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UNDP Announces $1 Billion Initiative to Fuel African Startup Revolution

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UNDP Announces $1 Billion Initiative to Fuel African Startup Revolution

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with African governments and private sector leaders to launch a groundbreaking initiative aimed at supercharging innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent.

This ambitious plan will see the creation of a network of technology hubs and a $1 billion investment fund specifically dedicated to supporting young African startups.

The first of ten tech hubs will be unveiled in just a few days at the UNDP’s innovation center in Lagos, Nigeria.

This launch marks a significant milestone in the program, which is poised to become the world’s largest initiative supporting Africa’s burgeoning tech startup scene.

Following the Lagos hub, additional locations with specialized focuses are planned throughout 2024. These include hubs dedicated to agritech in Accra, Ghana, healthtech in Kigali, Rwanda, and minetech in Lusaka, Zambia.

The initiative extends beyond physical hubs, with the UNDP establishing University Innovation Pods in 13 African cities.

These pods will serve as centers for research and development, providing young innovators with the resources and guidance needed to turn their ideas into successful businesses.

“This initiative represents a major leap forward in our mission to ignite a startup revolution across Africa,” stated Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Africa Bureau, in a press release.

With a focus on empowering Africa’s young population, the program will leverage the $1 billion fund (raised through public-private partnerships) to support over 10,000 youth-led startups across various sectors.

This investment comes at a critical time. Africa boasts the world’s fastest-growing youth population, creating a fertile ground for innovation in finance, agriculture, and healthcare.

The continent has already seen the emergence of several “unicorn” companies – startups valued at over $1 billion – such as Interswitch, Flutterwave, and Jumia.

The $1 billion fund is expected to provide a much-needed boost to African tech startups, particularly given the recent decline in venture capital inflows.

Traditionally, a large portion (around 83%) of venture capital in Africa comes from outside the continent, concentrated in just a few countries like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt.

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NuRAN Wireless Secures $5 Million Loan Facility to Expand Network in Africa

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NuRAN Wireless Secures $5 Million Loan Facility to Expand Network in Africa

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NuRAN Wireless, a leading provider of mobile and broadband wireless infrastructure solutions, has secured a $5 million loan facility with Cygnum Capital’s Facility for Energy Inclusion (FEI) to accelerate its network deployment in Africa.

The initial drawdown of $2.5 million will be received within the next week and will be used for two purposes.  $1.07 million will refinance existing renewable energy assets installed by NuRAN in Cameroon, and the remaining funds will be used for further network expansion.

“This financing is a significant step forward for NuRAN,” said Francis Letourneau, President and CEO of NuRAN Wireless. “It allows us to not only fulfill our existing commitments but also expand our reach and connect more people in underserved regions.”

NuRAN previously announced its intention to use the loan facility to build renewable energy infrastructure for mobile networks in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
 
The initial funding will enable NuRAN to complete its existing contract for 122 sites in Cameroon and construct an additional 120 new sites.

Following the success in Cameroon, NuRAN anticipates a further drawdown from the facility for the DRC, subject to meeting specific requirements. This would allow the company to build over 100 new sites there.

NuRAN also plans to initiate operations in Ivory Coast and leverage existing inventory to construct sites in South Sudan before the end of 2024, subject to securing additional financing.

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Tanzanian Fintech NALA Secures $40 Million in Series A Funding to Expand Services

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Tanzanian Fintech NALA Secures $40 Million in Series A Funding to Expand Services

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Tanzanian fintech startup NALA has secured $40 million in a Series A funding round, one of the largest of its kind in Africa according to TechCrunch.

The funding will be used to fuel NALA’s growth plans, including the expansion of its B2B payments platform Rafiki launched earlier this year.

The round was led by San Francisco-based venture capital firm Acrew Capital, with participation from DST Global, Norrsken22, and HOF Capital.
 
Existing investors Amplo and NYCA Partners also joined the round, alongside angel investors including prominent fintech founders Ryan King of Chime and Vlad Tenev of Robinhood.

NALA started in 2017 focusing on local money transfers in Tanzania before expanding to international remittances in 2021.
 
Their consumer app currently allows users in the EU, US, and UK to send money to 249 banks and 26 mobile money services across 11 African countries. Integrations like M-Pesa in Kenya allow users to pay bills directly into local mobile wallets.

The company’s decision to add B2B payments stems from customer demand for greater financial control. Rafiki, launched in March 2024, aims to serve global businesses looking to make payments into and out of Africa.

“This investment is a pivotal moment for NALA,” said NALA founder and CEO Benjamin Fernandes.
 
“It will allow us to move beyond remittances, expand our reach beyond Africa, and build a robust payments ecosystem. We’re reinvesting this capital to improve our infrastructure and ensure reliable, low-cost payments for everyone.”

NALA claims to be already profitable, with its consumer business generating over 90% of current revenue and boasting a customer base on track to exceed 500,000.

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