Autochek acquires CoinAfrique to grow its footprint in Francophone Africa

Automotive e-commerce company Autochek has expanded to new markets in Africa after acquiring CoinAfrique, a classified ad marketplace, nearly two months after the Nigerian startup acquired Moroccan auto marketplace KIFAL Auto, marking its foray into North Africa.

Autochek said it will tap CoinAfrique’s regional customer base in Francophone Africa to accelerate its car financing services. The classified ad marketplace is said to attract 60,000 new ads and 1.5 million visits every month, with the car category accounting for 50% of the business transactions happening on the site.

Autochek is also riding on the growing automotive market in Africa, whose value is expected to hit $42 billion in the next five years — registering a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% over 2022-2027 period.

CoinAfrique, whose team will join the Autochek and help them run operations in the region, was founded in 2016 by Matthias Papet and Eric Genetre.

“We see many opportunities to unlock value for users across all the categories on our platform and to expand into new countries, and we are looking forward to leveraging Autochek’s market leading loans product and expertise to deliver more transformative experiences for our users,” said Papet in a statement.

Already, Autochek has rolled out its operations in Ivory Coast and Senegal following the acquisition, with more markets set to be activated, including Benin and Togo, as the auto marketplace expands. CoinAfrique classifieds ads marketplace is active in 12 Francophone markets. Autochek was previously present in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Morocco.

In its current markets, Autochek said, it has more than 1,500 dealers as partners, and works closely with more than 70 banks including BNP Paribas, Access Bank, Ecobank, UBA, Bank of Africa and NCBA Bank to offer financing to its customers.

Cars listed on the site go through various stages of inspection and are rated according to their status and performance, factors also used to determine if they qualify to be financed.

Autochek co-founder and CEO Etop Ikpe said, in a previous interview: “The assessments and some algorithmic checks on Autochek’s system help to give a sense of the status and condition of the car, determining whether it is in a state to be financed … because they (banks) do not want a situation where they finance a car and the next day, the engine knocks.”

Autochek said its loans are approved in about 48 hours. The company earns by charging a fee to dealers listing on its platforms, in addition to a loan facilitation commission from banks.

The company, which in October last year raised $13.1 million in a seed round, is backed by a number of investors including pan-African VC firms TLcom Capital, 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, Enza Capital, Lateral Capital, Norrksen, Jam Fund, ASK Capital and Mobility 54 Investment SAS, the venture capital arm of Toyota Tsusho and CFAO Group.

Autochek expands to North Africa after acquiring Morocco’s Kifal Auto

Digital automotive commerce company Autochek has acquired Morocco’s KIFAL Auto for an undisclosed amount, marking the entry of the vehicle marketplace into North Africa.

The deal comes barely a year after Autochek bought Cheki Kenya and Cheki Uganda from Ringier One Africa Media. Prior to the September 2021 transaction, Autochek had bought Cheki’s subsidiaries in Ghana and Nigeria, and partnered with the CFAO Group to launch the network in Ivory Coast. After KIFAL Auto’s acquisition, Autochek is now present in six countries across East, West and North Africa.

Like Autochek, KIFAL Auto links car buyers and sellers, and also, through partnerships, offers several other services including financing and insurance.

“From my first interaction with Nizar and his team at KIFAL Auto, I was so impressed by their passion for delivering effective solutions and their commitment to innovation. They have built an excellent platform and we are thrilled to have them onboard at Autochek to support the work we are doing to improve the automotive finance value proposition in Africa. There are so many parallels in our individual stories and I look forward to a long and mutually-beneficial relationship for years to come,” said Autochek co-founder and CEO, Etop Ikpe, in a statement.

Autochek has expanded to North Africa after buying KIFAL auto for an undisclosed amount.

(L-R) Autochek CEO and co-founder Etop Ikpe and KIFAL Auto founder Nizar Abdallaoui Maane. lmage Credits: Autochek

KIFAL, which was founded in 2019 by Nizar Abdalaoui Maane, is among the leading auto marketplaces in Morocco, one of the largest markets for used and new cars in Africa. Following the latest deal, Maane and the KIFAL auto team join Autochek to lead the company’s expansion efforts in North Africa.

“I have long been an admirer of the work Autochek has done to enable improved experiences across Africa’s automotive value chain. There is so much we can learn from each other, and I am looking forward to bringing my experience and expertise to deliver more game changing innovation in Morocco and beyond. In our Industry and especially in an African context, it makes a lot of sense to continue growing with a large player. Morocco is a gateway into North Africa and I am confident that we can unlock new value and drive further transformation across the board,” said Maane.

Autochek says it has 1,500 dealers as partners across its markets, and has partnerships with more than 70 financing partners including Access Bank, Ecobank, UBA, Bank of Africa and NCBA Bank.

Cars listed on the site go through various stages of inspection, and are rated according to their status and performance. Ekpe said in a past TechCrunch interview that, “The assessments and some algorithmic checks on Autochek’s system help to give a sense of the status and condition of the car, determining whether it is in a state to be financed … because they (banks) do not want a situation where they finance a car and the next day, the engine knocks.”

Autochek said loans are approved in about 48 hours. The company earns by charging a fee to dealers listing on its platforms, in addition to a loan facilitation commission from banks.

Autochek, which in October last year raised $13.1 million in a seed round, is backed by a number of investors including pan-African VC firms TLcom Capital, 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, Enza Capital, Lateral Capital, ASK Capital and, Mobility 54 Investment SAS, the venture capital arm of Toyota Tsusho and CFAO Group.


The Food Lab, an Egyptian cloud kitchen provider, raises $4.5M pre-seed for expansion

Per reports, Egyptians spend about 30% of their income on food in a $17 billion restaurant industry, one of the largest in Africa and the Middle East. Yet restaurants in this North African nation operate on thin margins due to several factors, ranging from large initial investments and high cost of rent to increasing operating expenses and commissions charged by aggregators.

Kareem El Daly stumbled upon these issues when venturing to start a restaurant with his wife. Being an enthusiast of the food tech space, El Daly began to explore market gaps and saw an opportunity in using technology to help restaurants and food brands make a return on investment while maintaining their quality of service.

“Many things have changed within the ecosystem over the past decade in the space,” El Daly told TechCrunch. “We wanted to bridge the gap between the restaurants and the customers, help them expand, grow and operate seamlessly through technology and a shared economy model.”

The Food Lab was the resulting solution El Daly and his co-founders Ahmed Osman and Wesam Masoud launched in 2020. Following two years of bootstrapping, the company has raised $4.5 million in pre-seed financing — its first venture round.

Africa-focused fund 4DX Ventures and UAE-based venture capital firms Nuwa Capital and Shorooq Partners led the round, one of the largest in Egypt after Rabbit, Telda and Milezmore. Other participating investors include Al Faisaliah Group and Samurai Incubate.

The Food Lab is a cloud kitchen platform but describes itself as an infrastructure company for restaurants in Egypt — about 400,000 in number — in the food & beverage (F&B) space. The company provides a full suite of end-to-end services, including cloud kitchen (kitchen as a service) and procurement.

“If a restaurant is finding it difficult to expand, maybe due to money issues and low margins, they can come into one of our cloud kitchens all around Cairo. We will operate everything end-to-end from procurement to delivery for them, said co-founder and CEO Osman to TechCrunch.

“Also, one of the biggest problems that we see in the F&B space, especially with the supply chain changes, is the prices of the ingredients are extremely volatile. So another thing we do for them is procuring items in bulk from our supplier list and provide to them.”

The Food Lab’s virtual brand consultant — essentially a data-centric dashboard powered by machine learning — democratizes data and provides granular information to these brands regarding their operations and finances. Other information includes menu reengineering, marketing, profitability margins, customer segmentation and buyer persona classification.

The Egyptian cloud kitchen provider claims that its platform allows “existing restaurant owners to grow exponentially and new brands to go from concept to launch within just 10 days.”

“What we want to do is to be that connector; we want to connect that closest cuisine or closest kitchen to the farthest appetites. Cloud kitchens may be the one thing we’re starting with and doing some procurement, but we’re an infrastructure play,” said Osman.

“We try to embed ourselves in a way that we help them [restaurants] grow. If they have issues, we’re using our technology platform and our knowledge to help them do that and remove all those barriers. That’s really what we’re trying to do.”

L-R: Wesam Massoud, Kareem El Daly, and Ahmed Osman

In October 2020, The Food Lab launched with one kitchen. Although the food tech startup only opened another location last year, the founders said The Food Lab’s orders grew 10x, and revenues since inception have increased by 60x.

More than 50 restaurants and food brands use The Food Lab, and 175,00 end customers have made orders from its kitchens, the company said. These clients are charged a percentage of their revenues, including aggregation, marketing and procurement fees. The Food Lab’s revenues have been growing 25-35% month-on-month as a result.

There’s a growing need for cloud kitchens in emerging markets because of the apparent cost advantages of working out of a shared kitchen environment, particularly as food delivery services are in greater demand now than ever.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the providers involved, such as Kune and Ando, are relatively small-sized. But big players dominate the Middle East, like Kitopi and REEF. The Food Lab claims to be the first such provider in Egypt, an intersection of both markets. According to its founders, this pre-seed investment will allow the company to further expand in the country and lay the foundation for entry into the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

“First thing is to completely take over the Egyptian market, especially in Cairo or some key governorates that we want to have a strong footprint. So this is the geographical expansion part,” said El Daly, who is the company’s founder and president.

“Other than that, we have hiring plans for some community roles and operational positions. And the third thing is for us to develop further our technology solutions for our customers, partners and customers.”

Social commerce platform Tushop set for Kenya growth after raising $3 million pre-seed funding

Tushop, a social-commerce platform in Kenya that enables the group-buying of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), is set for expansion across Nairobi after raising $3 million in pre-seed funding in a round led by 4DX Ventures.

Founded last year by Cathy Chepkemboi, also the CEO, Tushop uses community-leaders, who collect orders from their neighbors and also support last-mile deliveries.

Each community leader has a virtual shop where the neighbors place their orders, which Tushop aggregates for bulk orders to manufacturers or other producers – like farmers. Chepkemboi says this arrangement earns shoppers up to 60% in savings, even with the agents earning sales commissions.

The startup plans to grow its business in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, before expanding to the rest of the country.

“We are going to scale across Nairobi, and because it is an operationally intensive business, we [immediately] need more warehouses and delivery trucks. We are hiring and also improving our technology and our agents’ channels to make the experience even better,” Chepkemboi told TechCrunch.

The startup’s latest round had the participation of JAM Fund, Breyer Capital, Chandaria Capital, TO Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, FirstCheck Africa, and DFS Lab. Wasoko (formerly Sokowatch) also joined to make their first strategic institutional investment. A number of angel investors including Olugbenga Agboola (GB); Flutterwave CEO, Raja Kaul; Sundial Group president, Eli Pollak; Apollo Agriculture CEO, and Ida Mannoh; Chipper Cash directo of growth, also took part in the round.

“We think that the market opportunity for Tushop is incredibly large, and that Cathy is the right founder to go after it given her deep understanding of the market, and impressive execution and growth thus far. We’re thrilled to join such a strong team of other investors and advisors to help Tushop become the dominant player in group-buying across Africa,” said 4DX Ventures, managing partner Peter Orth.

Tupshop is powering group-buying in Kenya. Image credits: Tushop

Experience in the FMCG industry

Chepkemboi launched Tushop following her departure from Unilever [Kenya and UK], and Moko, a furniture startup in Kenya. She says that it was during her stint with Unilever – Kenya that she recognized the fragmentation in Kenya’s retail sector, adding that logistics was one of the challenges that led to the high cost of essential goods in the country. In Kenya, distributors sourcing from manufacturers generally define the price of goods, which is, however, often inflated by the distributors and retailers.

“I was in the field distributing products and could see what happens on the ground…I could also immediately tell that if we were in direct contact with the customer, the cost would be lower and we could do more targeted promotions or marketing. This led to what we are doing now, sourcing from manufacturers and selling directly to consumers,” said Chepkemboi, who studied international relations at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We provide predictive delivery of affordable high-quality goods including fresh produce. And the way we’re able to do this is by working with community leaders, who gather orders from the neighbors and manage last mile delivery. Our value proposition here is to provide our customers a way to shop more cheaply and conveniently. We are cheaper than retail,” she said.

Tushop joins the growing list of startups that are digitizing the retail sector in Kenya. They include Marketforce, whose RejaReja app makes it possible for informal merchants to order and pay for inventory digitally. Wasoko, also in the same space as RejaReja, operates by distributing FMCG from suppliers to retailers. The difference between the two is that RejaReja, unlike Wasoko, is an asset-light distribution platform- it does not own capital assets like warehouses and delivery trucks; these are provided by its partners including manufacturers and distributors. Tushop is one of the first social commerce platforms in Kenyan space directly sourcing from producers and delivering to shoppers.

Eksab gets $3M to scale its fantasy football platform across MENA and Africa

Football or soccer, the latter commonly used in the US, is the most popular and watched sport globally with over five billion football fans according to its apex governing body, FIFA.

While the World Cup, its pinnacle event of football and arguably the world’s most popular sporting event, shows the popularity of the sport in full colors, it’s the yearly leagues in different countries across Europe, South America, Asia and Africa that puts diehard nature of football fans on display. 

FIFA says Latin America, the Middle East and Africa represent the largest fan bases across the world. With fans of various sports including football, becoming increasingly interested in virtual versions of their favorite sports, startups from these regions are satisfying their cravings by providing fantasy sports platforms.

Today’s news comes out from the Middle East and Africa where Eksab, an Egyptian platform that says it’s making football more exciting and interactive for every fan in both regions through gaming and online community building, has raised $ 3million in seed funding.

The round led by 4DX Ventures saw participation from Darwazah Capital, Golden Palm Investments, P1 Ventures and some angel investors from sports and entertainment profession, the company said. 

Eksab stated that it intends to use this investment to scale its user base across MENA and Africa. Some of the funds will also go into product development, hiring talent in engineering and product teams and executing partnerships with football clubs. 

Founder and CEO Aly Mahmoud started Eksab in 2018. “Eksab’s mission is to make football more exciting for every football fan in the Middle East and Africa,” he said to TechCrunch in an interview.

Eksab launched with a prediction game where users create fantasy lineups and participate in free or premium competitions. There’s a leaderboard to show how well they perform; winners get cash and other prizes.

More recently, Eksab started churning out content for users to get news and updates about their favorite players and teams, using that information to better inform their fantasy decisions.

In the long run, Eksab hopes to build a fully integrated platform that according to its statement, will see it become the go-to platform for football play-to-earn gaming, content, stats, NFTs, digital collectibles and merchandise.

Eksab takes a percentage of all the fees paid on the platform, especially on premium contests and merchandise.

Mahmoud, who worked at a startup incubator in Canada while he got the idea for Eksab, said he built the platform with inspiration from incumbents such as Dream 11, DraftKings and FanDuel as well as newer startups infusing web3 into the world of fantasy sports like Sorare. Others such as Draftea are showing what’s possible in other regions outside U.S. and Europe.

“During my time there as well, I got exposed to the rise of DraftKings and FanDuel. My friends were playing these two games and while I didn’t know much about Canadian sports, specifically hockey, I found that playing these games was the easiest way for me to kind of get to know the sports and kind of develop that sense of camaraderie with my friends,” he said to TechCrunch.

“I enjoyed the games and realised ‘why is no one doing this for the hundreds of millions of football fans in the Middle East and Africa,?'” he said. “So we did some research and realised there was a massive market gap for this kind of game [fantasy football] in the Middle East and Africa.”

Eksab currently has over 700,000 users in Egypt on its platform who participate in daily, weekly and monthly fantasy and predictions contests. Its user base makes over a million ‘picks’ each month and since the launch of its premium competitions in 2021, its paying user base has increased an average of 60% month-on-month, the company said.

In a bid to further invests in its technology, Eksab said it is planning some integration with blockchain platforms to enable football fans to capitalize on web3’s supposed speed and transparency. 

“As a football fan, what would you want to do online? Buy jerseys, play with favorite team’s players on your fantasy lineup, get news and stats on favourite players,” said the founder.

“We want to build this in such a way that fans can get all these from one place and in a play-to-earn manner so every interaction you would make on our platform will earn you rewards which in turn you can use to enter more contests.”

According to the founder, Eksab is the only licensed fantasy football platform in Egypt; in essence, it faces little or no competition in the country or MENA. In addition to acquiring licences to operate in three new markets mid this year, CEO Mahmoud told TechCrunch that his company is on the verge of signing a partnership with one of the biggest football clubs in the Middle East and Africa.

And as the World Cup approaches later this November, and for the first time in the Middle East (Qatar), Eksab sees itself uniquely positioned to dominate the growing football gaming market in both regions.

“We started with football because that’s the main sport that people care about. Given that the World Cup is also around the corner, we’re going to be spending a lot on partnerships with specific football players to grow our platform and our user base,” the CEO said.

“But once we feel like we’re confident that we’ve nailed football and we’re doing the best job that we can there, then we’re going to start unlocking other sports as it makes sense on a per market basis.”

Sokowatch rebrands to Wasoko as it raises $125M Series B from Tiger Global and Avenir

Informal retail is king in Africa, with hundreds of billions of dollars of consumer goods are sold through its channels yearly. Yet its industry remains highly fragmented as shop owners and kiosks still have issues around access to capital and getting goods regularly and on time from suppliers and distributors.

B2B retail and e-commerce platforms have primarily tried to fix these inefficient supply chains over the last couple of years and have received substantial investor backing since the pandemic.

It has been a hot sector for investors, and today’s news shows they aren’t slowing down in backing these startups just yet as Sokowatch, one of the major players in the space, announced that it has raised $125 million in Series B funding. The investment — which values the company at $625 million, as TechCrunch has learned — coincides with its rebrand to Wasoko.

In 2015, founder and CEO Daniel Yu launched Sokowatch in Kenya as an asset-light platform and a marketplace for distributing fast-moving consumer goods from suppliers to retailers. He told TechCrunch that this model wasn’t efficient because Sokowatch couldn’t guarantee that the goods were delivered to the customer when they made orders.

“We realized that to deliver the quality of service these shops deserved, we needed to get more involved,” said the CEO. “In managing the operations directly ourselves … we went from an asset-light backend distribution software platform to this market-facing platform that was out there delivering goods directly to shops themselves.”

At this point, Sokowatch was full-scale, asset-heavy, owning and leasing facilities in its distribution chain from warehousing to logistics. And what started in Kenya soon scaled into neighboring East African markets Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda in 2018. While the company was due for a rebrand, Yu said it was still figuring out operations in this new integrated model.

However, its recent entry into Ivory Coast and Senegal somewhat forced the company’s hand. Yu believes Sokowatch is now ready for a rebrand as it enters its next phase of growth — moving from an East African player to a pan-African one.

“Sokowatch started as this kind of backend brand. We wanted a brand that could be more front and center for the African retailer and easily pronounced across all markets while reflecting our East African roots. So that’s why we’ve rebranded now to Wasoko, meaning ‘people of the market,'” he said.

Wasoko allows retailers from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ivory Coast and Senegal to order products from suppliers via SMS or its mobile app for same-day delivery to their stores and shops via a network of logistics drivers. The company also offers a buy now, pay later option for retailers who need working capital to order more goods.

Buy now, pay later offerings are the latest trend for B2B retail and e-commerce companies. They see it as a sticky option in an otherwise volatile space where retailers aren’t committed to one player, given non-differential offerings. To provide working capital to these retailers, the likes of TradeDepot and MarketForce raised impressive rounds with a significant debt component. But Wasoko chose not to go down that route; instead, it is financing its BNPL option from its balance sheet.

“We do buy now, pay later to our merchants and it’s a significant part of our business. But we’ve been able to do that on our own without raising any kind of separate debt facilities. But we’re looking at debt financing options,” Yu said.

In terms of competition, MarketForce, an asset-light platform, is also present in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. TradeDepot, on the other hand, operates an asset-heavy model across Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. What they have in common is a presence in Nigeria, arguably the largest market for informal retail in Africa.

“Our choice to expand to the Francophone West African markets, I think, reflects the strong growth that those countries have exhibited in the region overall. If you look at the past 10 years, both Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire have experienced solid year-on-year GDP growth,” said Yu when asked why Sokowatch hasn’t expanded into West African countries other than Nigeria.

“Whereas you look at a market like Nigeria, the reality is that growth has been volatile and in some years, in fact, negative. And on top of that, you have a lot of challenges in Nigeria’s macro-environment when it comes to the economy, currency and regulations.”

Informal retail across any African market is an untapped opportunity that gives any first-mover a ridiculous advantage. And though no B2B e-commerce player has a monopoly on the Nigerian market, it seems more saturated than other markets because of the number of players in it — from Sabi to Omnibiz and Alerzo. Less competitive markets like Ivory Coast and Senegal present an enormous opportunity for Wasoko.

“Any market that we look at is going to have a huge amount of demand for our services. And of course, the supply chains in these other markets are even less organized, less established, and therefore more fragmented with more inefficiencies,” Yu said. “We see the opportunity to take our model to be truly effective across Africa and expect that we’ll be able to leverage on our existing experience in our playbook for successfully launching and scaling our services now in six countries across the continent.”

Since launching in 2016, Wasoko has delivered 2.5 million orders to more than 50,000 active retail customers in its network. The company said its revenue has grown over 500% in the past year and 1,000% since 2019. TechCrunch learned that the African B2B e-commerce platform is processing $300 million in ARR/GMV across more than 150,000 monthly orders.

Wasoko’s 800 employees are shareholders of the company through its universal employee equity policy. The round of funding is good news for both employees and early backers who took a bet on Wasoko years ago as new investors Tiger Global and Avenir Growth Capital lead the new Series B round (the pair also co-led Flutterwave’s Series C investment last March).

“It was strategic. We’ve shared investors with Flutterwave since the early days; 4DX Ventures, for example, was an early investor in both Flutterwave and us,” Yu said when asked about the similarities between his and Flutterwave’s round.

“When it came to raising this round, I think being able to follow in their footsteps by working with these great global investors who had seen the great return that Flutterwave had brought them, I think helped smooth path for us as we reached the stage in our growth as well.”

For Tiger Global, this is the 10th deal and first outside fintech since entering Africa’s tech market in 2021. Wasoko is also its second e-commerce investment on the continent after leading Takealot’s $100 million in 2014 (Wasoko is B2B e-commerce, while Takealot is B2C).

It’s the third African investment for Avenir Growth Capital following its checks in Flutterwave and Carry1st.

Wasoko’s round, which is coming two years after it closed a $14 million Series A, also welcomed participation from VNV Global; Binny Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart; and Sujeet Kumar, co-founder of Udaan; Quona Capital; 4DX Ventures; and JAM Fund.

Kumar, bringing in years of experience from running Udaan, the largest B2B retail e-commerce company globally, joins Wasoko’s board of directors.

The new investment, the second-largest non-fintech round in Africa after Andela and largest in the B2B retail e-commerce space, will allow Wasoko further drive geographic expansion and product growth across the continent.

Despite staying away from Nigeria for so long, the seven-year-old company said it is exploring expansion into the West African nation as well as Southern Africa while consolidating its position across its six current markets. It will also make hires and expand its product offerings to point-of-sale merchant systems, bill payments and social commerce, verticals it might build in-house or back and acquire companies that provide such services.

Ghanaian fintech Dash raises $32.8M seed to build connected wallets for Africans

Global financial transactions are facilitated mainly by payment processors such as Visa or Mastercard. They are responsible for communication between banks and fintechs to settle transactions for consumers and businesses swiftly.

Africa has it different. It’s not a predominantly card continent. Telecoms and banks lead the majority of online financial transactions carried out in the region via mobile money wallets and bank accounts. But here’s the challenge: While both systems tend to work well when users make transactions within their unique environment, there’s no interoperability for transactions between them.

An alternative payment network with connected wallets allowing a mobile money user to transact with a bank account would fix this problem, and that’s the premise of Ghana-based fintech Dash. Today, the unified payments app is announcing that it has raised $32.8 million in an oversubscribed seed round.

Founder and CEO Prince Boakye Boampong started the company in 2019. Before Dash, Boampong was the co-founder of OMG Digital, a YC-backed Ghanaian media startup he started alongside Jesse Ghansah — the current CEO of Float— in 2016. 

Two years before that, Boampong traveled to Kenya and was fascinated by how unbanked Kenyans sent and received money while paying bills with mobile money, a system of payments pioneered by Safaricom’s M-Pesa, which has close to 30 million customers. But having come from a mobile money background himself, being Ghanaian, Boampong experienced how interoperability posed a challenge within and outside mobile money systems.

“I was blown away by the ubiquity and convenience of mobile money in 2014 when I visited Kenya for the first time. However, there are over 200 mobile money wallets and 100 banks across the continent that [do] not work with each other,” the chief executive officer told TechCrunch.

Here’s what that means: A Kenyan who uses M-Pesa and travels to Ghana finds it difficult to send money to a Ghanaian who uses MTN Ghana because both mobile money operators don’t permit transactions between each other.

Similarly, a Nigerian or South African with a bank account cannot make transactions with an M-Pesa mobile money account or an MTN Ghana account due to the difference in payment ecosystems. Thus, when they travel, they’d need to swap currencies or get necessary bank or mobile money accounts that work outside their home countries.

Dash’s alternative payment network brings together this mobile money and traditional banks and facilitates transactions for consumers and businesses. It doesn’t aim to replace mobile money or banks. Instead, its wallet allows users to access a plethora of services they can’t find on their traditional provider.

“We’re building this interoperability so a Kenyan traveling to Ghana or Ghanaian travelling to Kenya would be able to pay for stuff without having to change currencies or setting up accounts when they touch ground,” Boampong said. “We’re taking a page from AliPay and PayTm by building features that will make the lives of our users easier without having to switch from different providers.”

Dash’s playbook is similar to Visa or Mastercard, routing payments through banks and telcos regardless of who issued it. So, users from different countries — Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, for now — can connect their bank or mobile money accounts to Dash, pay bills, and send and receive money to other users while the platform handles currency conversions.


The Dash team

The company makes revenue from processing fees, savings (interest earned when users save), FX fees when Dash is used cross-border, bill payments (commission earned when users pay bills on Dash) and subscription (for Dash+, its premium service).

Dash claimed to process over $300 million in TPV in January, up 300% monthly from Q4 2021. In total, it has processed over $1 billion since its launch in 2020 from 1 million customers the company has acquired from Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, Boampong said.

These numbers indicate the tremendous growth from last October, when Dash first closed its seed round before re-opening after rising investor interest. At the time, the Ghanaian fintech was raising $8 million–a large seed in its own right–and had acquired just a little over 200,000 users with transactions reaching $250 million.

The pace at which Dash managed to quadruple the size of its initial investment in the space of five months is intriguing. That said, for some investors and onlookers, $32 million is an incredibly large seed that could cause more harm than good for a three-year-old company. But Boampong disagrees.

“For most products, it’s either you are figuring stuff out, or you figured it out. We were kind of caught off guard with the crazy growth in a very weird way. We didn’t prepare for the growth, so when it happened, we raised more money to meet that demand and we believe it can only get better,” he said, attributing the company’s mammoth seed raise to a 5x boost in customer base and transaction volume.

Dash’s seed round, led by New York-based Insight Venture Partners, is one of the largest of its kind in Africa; only PalmPay’s $40 million tops it at the moment. The round, which comes after a $500,000 pre-seed, continues a list of fintech deals amid a wave of innovation rippling through the sector, which accounted for up to 60% of Africa’s total VC funding last year.

This deal is also noteworthy because it takes attention from Nigeria, Africa’s hottest fintech ecosystem, to neighboring Ghana, where venture capital raised by its startups reached a meager $167 million last year.

Other investors in the round include Global Founders Capital and 4DX Ventures. They participated alongside ASK Capital, Techstars, Guillaume Pousaz’s Zinal Growth Partners, Jitendra Gupta of Jupiter Money, Amrish Rau of Pine Labs, the founders of Moss, executives from ProcessOut and the founders of PennyLane. 

The funding will help the Techstars-backed company expand to new markets such as Tanzania and South Africa, get the licenses needed to operate there, build out its team, invest in technology and launch new features.

Egyptian investment app Thndr nabs $20M from Tiger Global, Prosus Ventures and others

The MENA region has about 400 million people with $500 billion in annual savings. But as a relatively young population, most of them have minimal equity market and investment exposure.

Replicating the success of Robinhood in the U.S., some platforms are looking to create investors out of the region. One such is Egypt-based Thndr. The company has raised a $20 million Series A round to democratize investing in the Middle East and North Africa.

In developed markets such as the U.S. and Europe, up to half of the population invests in financial instruments. However, people in developing markets such as North Africa and the Middle East are underserved, with less than 3% actively investing in financial assets across the region.

A common reason for poor investment penetration in MENA is that opening a brokerage account is expensive. Thndr, launched in late 2020 by Ahmad Hammouda and Seif Amr, is filling the gap by making it easier to open and manage investment accounts, consequently replacing traditionally slow and outdated processes by incumbents.

“The first investment that 75% of our users have done was with less than $500. Without Thndr, these people wouldn’t even be able to open a brokerage account elsewhere because this is much less than the minimum account balances needed to open an account,” chief operating officer Amr told TechCrunch over a call.

Despite the titular “Robinhood for Egypt and the Middle East”, Thndr has had to be ingenious in its strategy based on four pillars, said the founders. The first is taking into cognizance that its users are not as financially literate as those in developed countries and educating them with simulators, articles, videos, webinars, podcasts and daily newsletters. The second is building a relevant and intuitive app; the third is making it easy to open an account online without visiting a branch. The last is a concept of an investment supermarket to meet the needs of different investors.

Currently, users don’t have access to U.S. stocks. They can only use the platform to invest in the Egyptian stock market and mutual funds. It’s an entirely different use case for Bamboo and Chaka, similar platforms in Nigeria that view the provision of U.S. and foreign stocks as the best incentive to acquire users, most of which are concerned about hedging their money against inflation and currency devaluation.

So how has Thndr managed to garner more than 300,000 downloads just providing local stocks? Amr infers that the users like the accessibility and association with the brands they invest in and the ease of making investments on Thndr.

“A very critical pillar for us is the long-term viability of what people are investing in, and this is something that we see in a lot of Egyptians,” he said.

“They see these brands daily; they use, love and want to be part of the growth avenue of these brands. We see that from an understandability and an association perspective, Egyptians are inclined towards Egyptian products,” he added.

But that doesn’t mean Thndr won’t offer U.S. stocks. Actually, it’s one of the many reasons the YC-backed investment company raised this round. In addition to providing U.S. stocks, Thndr plans to introduce other foreign assets from local exchanges in the MENA region and is seeking to acquire a licence with one of the GCC’s regulatory bodies, following up on the brokerage licence it received in Egypt in 2020 — the first issued in the country since 2008.

“We’re big on building an investment supermarket. At the end of the day, what we want to build is that everyone in the Middle East, from his phone, has access to different investment products, whether they are international investment products or locally relevant investment products,” said CEO Hammouda.

“We will continue to add investment products; we are already in partnership with a partner broker and have been working with them over the last six months to launch U.S. securities in the region.”

For Thndr, offering commission-free trading, no deposit or withdrawal charges and no account minimums allows users to trade often and hold their money for the long term. So, it has turned to subscriptions — a model Robinhood introduced in 2016, pivoting away from the commission fees it charged users — to make money. Other earning streams include revenue share agreements with asset managers running mutual funds and floats on idle cash sitting in customers’ accounts.

Amr said Thndr’s assets under custody grew 29 times in 2021 and further shared a few impressive metrics from the company’s two-year run in Egypt.

According to him, about 87% of Thndr users invested for the first time through the platform; 40% of its users come from outside of Cairo and Alexandria — rural areas with zero access to financial institutions; and Thndr accounts for 36% of all new registrations in the local Egyptian exchanges in 2021.

Thndr has raised a total of $22 million in funding to date. The Series A investment will go toward product development and expanding its presence across MENA.

“The way we look at it, the Middle East and North Africa is a massive region. It’s around 400 million population connected by one language with a very similar culture,” said the CEO about expanding into neighbouring countries instead of sub-Saharan Africa where there’s a bit of competition. “So we see a huge room for us to localize our product and service for this region. And this is what we’re focusing on right now.”

Tiger Global, Dubai-based early-stage VC BECO Capital and Prosus Ventures co-led the Series A investment. Alex Cook, a partner at Tiger Global, said in a statement, “We’re excited to support Ahmad, Seif, and the Thndr team as they make investing more accessible in Egypt and the MENA region. The market is lacking a low cost, easy to use platform for investing and saving, and we believe Thndr will deliver best-in-class customer experience as the platform scales.”

Interestingly, this round is Tiger Global’s second investment in an African digital brokerage app in quick succession. The American hedge fund co-led the round in Nigeria’s Bamboo last month.

Other investors in Thndr’s Series A round include Base Capital, firstminute and existing investors Endure Capital, 4DX Ventures, Raba Partnerships and JIMCO.

Away from the investors and to further plans for the company, Amr highlights the importance of local Egyptian regulators in providing the licence, which has enabled Thndr to scale.

“It says a lot that our local regulators are very progressive, open and accommodating to this change. Like from one angle, it’s imperative to catalyze growth. But from the other angle, it’s also allowing us to capably attract investments which will spill over and be invested in the countries that we will serve.”

Before starting Thndr, both founders were investment bankers and had stints at Uber; Hammouda as a general manager at Uber Egypt and Amr as an operations manager in Uber’s office in Dubai.

Senegalese logistics and delivery company PAPS raises $4.5M led by 4DX Ventures and Orange

Multinationals like Amazon and Alibaba have leveraged logistics infrastructure such as UPS and FedEx to create large businesses. It’s not the same in Africa, where few third-party infrastructure players exist to provide end-to-end logistics to e-commerce companies.

PAPS, a Senegal-based logistics and delivery company, is filling this gap in its region by offering customers various logistics services. Today the company is announcing that it has raised a $4.5 million pre-Series A round to expand its tech-enabled logistics solution across the Francophone region.

The round was co-led by pan-African venture capital firm 4DX Ventures and regional telecom operator Orange. Participating investors include existing funds Uma Ventures and Saviu Ventures and new investors Yamaha Motor, LoftyInc Capital, Proparco, Google Ventures,, Kepple Ventures and Enza Capital.

Bamba Lo founded PAPS in 2016 to provide end-to-end logistics solutions for businesses with offline and online operations.

Initially, PAPS operated a consumer-to-consumer logistics model. However, it immediately pivoted after noticing how infrequent and disorganized most requests were. It was hard to precisely predict the delivery flows in the space, which is different from the B2B model, where deliveries are planned. 

The platform caters to small to large businesses, assisting them with their logistics needs, from storage and international transport to last-mile delivery.

PAPS also provides merchants with visibility features to track and know the status of deliveries from takeoff to the point of destination. Merchants can also schedule deliveries on the platform.

“When we launched PAPS, the first thing we wanted to give to our clients was visibility on their transactions, they had to know when the driver has picked their goods up, where the goods are during transit, and when it arrives,” Lo, the chief executive, told TechCrunch on a call. “So that’s what we are trying to do to build — an infrastructure that can serve all B2B clients from warehousing and dispatching to the last-mile delivery.”


Image Credits: PAPS

The Senegalese company owns the warehouses used to store clients’ goods and parcels. It also owns motorcycles, vans, cars and trucks to carry out inter- and intra-city logistics and deliveries. Additionally, the logistics company has a relay network of hubs close to its clients that act as delivery points.

The chief executive said that PAPS wants to create that infrastructure and an enabler for those businesses to access clients they cannot reach today because of logistics.

“The gap that we are filling is one that all these big corporations didn’t want it to address, which is the domestic market. No one addressed the domestic market except PAPS and that’s why we want to give quality and reliability,” he added.

PAPS clients span a range of industries, such as banking, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals (Lo said that the company currently handles distribution for 70% of all pharmacies in Senegal).

Major logistics players such as DHL and FedEx and consumer and business-focused e-commerce brands like Jumia, Glovo and Sokowatch also use PAPS for their operations in Senegal and Ivory Coast, the company said.

In a statement, PAPS claims to be the largest last-mile fleet in Senegal, making over 10 million deliveries across its two markets since inception. And according to Lo, the company’s delivery numbers are growing 150% year-on-year.

The company will use this pre-Series A round to strengthen its tech team, build out physical infrastructure to onboard more warehouses, hubs and fleets and extend its offering to more African companies.

Walter Baddoo, co-founder and general partner at 4DX Ventures, said in a statement, “We have been impressed with the Paps team’s execution thus far and their dedication to creating a truly innovative business in the logistics space. We believe technology has a critical role to play in modernizing Africa’s logistics infrastructure and we look forward to further partnering with Bamba and the paps team on this next phase of their growth”.

African tech took center stage in 2021

Two years ago, the African tech ecosystem saw newfound attention from global players that translated to the continent’s best year of receiving venture capital. From varying sources, it is estimated up to $2 billion went into African tech startups in 2019.

With high-profile visits from the most famous Jacks (Ma and Dorsey), a long-awaited first IPO by e-commerce giant Jumia and massive $100 million rounds, it was a sign of things to come for African tech.

But two months into 2020, the pandemic did an excellent job of lowering expectations as investment activities from local and international investors slowed down.

It wasn’t a bad year, though. African startups nearly raised $1.5 billion and saw a couple of fascinating exits: Stripe-Paystack and WorldRemit-Sendwave.

Entering 2021, the bullishness of African tech stakeholders returned — and why not? As businesses reopened globally and the pandemic drove people to adopt new habits in e-commerce, work, spending money, online delivery, and learning, venture capital into various industries was poised to increase immensely, and Africa would not be exempt.

Predictions were made on how much the continent’s startups would raise in December. AfricArena, a tech ecosystem accelerator, pegged deals to close between $2.25 billion and $2.8 billion. Stephen Deng, the co-founder and partner of DFS Lab, a firm that invests in digital commerce startups, serially compared the 2016 Southeast Asia funding landscape to where Africa might be in 2021, at $3 billion.

These predictions weren’t entirely off the mark. In the end, information from the likes of Maxime Bayen and Briter Bridges made 2019 numbers look like child’s play. 2021 was when African tech reached an inflection point and took center stage as companies raised over $4 billion (more than they got in 2019 and 2020 combined).

From minting five unicorns to witnessing more million-dollar raises by female CEOs, we spotlight some of the events that shaped this pivotal moment in African tech.

What’s a record year of funding without some unicorns?

Attaining unicorn status — a privately held company with a valuation of $1 billion — is undoubtedly one of the vainest achievements for any startup, yet it remains the most coveted.

In Africa, the first two unicorns were Jumia (in 2016) and fintech giant Interswitch (in 2019). As Jumia went public on the NYSE in 2019, it ceased to be a unicorn and became a typical billion-dollar publicly held company.

It’s a similar case with Egyptian payments company Fawry. It went public on the Egyptian stock market (the first indigenous tech company to do so on African soil) in 2019. However, unlike Jumia, Fawry only reached a billion-dollar valuation a year after going public. So, it isn’t and technically wasn’t a unicorn.

Interswitch was the continent’s sole unicorn until five more were minted this year. Four are fintechs: Flutterwave, OPay, Wave and Chipper Cash, while one is tech talent marketplace Andela.

Flutterwave got its horn in March at $1 billion; OPay in August at $2 billion; Wave and Andela the following month, at $1.7 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively; Andela in September raised at a $1.5 billion valuation; Chipper Cash in November at $2 billion. Meanwhile, Interswitch, the sole unicorn between 2019 and 2021, is worth $1 billion.

A couple of reasons are behind this sudden surge in unicorn numbers on the continent. More experienced founders exist and specific markets, particularly in the Big Four (Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya), show a mix of matured but still open-for-disruption traits.

Also, sectors such as fintech keep opening up in ways never seen before and there’s a rush of foreign money from first-time investors in early and later stages, simultaneously.

International investors participated from pre-seed to Series E stages

While global investors have previously invested in African startups, their activity seemed more prominent in 2021, probably because of their participation across the board.

For instance, investors such as Berlin-based VC firm Target Global and renowned investment firm and hedge fund Tiger Global cut checks across early and growth stages.

Target invested in both Series A rounds of Kuda and Mono (including the Series B round of the former). The European VC also led the pre-seed rounds of Kippa and Edukoya. On the other hand, Tiger led Union54’s seed round, Mono’s Series A and later rounds in FairMoney and Flutterwave.

Other deals where growth firms participated in early and growth stages included Sequoia in Telda’s pre-seed; Wave’s Series A, via stealthy wealth management fund Sequoia Heritage; and OPay’s Series C, via its subsidiary fund Sequoia Capital China.   

There was also action from other investors, such as Dragoneer, FTX, Fidelity, SVB Capital and Sam Altman, who got involved in single large deals for the first time. It was routine for other firms like Tencent as it invested in the growth rounds of uLesson, Ozow and TymeBank– and SoftBank, who, via its Vision Fund 2, led two of the continent’s many nine-figure rounds in 2021: unicorns Andela and OPay.

African startups raised more $100M+ rounds this year than ever before

OPay had one of the three nine-figure deals in 2019 after raising a $120 million Series B round. Others included Andela’s $100 million and Interswitch’s $200 million deals. So imagine the surprise the following year when no nine-figure deal took place (just as the continent didn’t produce any unicorn).

The draught didn’t last long, as Africa not only had its highest unicorn year but also recorded the most nine-figure rounds (11 from 10 startups) in a single year.

Let’s start with the unicorns: Flutterwave’s Series C was $170 million; OPay raised a $400 million Series C; Wave and Andela each picked up $200 million. Then Chipper Cash did the double: a $100 million Series C and a $150 million extension for its unicorn round months later.

Others include TymeBank’s $180 million Series B, Jumo and MNT-Halan’s $120 million rounds, TradeDepot’s $110 million and MFS Africa’s $100 million.

The only non-fintech deals were Andela and TradeDepot (although the latter has an embedded finance play). Also, all but two deals were solely equity-based: TradeDepot and MFS Africa raised a mix of equity and debt.

A handful of local acquisitions and a monumental exit

Digital payments gateway MFS Africa is one of Africa’s few corporate investors and acquirers. Over the past five years, the company has made strategic bets across overlooked startup regions in Africa, investing in Julaya, Maviance and Numida. And in terms of acquisitions, Beyonic and, most recently, Baxi.

Last year, the trend of seeing local companies buy each other played out and continued into 2021. Some interesting acquisitions include TLcom-backed Kenyan consumer experience platform Ajua buying WayaWaya; Nigerian bus booking and Techstars-backed Treepz expanding into Ghana and Ugabus after getting Stabus and Ugabus; and Flutterwave making a foray into the creator economy space with the Disha acquisition.

Others include Jiji’s acquisition of Cars45, Egypt’s B2B e-commerce platform MaxAB purchasing YC-backed Waystocap, thus expanding into Morocco, and Cheki selling its businesses in Kenya and Uganda to Nigeria’s Autochek.

Like the MFS Africa-Baxi deal — which both parties claimed to be the second-largest fintech acquisition in Africa after Stripe-Paystack — the other acquisitions listed were undisclosed

Why African startups don’t disclose their acquisition figure is a topic for another day. Personally, reporting such deals may not be appealing going forward (if they remain undisclosed) unless they involve international expansion plays. Case in point: Nigerian healthtech Helium Health acquiring UAE’s Meddy (the first of its kind between sub-Saharan Africa and the GCC) and Australian BNPL player Zip buying up South Africa’s PayFlex.

And international expansion via acquisition gets more exciting when a figure is attached; for instance, data center Equinix announced that it would acquire Nigeria’s MainOne, for $320 million. The news was the highlight for this year’s acquisition deals, not only for its size but also because MainOne is a female-led company, with Funke Opeke as its CEO.

More female-led startups raised million-dollar rounds

Funke Opeke is one of the very few founders to have come this far: running an African tech company to the point of exit. She’s also probably the only female founder on the continent to have raised nine figures cumulatively for her business.

Opeke’s experience is an outlier. In Africa and globally, funding doesn’t come easy for female-led companies. A report by Briter Bridges from the middle of this year looked at 1,100+ companies to have received VC money between 2013 and May 2021 (pegged at $20 million or less).

Per the report, only 3% of the $1.7 billion raised within this period went to all-female founding teams compared to 76% for all-male teams.

So, it’s great news when female-led startups raise a million dollars or more in Africa. And it indirectly contributes to how well the region performs, as we can attest to this year which recorded more than ten deals, signalling an improvement in VCs (both gender-focused and gender-agnostic) sourcing for female-led teams to invest in.

The female-led startups that raised a million dollars or more this year include Shuttlers, Bankly, Lami, Okra, Klasha, Akiba Digital, Ejara, Kwara, Edukoya, Reelfruit and Jetstream.

Local investors — and founders — stepped up their game

Alitheia IDF is an investor in Reelfruit and Jetstream. The women-focused firm, led by principal partners Tokunboh Ishmael and Polo Leteka, is a $100 million private equity fund for gender-diverse businesses in Africa.

It’s also one of the local funds that raised huge sums of money this year to write checks for African startups across different stages. Others include Ventures Platform, LoftyInc Capital, Voltron Capital and 4DX Ventures, all sub-Saharan-based VC firms with a pan-African strategy.

Up north, investors such as Sawari Ventures and Algebra Ventures pulled their weight backing startups, particularly in Egypt, where startup innovation and investment has taken off astronomically.

Local and Africa-focused investors also took up entire seed to Series A rounds of some companies in sub-Saharan Africa (Appzone, Payhippo, to name a few), which rarely happened in previous years. Future Africa, Kepple Africa, Launch Africa, and others continued with their pace from 2020 and wrote many new and follow-on checks this year.

We even noticed how active founders like Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga’ GB’ Agboola, Paystack founders Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, and Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled took part in some early-stage rounds too.

Nigeria became the unicorn capital; Egypt, a powerhouse

In November 2019, three fintech companies, Interswitch, OPay and PalmPay, raised a cumulative $360 million from American and Chinese investors. That announced Nigeria as Africa’s unofficial capital for fintech investment and digital finance startups.

Fintech opportunity in Nigeria is the largest on the continent. With over 40% of Nigerian adults having bank accounts and digital payments hitting more than $250 billion in 2019, it’s no surprise that the startups facilitating transactions for the unbanked (OPay) and providing gateways (Interswitch and Flutterwave) are now worth more than $1 billion.

The three companies, including Andela, started operations in Nigeria’s commercial city, Lagos, earning Nigeria the status of Africa’s unicorn capital in 2021.

For a long time, Nigeria has been one of the three countries that receive the bulk of local and international venture capital, including Kenya and South Africa. The three countries present Africa’s most connected populace and growing economy; the perfect environment to attract foreign capital before others.

But then Egypt stepped into the picture in 2017, and with time, the North African country became part of the “Big Four” as the country began attracting venture capital eyeballs. And after quietly spending the last couple of years at the rear, Egypt picked up impressively in 2020 and this year surpassed Kenya to become the region’s third most active investment region.

As this report aptly put: “Seemingly from nowhere, Egypt is suddenly on the radar as a key African startup funding destination, highlighting the prospects for continental growth of the nascent sector.”

Egypt also has bragging rights in producing the first SPAC deal on the continent. In July, Cairo and Dubai-based ridesharing company Swvl announced that it was going public via a merger with Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital. It’s a deal that will value Swvl, one of the country’s success stories, at almost $1.5 billion once completed.

With a large population and impressive GDP per capita, the North African country raised almost $600 million this year. While it’s less than what Nigeria and South Africa raised at over $1.4 billion and $830 million, respectively, some observers predict that Egypt will surpass South Africa by next year if it keeps up with its pace.

There are a few reasons behind this thinking. In Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, fintech is the sector that receives the most funding. The major sector is e-commerce and retail in Egypt, but the country is a hot spot for fintech, too, evident in holding the highest pre-seed rounds in both categories (Rabbit’s $11 million and Telda’s $5 million rounds).

When I wrote this piece earlier this year, the largest pre-seed round at the time was Autochek’s $3.4 million. Rabbit’s eight-figure pre-seed is thrice that amount. Sources recently told TechCrunch that another Egyptian startup will close a pre-seed round that high next year.

Mindblowing pre-seed investments like these are one of the many indicators of how fast venture capital has picked up in Africa. The continent’s startups raised over $4 billion this year and minted five unicorns. No one knows what to expect in 2022, but there’s a nuanced sanguinity that we would see “more of everything” including some IPOs (I might be reaching here) so brace yourselves.