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Just when we thought Africa Internet Group’s (AIG) 2016 VC haul couldn’t get larger, French mobile giant Orange invested $85 million.
This followed earlier rounds totaling $326 million (covered here at TC) that brought the e-commerce venture’s equity to $1.08bn, making it Africa’s first startup unicorn. Orange joined other investors, such as Goldman, MTN, and AXA.
They're betting on AIG’s model to deliver goods and services to Africa’s digital retail market--expected to tally $75 billion in revenue by 2025. In addition to AIG flagship Jumia, the Nigeria based company operates 8 other e-ventures across 22 African countries. With this kind of big dollar, big name backing the pressure is on AIG’s ventures to show profits some quarter soon.
On African e-commerce, we can’t overlook Konga—Jumia’s biggest Nigerian competitor founded by prolific Harvard MBA Sim Shagaya. The digital shopping site is backed by roughly $100 million in VC and has been deploying it to wire e-commerce in Africa’s largest economy. In April it launched KongaPay, effectively Konga’s PayPal to Ebay.
It was actually a bit of relaunch of the payment service, adding new features and “extending KongPay to…consumers outside of Konga.com’s platform,” said current CEO Shola Adekoya. This aligns with Shagaya’s vision (shared with me in a 2014 conversation) on Konga’s mission “to create a 21st century operating system” to better connect buyers and sellers in Africa’s longstanding trading culture.
In addition to offering a payment method for transactions on Konga.com, KongaPay’s “Me-Commerce” option will allow “any business” in Nigeria to create their own “QR payment” code from a mobile phone image. Now social networks including Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp will have a new payment option in Africa, claims Konga.
In the context of PayPal’s rise, this could be Africa’s leapfrogging over PCs to mobile for P2P digital payments. Pretty cool. We’ll circle back with Konga on KongaPay progress.
Coding accelerator Andela, which trains African programmers and places them at global IT companies, held a private New York tech forum in April (that I moderated) for a cross section of NYC’s investor community.
Speakers included Andela’s Jeremy Johnson, VOD startup iROKOtv’s CEO Jason Njoku,MallforAfrica CEO Chris Folayan, and Uzo Iweala, CEO of digital media company Ventures Africa. The most salient takeaway was the growing interest in Africa’s tech scene among U.S. business actors—as evidenced by the event’s packed attendance.
A sampling of the questions, however, reveals this interest is still accompanied by plenty of skepticism. Most of it (at the Andela event) was centered around the baseline infrastructure to do tech in Africa (broadband access, electricity, logistics) and the operating environment (namely political stability and corruption) in key tech markets, such as Nigeria. We’ll see if some exits, acquisitions, and IPOs in the future do more to prove the African tech thesis to the U.S. business community.
On IPO potential, check out the feature we did on power startup M-KOPA Solar, which is lighting low income homes through mobile money leasing. Co-founder and CEO Jesse Moore made it clear the company is more than just a social venture. He and co-founders Nick Hughes and Chad Larson believe the M-KOPA can generate revenues worthy of a billion dollar valuation and a future IPO.
Already backed by $52 million in VC the company offers solar-power home systems targeted at lower-income and rural customers without electricity. M-KOPA’s baseline box-kit comes stocked with a solar panel, multi-device charger, lights, radio and a pay-as-you-go SIM card. Clients pay it off through small payments on mobile money platforms such Safaricom’s M-PESA. Currently in 330,000 households in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, M-KOPA recently expanded in Ghana and plans to enter new African countries in the near future toward 1 million users.
And…stay tuned for the 2016 World Economic Forum on Africa in May in Kigali, Rwanda. There’s plenty of African tech going on at the WEF and in Rwanda. We’ll report on some of it.
More African Stories @TechCrunch
- Andreessen Horowitz and San Francisco-based Branch International raised $9.2 million for investment in mobile fintech in Sub-Saharan Africa
More Around the Net
- Ntel Nigeria seeks needed $1bn toward improving ICT & mobile broadband—@Bloomberg
- Rwanda shifts to cashless bus fare payments—@BBC
- African Development Bank & partners launch online Africa Regional Integration Index to digitally track the continent’s business, finance, and demographic movements—@CNBCAfrica