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Nigeria to Provide Solar Subsidy For Underserved Areas with World Bank Backing

Key Developments

Nigeria to Provide Solar Subsidy For Underserved Areas with World Bank Backing

Nigeria is set to expand access to electricity in unserved and underserved areas through a $750 million loan from the World Bank.
 
The loan, approved in December 2023 under the Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-up (DARES) project, will be used to subsidize solar mini-grid developers and operators.

“This initiative aims to improve electricity supply for households and businesses by supporting private sector-led renewable energy projects,” a government spokesperson said.

The project will also provide performance-based grants to qualified mini-grid operators, incentivizing them to connect more customers.
 
The loan itself is divided into three parts, with the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and the Lagos State Electricity Board (LSEB) leading implementation.

The DARES project builds on Nigeria’s growing commitment to renewable energy. Over the past decade, the country has attracted more than $2 billion in investments for the sector, according to the Rural Electrification Agency.

This initiative comes alongside recent changes to Nigeria’s electricity sector. 
 
While the government seeks to expand access to power through renewables, it has also implemented a 240% increase in electricity tariffs for urban residents.
 
 

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Equity Bank and Mastercard Partner to Streamline Cross-Border Money Transfers for Kenyans

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Equity Bank and Mastercard Partner to Streamline Cross-Border Money Transfers for Kenyans

Equity Bank and Mastercard have announced a strategic partnership that empowers Equity Bank customers to send money securely to 30 countries.

This collaboration leverages Mastercard Cross-Border Services, allowing customers to initiate transactions at any Equity Bank branch across Kenya.

The platform boasts faster processing times, enhanced security measures, and competitive fees, making international money transfers more accessible than ever for Equity Bank’s extensive client base.

This partnership marks a significant milestone for Kenyan financial transactions, ensuring greater value for recipients with the elimination of landing fees.

The service’s competitive pricing structure makes it a more affordable and convenient option compared to traditional international payment methods.

“Mastercard prioritizes providing innovative solutions that cater to the specific needs of Kenyan customers – choice, security, and flexibility,” said Mark Elliott, President for Africa at Mastercard.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Equity Bank to offer this level of payment ingenuity to their clients. This partnership unlocks the potential to integrate millions from underserved communities into the digital and financial economies.”

Remittances play a crucial role in Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth.

In 2022 alone, the region received a staggering $53 billion, with Kenya recording $5.77 billion in foreign currency inflows, as per the Central Bank of Kenya.

Dr. James Mwangi (CBS), Group Managing Director and CEO of Equity Group Holdings Plc, emphasized the partnership’s significance, stating, “This collaboration with Mastercard underscores our commitment to offering accessible financial solutions that adapt to our customers’ evolving needs. It further strengthens our role in fostering inclusive growth across the region.”

By harnessing Mastercard’s global network and brand recognition, this strategic alliance guarantees the safety and security of remittances, contributing to financial inclusion and the overall well-being of both migrants and beneficiaries.

This partnership builds upon a ten-year alliance between Equity Bank and Mastercard, focused on continually enhancing the payment experience for consumers across the region.

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Mastercard Foundation Launches Agribusiness Challenge to Empower SMEs in Africa

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Mastercard Foundation Launches Agribusiness Challenge to Empower SMEs in Africa

The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity is offering a new opportunity for SMEs in the agricultural sector across Sub-Saharan Africa.
 

The Agribusiness Challenge Fund seeks proposals from businesses that can create significant employment opportunities for young people, with a specific focus on empowering young women, individuals with disabilities, and refugee youth.

“The agriculture sector holds immense potential for innovative SMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa to flourish,” said Mrs. Smita Sanghrajka, Engagement Partner for the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity.

“This initiative aims to unlock dignified and fulfilling work opportunities for young people, particularly young women, those with disabilities, and refugees.”

Selected SMEs will receive grants ranging from US$500,000 to US$2.5 million, disbursed over a three-year period.

The specific amount awarded will depend on the applicant’s development stage, scalability, and business model.

Additionally, the program will provide successful applicants with tailored technical assistance aligned with the Fund’s objectives.

The Agribusiness Challenge Fund is the first of several sector-specific initiatives planned by the Mastercard Foundation.

The call for proposals is currently open and will close on November 22, 2024.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis with collections every 12 weeks.

SMEs from any country are eligible to apply as long as their projects are implemented in one of the 20 focus countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which include Kenya, Benin, Burundi, and others.

This new program leverages the achievements of the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity, which ran from 2014 to 2023.

The previous initiative supported 38 businesses across 15 African countries, enabling them to reach over 5.3 million people with innovative financial products and services, promoting financial inclusion in rural areas.

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Kenya Enters Partnership With GIZ to Develop National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy

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Kenya Enters Partnership With GIZ to Develop National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy

Kenya is poised to become a leader in responsible AI development in Africa, with the government partnering with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to launch a project for a National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy.

This initiative, titled “FAIR Forward – Artificial Intelligence for All,” is backed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union.

The project acknowledges the potential of AI to drive Kenya’s digital transformation and support progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This comes on the heels of a recent proposal by the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society, advocating for regulations around AI and robotics.

Their suggested bill includes licensing requirements and the establishment of a dedicated society to oversee ethical development, stakeholder collaboration, and compliance.

To kickstart the strategy development, a key stakeholder meeting was held on April 8th, 2024, at the Mercure Hotel in Nairobi. Representatives from industry, academia, government, and civil society participated in discussions aimed at identifying opportunities and challenges in Kenya’s AI landscape.

The focus was on ongoing initiatives, prioritizing areas for the National Strategy, and gathering feedback on the development process.

“This project signifies a major step for Kenya in harnessing AI for sustainable development and social inclusion,” stated GIZ Country Director Bodo Immink.

Stakeholders also delved into crucial aspects like research and development (R&D), data sets, collection methods, and who should be involved in crafting the strategy.

Research suggests AI’s potential to add a staggering $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, with Africa reaping a possible $1.2 trillion and a 5.6% GDP boost.

While Kenya actively embraces AI, some experts point to Nigeria’s lagging infrastructure and educational limitations, highlighting the vast potential for growth on the continent.

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Kenyan Climate-Tech Startup SunCulture Secures $27.5 Million to Empower Smallholder Farmers

New Investments

Kenyan Climate-Tech Startup SunCulture Secures $27.5 Million to Empower Smallholder Farmers

SunCulture, a Kenyan company providing solar-powered irrigation solutions and agricultural technology to smallholder farmers, has secured a significant investment of $27.5 million in a Series B funding round.

This funding will fuel the company’s growth and development of new products aimed at empowering smallholder farmers.

SunCulture’s focus is on increasing food production through a combination of climate-smart technologies, financial resources, and a digital marketplace specifically designed for smallholder farmers.

They currently hold a dominant position in Sub-Saharan Africa, boasting over 50% market share for solar irrigation systems.

Their innovative solar-powered water pumps and irrigation systems have been a game-changer, providing farmers with improved water access, reduced labor requirements, and ultimately, increased crop yields.

The funding round attracted a diverse range of international investors, including well-known names like Reed Hastings and The Schmidt Family Foundation, alongside infrastructure and development-focused entities like InfraCo Africa Limited and Acumen Fund. Existing investors, including EDF Group, Equator, and the Acumen Resilience Agriculture Fund (ARAF), also participated in the round.

This significant investment will allow SunCulture to expand its product offerings, enter new markets, and further develop its technological platform.

The ultimate goal is to enhance smallholder farmer productivity and equip them with the tools they need to be more resilient in the face of climate challenges.

“This is a critical moment for SunCulture, our team, and the farmers we serve,” said Samir Ibrahim, CEO and co-founder of SunCulture.

“The investment is a true reflection of our team’s dedication and hard work. It strengthens our commitment to making agriculture more profitable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. With this fresh injection of capital, we are poised to accelerate our impact and deliver our transformative technology to a wider network of farmers across the globe.”

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“We are delighted to partner with ISA to support the development of solar energy in Africa,” said Alain Ebobissé, CEO of Africa50. “This partnership will help to accelerate the deployment of solar energy in Africa and improve the lives of millions of Africans,” he added.

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Pan-African Fintech Kora Partners With Canada’s Panache Ventures to Help Founders Secure Funding

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Pan-African Fintech Kora Partners With Canada’s Panache Ventures to Help Founders Secure Funding

Canadian pre-seed venture fund Panache Ventures has joined forces with Kora, a pan-African fintech company.

The partnership was announced at a recent event held in Lagos, co-hosted by both organizations.

“Securing funding is a major hurdle for many African tech entrepreneurs,” said Dickson Nsofor, CEO of Kora.

“Through this partnership with Panache Ventures, we aim to bridge that gap by offering mentorship, funding guidance, and fostering collaborations that will empower groundbreaking startups to reshape Africa’s technological landscape.”

Founded in 2017, Kora simplifies cross-border transactions within Africa. Their payment gateway allows businesses in countries like Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria to accept payments in local currencies, regardless of the customer’s location.

Kora’s solutions extend beyond basic payments, catering to industries like gaming, hospitality, and e-commerce.

Notably, their USD card-acquiring feature, launched in March 2023, enables merchants to accept payments in US dollars.

Kora’s international presence is further solidified by their UK office, established in partnership with the West Midlands Growth Company in 2022.

Prashant Matta, General Partner at Panache Ventures and lead investor for Kora, also spoke at the event.

He highlighted the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit within Africa’s tech sector and emphasized the importance of fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing to empower innovative startups across the continent.

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FINCA Awards $400,000 to 12 Social Entrepreneurs Battling Poverty in Africa

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FINCA Awards $400,000 to 12 Social Entrepreneurs Battling Poverty in Africa

Twelve African entrepreneurs were celebrated for their innovative solutions to poverty during the inaugural FINCA Ventures Prize Competition.

Funded by generous donors, the competition awarded a total of $400,000 in grants to support social enterprises across Sub-Saharan Africa.

FINCA Ventures, the investment arm of FINCA International, a leader in global poverty eradication for 40 years, organized the competition.

The initiative aimed to empower social entrepreneurs tackling critical issues in the region, including healthcare access, agricultural development, financial inclusion, and the protection of vulnerable groups.

Winners addressed challenges like improving value for local farmers (Rio Fish), bridging healthcare gaps (Bena Care, CheckUps, OneHealth), and combating the exploitation of female fish traders (Rio Fish).

“We are thrilled to support these inspiring changemakers who are driving positive social impact across Africa,” said a spokesperson for FINCA Ventures.

“Their dedication to improving lives aligns perfectly with FINCA’s mission of eradicating poverty.”

Award Breakdown

  • First Place (US$70,000 each): Angela Odero (Rio Fish), Ashley Speyer (US partner of Kazi Yetu), Naom Monari (Bena Care), Sona Shah (Co-founder of Neopenda)
  • Second Place (US$20,000 each): Baobaby, CheckUps, Sprout, Technovera/Pelebox
  • Third Place (US$10,000 each): Emergency Response Africa, Koolbox, OneHealth, Sommalife

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Pan-African Investor Renew Capital Makes Its First Ghana Move, Backs Fintech Affinity

New Investments

Pan-African Investor Renew Capital Makes Its First Ghana Move, Backs Fintech Affinity

Renew Capital, a firm specializing in impact investments across Africa, has announced its debut investment in Ghana.

The recipient, fintech company Affinity, will receive backing to fuel their continental expansion plans.

This move marks a significant first for Renew Capital, not just in Ghana, but across the continent.

It comes shortly after the February 2024 launch of their latest tech fund, Renew Venture Lab Fund 2 (RVL2). This fund targets investments in tech-driven, asset-light businesses across Africa.

Renew Capital is known for supporting innovative, high-growth companies.

They manage investments for Renew Capital Angels and previously launched the Renew Venture Lab Fund series focused on early-stage tech companies with a “founder-centric” approach.

Following the closure of Renew Venture Lab Fund 1, they introduced RVL2, aiming to invest in roughly 50 tech startups across Africa.

“The most successful companies in RVL2 will be eligible for larger investments from Renew Capital Fund 1, our growth-stage investment fund,” Renew Capital stated.

“This is our first investment in Ghana,” said JC Oelofse, Renew Capital’s Head of Investment, following the Affinity deal. “We’re excited to support their expansion goals across the continent, where millions still lack access to financial services.”

Founded in 2010, Affinity operates as a digital banking platform.

They acquired a Ghanaian microfinance business in February 2020 and secured a savings and loan license from the Bank of Ghana in March 2022.

Affinity offers a range of services, including current, savings, and investment accounts, alongside transfers, payments, and loans.

Their core mission is to expand financial inclusion in Africa by reaching underserved populations.

“At Affinity, we’ve built a fully integrated platform focused on financial inclusion,” explained CEO and Founder Tarek Mouganie.

“We effectively address challenges faced by individuals and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) lacking access to financial services across sub-Saharan Africa.”

 

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South African BPO Provider Procera Secures $18.8 Million in Funding From Vantaga Capital for Global Expansion

New Investments

South African BPO Provider Procera Secures $18.8 Million in Funding From Vantaga Capital for Global Expansion

Johannesburg-based business process outsourcing (BPO) company Procera Group has secured R346 million (US$18.8 million) in funding from Africa-focused investment firm Vantage Capital.
 
The investment will be used to fuel Procera’s international expansion plans and includes the acquisition of a minority stake from the company’s founders by Vantage Capital. Procera will also leverage the investment for potential future acquisitions.

Founded in 1990, Procera has grown from a debt recovery solutions provider into a diversified BPO services company, serving over 50 blue-chip clients across various industries like retail, finance, energy, and telecommunications. 
 
The company boasts an international presence with operations in South Africa, Namibia, the UK, the US, and Australia, and employs over 2,700 people.

“We are excited to partner with Procera’s experienced management team and committed long-term investors,” said Roshal Ramdenee, Associate Partner at Vantage Capital.
 
“Procera’s commitment to innovation, including its investment in contact center software with cutting-edge technologies, positions them for significant growth in the global BPO market.”

South Africa’s BPO sector is projected for strong growth, with an estimated 13% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) by 2029, exceeding the global average of 8.5%.  

“Finding high-growth South African companies with the potential to compete in developed markets is a challenge, especially in the current economic climate,” said Warren van der Merwe, Managing Partner at Vantage Capital.
 
“However, we are confident in Procera’s leadership and future prospects, and we are thrilled to support them in their next phase of development.”

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