THE LATEST NEWS, TECHNOLOGY, TRENDS AND INNOVATIONS FROM ACROSS AFRICA!
Kevin Namunwa Writer
STEVE MBEGO Writer
Ted Ogonda Joins CSquared From Telekom Kenya
Squared has appointed Ted Ogonda as its Group Director of Cloud Services. The Company manages and sells fiber-optic networks on a wholesale level to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in several countries in Africa.
With the new appointment, Ted has been tasked with building and augmenting these offerings with Multi Cloud services, where he will be aiming at “simplifying and democratizing cloud consumption for businesses and individuals across the continent,” CSquared said in a statement.
Before CSquared, Ted was the Director, Products, Innovations and Strategic Partnerships at Telkom Kenya. In this role, he was in charge of driving the transition of Telkom from a traditional telco to a digital technology provider.
With over 14-year experience, Ted has held several roles at Cisco Systems including Regional Engineering leadership in West Africa, The Maghreb, Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean Ocean Islands. He is credited with driving transformative and innovation initiatives while growing the business across the continent. He holds an Engineering Degree, two Masters, and several professional certifications.
Twiga Foods Lands $50M For Expansion To East And West African Countries
Twiga Foods has raised $50 million in a Series C round to scale its operation in East and West African countries. Investors that took part in the fundraising include Africa-focused firms TLcom Capital, IFC Ventures, DOB Equity and Goldman Sachs. Others include first-time investors OP Finnfund Global and Endeavor Catalyst Fund.
Last year the company had announced plans to expand to Subsaharan countries but were slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns. “We’ve been fairly successful in Kenya. So, we want to consolidate our dominant position, clear out our proof of concept and expand to the neighbouring countries,” the company’s chief executive office and co-founder Peter Njonjo the company’s CEO and Co-Founder Peter Njonjo said.
Pierre Fauvet, Africa director at Creadev in a statement said, “We are deeply convinced in Twiga’s potential to revolutionize informal retail across Sub- Saharan Africa,”
According to Crunchbase, the company has raised more than $100 million since its formation in 2014. In 2019, it secured $30 million equity in Series B round and $10.3 in Series A round.The company, which now has more than 1,000 employees will expand to Uganda and Tanzania before the end of the year. Other markets that Twiga has set its eyes for expansion include Cote d’Ivoire, DRC Congo, Ghana and Nigeria.
The B2B e-commerce runs a food supply platform that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from farmers in rural Kenya to small- and medium-sized vendors, outlets and kiosks in Nairobi. It claims to have over 100,000 customers who use its services across Kenya. The company says it delivers more than 600 metric tons of product to more than 10,000 retailers daily.
Airtel Africa Allocates $56.6 million To Support Digital Learning
Airtel Africa has partnered with UNICEF in a five-year plan to roll out digital learning in 13 Sub-Saharan countries including Kenya. The telecommunication firm announced that it has committed $56.6 million to UNICEF’s Reimagine Education initiative. The Initiative, which was launched in 2020, seeks to provide equal access to quality digital learning among vulnerable kids by connecting schools to the Internet and ensuring free access to learning platforms.
Olusegun Ogunsanya, CEO of Airtel Africa, said the partnership will accelerate the results of the Reimagine Education Initiative. “We are excited to be working with UNICEF to advance the education agenda on the continent through facilitating connectivity and online access to play a role in driving change,” he said.
The partnership will also see Airtel Africa offer technology and expertise, provide crucial data insights to inform UNICEF’s work to scale-up digital learning and help ensure it is sustainable and meets students’ needs across Africa.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said the five-year partnership with Airtel Africa would enable children in Africa whose education have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic to resume learning. “Hundreds of millions of children in Africa have seen their education disrupted or put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By championing digital education for children in Africa, this partnership with Airtel Africa will help put children’s learning back on track.”
Airtel Africa recently launched its longterm sustainability strategy, which lists the company’s plans to improve the lives of millions of people across Africa through digital and financial inclusion and access to education.The telecoms firm sustainability strategy is based on six of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This includes quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, Industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, and responsible consumption and production.
The telecoms firm, which operates in 14 African markets recently reported a 131 per cent increase in its profit after tax in H1 period ended 30th September 2021 to stand at $335 million. The company has its biggest market in Nigeria.
Equity Partners With Government To Sponsor 200 Kenyans Traders Invest In DRC
Equity Group in partnership with the Kenyan government has launched a trade mission to support local entrepreneurs to invest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Dubbed Kenya-DRC Trade Mission 2021, the initiative will see 200 entrepreneurs in the agro-processing business seek investment opportunities in DRC. The Group’s Managing Director and CEO Dr James Mwangi said the initiative would provide incentives to entrepreneurs with interests in processing, packaging and exporting.
“As a Group, we realise the power of the regional and continental market and it is this spirit that prompted us to promote the regionalisation of Kenyan businesses and the businesses in the Great Lakes Region. We have gained enough experience in the markets we operate in, we commit to using this knowledge to support businesses that are looking to venture into DRC and the larger East and Central Africa region,” Mwangi said.
Mwangi added that the “platform would help encourage networking, benchmarking of business opportunities and sharing market insights.” Kenya’s Ambassador to DRC, George Masafu said the initiative would help boost cross-border trade. “This partnership is committed to unlocking the business by addressing existing barriers such as regulatory or trade that exist between the two countries in order to open up cross border trade,” Amb Masafu stated..
According to International Trade Adminstration, DRC has 80 million hectares of arable land, 4 million hectares of irrigated land, and many rivers with important fishery resources which makes it a viable investment destination for agricultural investors
Kenya’s Workpay Expands to Nigeria, Launches New Product Line
A Kenyan-based company WorkPay that provides human resource management and payroll tools to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) has expanded to Nigeria. The firm’s entry to the West African country comes a year after it received $2.1 million last year in seed funding for expansion to other markets.
Workpay’s CEO and Co-Founder Paul Kimani said Nigeria would as company’s hub for the West Africa region.
“Nigeria is a key market for us, not only in West Africa but throughout Africa. SMEs in this region face similar challenges as their counterparts in East Africa and indeed across emerging markets. We plan to use Nigeria as our gateway to West Africa including Francophone Africa.
“In the next few months we will be progressively growing the team in Nigeria in various roles in business, customer support and others,” Paul said.
With many firms expanding to Africa or seeking to tap into the African workforce, the company also launched remote teams for payrolls for firms hiring in the continent.
Moreover, this new product line will enable foreign companies to overcome recruitment challenges in Africa by making it possible for them to hire personnel legally through WorkPay.
According to World Economic Forum, Sub-Saharan Africa will contribute to 17% of the world’s working age population by 2030. With labour shortages grappling in European countries like Britain, firms may want to source workers from Africa.
Workpay has over 300 active SME clients including Nigeria’s fintech firm Flutterware and processes monthly payroll for more than 25,000 employees worth $2.5 million.
Stephen Chege Heads to South Africa’s Vodacom
Vodacom has appointed Safaricom’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Stephen Chege as the Group’s Chief External Affairs Officer.
Chege will take up the new role on November 15, 2021, and will report to Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub. “Steve will take up the role at Vodacom headquarters in Johannesburg and will be responsible for group regulatory, external and corporate affairs, public policy, communication strategy, media relationships, group corporate social investment and sustainability,” said Safaricom CEO Mr Peter Ndegwa.
Chege joined Safaricom in 2006 as an In-House Counsel and rose through the ranks to become Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, a role he has held since 2015. “He has had a distinguished and successful career guiding Safaricom’s position in legal, competition, regulatory and reputational matters, developing industry policy, positioning Safaricom as a purpose led organisation and making a significant contribution to the success of Safaricom,” said Mr Ndegwa.
Apart from Safaricom, Chege has worked for different telecommunications including Vodafone Group UK.
Chege holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Master of Laws in International Trade and Investment Law. He is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Notary Public as well as a Certified Public Secretary.
Vodafom Group has operations in South Africa, Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Lesotho and Ghana. Vodacom holds a strategic stake in Safaricom. In 2019, it formed a joint venture with Safaricom and bought the M-PESA brand, product development and support services from Vodafone.
Centum Sets Aside $44.02 For Acquisitions in Kenya And Neighbouring Countries
Centum Investment Company’s private equity wing CTUM.NR has set aside $44.02 million to acquire stakes in local firms and those in neighbouring countries.
The firm, listed in Nairobi Securities Exchange and Uganda Securities Exchange, said in a statement that they have already identified five investee targets in Kenya and neighbouring countries. “We’re in talks with a number of investee targets that we hope to conclude in the coming months. Three of the targeted firms are based in Kenya, while two are in neighbouring countries,” Fred Murimi, Managing Partner of Centum Capital Partners said.
Murimi stated that the investee businesses will benefit from having local teams that understand the local economic terrain and has deep networks and expertise in growing value for the owners. “We take a long-term view to investing in businesses. We take elections and such other events as short-term disruptions that do not cause us to hold back from investing,” said Murimi.
The Group has a diversified portfolio in financial services, fast-moving consumer goods, energy, agribusiness, education and healthcare. Centum reported a reported $12.31 million net loss in the financial year ended March 2021 is a drop from a $41.62 million net profit posted in the preceding financial year.
Electric Mobility Start-ups Raise Cash To Boost Operations
Electric Mobility Company Opibus has raised $7.5 million in funding to start electric motorcycle and bus manufacturing in 2022.
The Company raised $5 million in equity and $2.5 million in grants in a pre-series A round led by Silicon Valley fund At One Ventures and supported by Factor[e] Ventures and Ambo Ventures. With the funding, the Swedish-Kenyan company, which has been focusing on electric conversion of diesel-powered vehicles, will now start manufacturing its own automobiles.
“We are proud to be backed by globally recognized investors providing a balance between deep-tech and emerging market expertise. We have together reached a clear strategic and visionary alignment, with the conviction that mass manufacturing of electric mobility solutions in Africa will not only make the products more accessible and affordable but also lead to one of the largest industrialization and welfare transitions of the region in modern time,” said Opibus’ CEO and co-founder, Filip Gardler. The Swedish-Kenyan Company is to deliver its first electric bus by the first quarter of 2022.
Also BasiGo, an electric vehicle startup launched its operations in Nairobi after announcing that it had raised $1 million in pre-seed funding.
BasiGo CEO and co-founder Jit Bhattacharya said their electric buses will provide a cheaper alternative to diesel-powered buses which dominate Kenya’s public transport system. The buses can cover about 250 kilometers daily will come in 25 and 36 seater capacities.
“For years, diesel-powered buses have been the only viable solution for bus operators in Kenya. We are excited to provide public transport operators with a new option: state-of-the-art electric buses that are more affordable, and reliable, and reduce bus operator exposure to the rising costs of diesel fuel,” he said.
The Company plans to sell the EV buses at the price of their diesel equivalent.
This Bhattacharya says will help the owners save on costs. “The cost of electric bus technology has come down dramatically over the last 10 years, to the point where electric buses can offer significant savings compared to fossil-fuel buses. Our goal is to help bus owners in Kenya realize these savings, and in the process, help Kenya become a global leader in sustainable public transport,” said Bhattacharya.
BasiGo is funded by Climate Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and Third Derivative, an accelerator focused on climate technology.
Startups Called To Participate In Kenya Innovation Week
The Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) has announced a call for exhibitors and delegates for the Kenya Innovation Week (KIW). The inaugural event will run from 6th to the 10th of December 2021 at the Kenya School of Government – Lower Kabete.
Speaking during the stakeholder’s breakfast meeting held at Capital Club East Africa the Agency’s CEO Dr. Tonny Omwansa urged, “innovators with innovative products and services to attend the event as this will expose them to investors, partners, and potential customers”.
Ambassador Simon Nabukwesi, the PS, Department of University Education and Research – Ministry of Education encouraged innovators and Kenyans, in general, to attend the KIW as it aims to strengthen the research and commercialization practices for greater socioeconomic impact.
“Innovation is not a technology issue but a broad one as it involves other things that can add value to the society,” Nakubkwesi said. He also lauded efforts by the 24 partners who have come together and committed to changing the innovation landscape in Kenya.
KIW will offer an opportunity for startups, corporates, universities and government agencies to showcase their innovations by exhibiting. The expos will involve both physical and virtual booths. Over 100 local and international speakers are expected to take part in the event.
It will incorporate four summits namely; Skills and Talents for Innovation, Technology and 4th Industrial Revolution Summit, Commercialization summit, and the Startup Kenya summit
As a buildup to the week, KeNIA has held 20 pre-events including bootcamps, innovation camps, workshops, webinars, hackathons and start up challenges meetings across the country.
Known as the Silicon Valley of Africa, Kenya has one of the most thriving innovation ecosystems in Africa. It is the home to world-renowned innovations such as mobile money transfer service Mpesa and crisis mapping tool Ushahidi.
Free Internet For Safari Sevens Rugby Fans
Apart from cheering their favourite teams, fans who attended this year’s Safari Sevens event at Nyayo National Stadium got to enjoy free Internet made available by MeshPlusPlus (M++) through their solar-powered routers.
M++ CEO Danny Gardner told CIO Africa that the company seeks to bring the Internet to the 800 million people that are unconnected across Africa. “Our goal is to enable anyone, of any background, to bring a sustainable internet to their community. We are handing the keys to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and community leaders,” Gardner said.
He said the firm, which is headquartered in Chicago and Nairobi, and began operations in Kenya early this year, would help bring down the cost of Internet connectivity in Africa.
“Internet connectivity in Africa is expensive and slow due to the difficulty in recovering the cost of installing physical infrastructure for the internet. Our efficient mesh networking protocol allows almost all wiring to be eliminated from last-mile connectivity,” he stated.
A single M++ router can connect up to 500 people within a range of one and two acres depending on the geography of the location.
“Each router in the Mesh network can connect up to 500 users at any point of time using WiFi 6. Users can take internet connection from anywhere – via Ethernet or cellular modems and can aggregate the bandwidth from all the sources,” Danny said.
The Wi-Fi nodes feature a 10-day battery reserve and optional solid-state storage up to 1 TB, which currently can transmit backhaul up to 700 Mbps.
COVID-19 exacerbated connectivity issues around the world with a significant number of Africa’s urban poor and those in rural areas unable to access this useful commodity.
M++ Head of Operations in Africa Thalha Abubaker said that quarantine made it very clear who did and did not have access to the internet and they seek to bridge this gap.
“We are looking forward to connecting the Kenyan population who currently do not have access to the internet, by eliminating the reliance on infrastructure and therefore the barriers to their access thus far,” he stated.
Abubaker called on African governments and regional economic communities to implement policies that allow countries, businesses, and entrepreneurs to benefit from the international connectivity and to take initiatives in creating infrastructure either on their own or in partnership with the private sectors.
The company has so far spent $7 million developing technologies tuned to sustainable last-mile internet in Africa.
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