startup in South Africa and is only third across the entire continent. Yoco plans to use this investment to deliver new products to their customers, such as QR payments and a peer to peer money transfer. As they grow and add new features, they are only cementing their market dominance.

Expanding To New Regions

Yoco is looking past South Africa for growth: The startup is looking at rapidly expanding throughout all of Africa and into the Middle East. This provides an excellent growth opportunity as many merchants throughout these regions are still dealing mostly with cash at the moment but are interacting with customers who are increasingly going digital.

And with word that the company is hiring former employees from Paypal and Uber, Yoco is poised to reach exciting new heights in the fintech sector.

 

Written by Johnny T. Ross


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Former President Barack Obama joins NBA Africa as strategic partner and minority owner

The National Basketball Association (NBA)  announced yesterday that former President Barack Obama has joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner.

President Obama will help advance the league’s social responsibility efforts across the continent, including programs and partnerships that support greater gender equality and economic inclusion.

In this capacity, President Obama will have a minority equity stake in the new venture, which over time he intends to use to fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across Africa.

“The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States—using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent,” said President Barack Obama.  “By investing in communities, promoting gender equality, and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa’s young people.  I’ve been impressed by the league’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities.  That’s why I’m proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries.”

“We are honored that President Obama has become a strategic partner in NBA Africa and will support our wide-ranging efforts to grow the game of basketball on the continent,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “In addition to his well-documented love for basketball, President Obama has a firm belief in Africa’s potential and the enormous growth opportunities that exist through sports.  NBA Africa will benefit tremendously from his engagement.”

“We have ambitious growth plans for NBA Africa and having President Obama join our efforts is a recognition that through sport, Africa can take its rightful place on the world stage,” said NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams.  “We look forward to working with President Obama and our strategic investors to use basketball as an economic growth engine across the continent and as a platform to improve the health and wellness of one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing populations.”


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Jetstream Raises $3 Million to Improve African Cross-border Trade

Jetstream, a Ghanaian technology-driven logistics company, just landed $3 million in seed funding to solve one of Africa’s biggest problems: the lack of coordination at its ports.

“These are exactly the types of problems that technology solves,” said Miishe Addy, cofounder of Jetstream.

Addy founded the startup with Solomon Torgbor in 2018 to help African businesses by aggregating private sector logistics providers at the ports and borders of Africa, and then bringing them online. This way, companies could have better visuals and control over their cross-border supply chains.

“We are different from a more siloed freight management system because we are leveraging financing…so that shipments can be tracked every step of the way. We are bringing many of the local providers online for the first time,” Addy mused.

Since Africa increased its share of international exports from 80% to 90% between 2000 and 2017, there’s been a growing demand for the continent to be less commodity-dependent and diversify its exports.

Africa needs to revitalize its notoriously slow and costly ports to create more opportunities and encourage intracontinental trade. For Ghanaian native Torgbor, Ghana is the perfect place to plant Jetstream’s roots. The West African country can be a thriving hub for intercontinental trade as it’s home to the largest container terminal in West and Central Africa, Port Tema.

Jetstream isn’t just making waves in the world of commerce, however. Data suggests that women-led startups in Africa attract as little as 15% of the total VC investments available in the continent. Addy hopes that Jetstream’s win will lead to more women leaders being funded.

Technology and data are at the forefront of Jetstream’s business model, and according to Addy, these two elements might bring the future that Jetstream envisions to life.

“We see a future where trade running on Jetstream’s digital rails has a powerful competitive edge on logistics. Jetstream is to cross-border logistics what Flutterwave is to fintech in Africa.”

 

Written by Reese Williams


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Africa Focused Flutterwave Now Valued at Over $1 Billion after $170 Million Investment

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave is a payment processing company that makes it easier to do business across the Continent by allowing users to make international payments in their own currencies.

Yesterday, the San Fransico based company announced that it has secured $170 million from a group of international investors as part of a successful Series C round.

flutterwave
Flutterwave Ceo and co-founder, Olugbenga Agboola
The round was led by growth-equity firms Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management with participation from new and existing investors. The fundraise brings the total investment in Flutterwave to $225 million and values the company at $1 billion.
flutterwave
Flutterwave Co-founder, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

“We may consider the possibility of listing in New York or a possible dual listing in New York and Nigeria,” Flutterwave’s CEO and co-founder Olugbenga Agboola told Reuters on Tuesday.

This latest investment, made a year after Flutterwave announced a partnership with Visa and Worldpay, highlights the growing interest in the booming payments market in Africa.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned EdTech App Raises $10.6 Million in Two Years

A year after it raised a seed round of $3.1m, Nigerian Education Technology (Edtech) platform, uLesson announced last week that it has closed a $7.5m Series A round.

US-based Owl Ventures led the financing round. The VC fund is the largest fund focused on the world’s edtech market, with over $1.2 billion in assets under management.

uLesson, the largest and fastest-growing learning platform in West Africa, is trying to bridge educational gaps for K-7 to K-12 students in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Gambia.

The online education platform launched in March of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. However, due to school closings, students turned to online learning.  Between March and August, the company saw its number of paid subscribers quintuple.

Black Owned EdTech

“We are now witnessing an increased availability of data networks in Africa. With more affordable smartphones and the change in attitudes towards online learning accelerated by COVID-19, the foundations are now in place for an education revolution.

At uLesson, we know we have a critical role to play in this ‘new normal’ and this funding will be crucial in our drive to fill the major gaps in Africa’s education system through tech,” said Sim Shagaya, founder and CEO of uLesson.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Patrice Lumumba: His Last Words To His Wife Before His Assassination

On January 17th, 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo was assassinated.

He was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.

patrice lumumba
Patrice and Pauline Lumumba with their children.

Before his assassination, Lumumba wrote his wife a letter:


My dear wife,

I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst
certain high official of the United Nations that organization in which we placed all our trust when called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!

Patrice

 


Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Investment Firm Has Helped African Startups Raise $60M

Nichole Yembra is the Founder and Managing Director of The Chrysalis Capital, a $15M Africa and Diaspora early stage tech fund, and The Chrysalis Advisors, a strategy and investment advisory firm.

In this interview, we discuss:

1) African startups being forced to solve “African problems” vs Global problems (3:30)

2) The African Startup ecosystem (10:11)

3) Funding Bias – Foreign Black Privilege (13:00)

4) The need for government to create infrastructure and regulation that helps entrepreneurs (16:00)

5) The importance of supporting women founders (22:45)

6) Advice for founders looking for funding (25:15)

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Tony O. Lawson


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Former Athlete Moved to Rwanda to Launch a Sports Apparel Business

Allen Simms is the founder of Impano Sports, a company that provides African inspired quality sports apparel designed specifically for athletes, runners, and the active lifestyle community.

Before the big move, Allen was an award-winning athlete at the University of Southern California and a coach at Cornell University.

In this interview, we discussed why he decided to move to Rwanda and what it has been like living and operating a business in East Africa.

We also discussed the sports academy he started to identify and coach young talented athletes to elite level.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Genomics Startup Receives $19.5 Million in Funding

Black Owned Genomics Startup 54gene has closed a Series A round of $15 million, bringing the company’s total venture investment to $19.5 million after it secured $4.5 million seed funding in July.

The latest round was led by Adjuvant Capital, a New York and San Francisco-based life sciences fund backed by the International Finance Corporation, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The investment will allow the company to “scale operations in support of generating novel insights from human genetics research, which results in high-impact discoveries for improving human health through therapeutic development,” 54gene said in a press release Tuesday.

Black Owned Genomics Startup

“There is enormous potential in expanding the reach of global drug and vaccine discovery by including more diverse populations in research efforts,” said Jenny Yip, Adjuvant Managing Partner.

The startup will also work towards accelerating discovery capabilities by improving operations in genetics, bioinformatics, preclinical, clinical and commercial programs, it added. “This funding comes at a historically meaningful time, allowing us to deliver global impact through continued investment in research and strategic partnerships with leaders in the biomedical industry,”  Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong said.

54 gene Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong

54gene was launched in January 2019 with the goal of addressing the huge gap the genomics market currently poses for Africa. As of 2018, less than three percent of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies were of African ancestry and currently, less than one percent of global drug discovery occurs on the continent.

Located in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, and in the United States, 54gene aims to improve the development and availability of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population. It currently works with over 300 researchers, clinicians, and geneticists across the continent and has built an African Biobank, a biorepository that stores biological samples to provide data for academic and development research.

The company has said it will further explore partnerships and opportunities for the co-development of drug targets and therapeutics as part of its next stage of growth. It expects to partner with pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic companies for clinical programs in Africa, led by the newly-appointed Vice President of Clinical & Regulatory Affairs, Kemi Williams.

In addition to the Series A raise, 54gene has formed a Scientific Advisory Board, composed of global leaders in clinical genetics, bioinformatics, and data science. The new partnership “marks a significant evolution in the growth of our company,” said Ene-Obong. “In the coming months, we will be focusing on building a genomic resource that we hope will add significantly to global health, while also translating to the health benefits of patients in Africa.”

The investment round also included participation from Raba Capital, V8 Capital, Ingressive Capital, and follow-on investment from Y Combinator, Better Ventures, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, Aera VC and Pioneer Fund.

 

Source: Ventures Africa

 

Related: 54gene is developing the World’s First and Largest Pan-African DNA Biobank

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54gene is developing the World’s First and Largest Pan-African DNA Biobank

African genetic data may hold the key to unlock untold medical discoveries and 54gene is on a mission to improve our understanding of the human genome.

The Lagos, Nigeria based genomics company offers genetic testing for Africans providing reports on nutrition, health, fitness, and weight loss, personal traits, and Ancestry.

We spoke to the founder, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong to learn more about his business.

54gene
Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong

What inspired you to create 54Gene?

Whilst I was working as a consultant in the pharmaceuticals market, I noticed there was a huge gap in the type of genetic material used in research. Only 2% of genetic material used is African whereas nearly 90% is Caucasian, despite the fact people of African origin are more genetically diverse than all other populations combined.

With 54gene, our aim is to not only address this gap so we can equilibrate medical care for Africans but also develop treatments from our research that will benefit all populations. 

Why does your work focus solely on people of African descent?

There is a limited amount of recorded genetic material from people of African descent. As well as this, the African continent hasn’t built up this genomic capability, so genetic data is not being produced within the continent itself.

Instead, we’ve typically relied on research programs to come into the continent but usually, they’ll go into one country out of fifty four, sample one hundred people from one city, and assume they’ve collected samples from all of Africa.

That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of genetic diversity – it’s coming from one sub-group, whereas there are thousands that exist.

54 gene
Team 54 Gene 

What is your competitive advantage in this industry?

We’re actually developing the world’s first and largest pan-African DNA biobank and we’re planning for this to include 40,000 data samples, by the end of the year. It’s an ambitious project, but one now that we are well placed to achieve.

We’ll be working with health & research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare regulators to achieve this.

As well as this, we’ve also successfully piloted in three of Nigeria’s largest academic tertiary hospitals and we’ll be expanding our biobanking activities to a total of 10 hospitals soon. The model works, now we have to scale in order to capture the data required to effect change in the global pharmaceutical market. 

How can your work improve the global healthcare industry?

A big part of our work is exploring the healthcare benefits of the African genome for all populations, so we’re excited to see where our research takes us.

It’s worth noting that there have been a number of drugs developed from research from African genetic mutations such as Romosozumab (Evenity), an osteoporosis drug and Alirocumab (Praluent), a cholesterol drug.

With this in mind, we’re looking to leverage our data in a number of areas including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and metabolic diseases like diabetes. Drugs are being personalized for populations; but how can they be personalized for Africa if we don’t have the right data sets in the first place?

Where do you see 54gene in 5 years?

Over the next couple of years, 54 gene will be investing heavily in building data science capabilities to both partner with pharmaceutical companies and find our own targets. My vision is for us is to not only develop new treatments and diagnostics for people of African descent, but for all populations and become a force within the global healthcare space.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be observant. It’s critical you’re aware of the world around you so you know what problems need to be addressed. Entrepreneurs are people who look at life from a different perspective, so where some people see a problem, they see an opportunity.

More importantly, they also possess the creative thinking to take advantage of it and I think this is the foundation for developing a really strong idea that can make a difference.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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