Senegal’s logistics tech startup Chargel raises $2.5M seed funding

After selling their hospitality tech startup, Teranga, in 2018, Senegalese brothers Moustapha and Alioune Ndoye ventured into the trucking business as they pondered their next move. However, it soon became clear to them that fleet management is a major challenge, and one that largely influences the level of profits to be made by truck-owners.

Some market research made them aware of the full extent of inefficiencies in the trucking business, which especially limited the earnings of owner-operators. And that is how their logistics tech startup, Chargel, was born.

“We realized that there were so many inefficiencies, and that the logistics sector in Senegal was so fragmented, but we felt that technology could help. So, we decided to be drivers for a few months to understand how the sector works, its real challenges, and where the opportunity was, before building something,” Moustapha told TechCrunch.

Chargel, which came out of stealth last year, matches shippers with transporters, digitizing processes that were previously largely offline. The startup is rapidly taking off, and now counts some of the world’s largest shipping companies, Maersk and Grimaldi, among its earliest clients.

In its next phase of growth, it is opening up its platform to more clients, as it had limited access to 10 companies. Its exploration of new growth avenues is backed by a $2.5 million seed round led by Logos Ventures. Ventures Platform, Foundation Botnar, DFS Labs, and Seedstars also participated in the round that also included $500,000 debt. The funding also includes $750,000 it announced last year.

“This year we are opening up the platform to more shippers in Senegal. We are also looking at expansion to one other Francophone African country,” said Moustapha, who briefly worked as a senior product manager in charge of business solutions at Senegalese unicorn Wave.

Senegal's logistics tech startup Chargel raises $2.5 million seed funding

Chargel plans to expand to an additional country within Francophone Africa. Image Credits: Chargel

Chargel transporters, operating out of Senegal, make deliveries to neighboring countries Mali, Guinea and Mauritania. Establishing full operations in an additional country, Moustapha says, will increase their regional coverage, and solve many of the other headaches related to road freight.

“The demand is not just in Senegal; some of the clients we work with, like Maersk for example, serve nine countries out of the Senegalese office. Of course, they want us to be in those countries,” he said.

How Chargel works

Chargel doesn’t just offer a platform, it expedites the entire transport process, in that, when it receives online requests from clients like Maersk, it matches them with the most suitable providers (truck and driver) from its network of transporters. Senders are able to track their goods while on the move, and receive notifications once delivery is done. The platform also pools together independent transporters, giving them new earning opportunities.

“We are actually the ones in the middle because clients contract us and we are responsible for the cargo. Our goal is to make sure that the cargo goes from point A to B on time,” he said.

“We are making sure that shippers focus on their business, and truck drivers focus on driving, and we take care of everything that happens in between,” said Moustapha, adding that the startup gives transporters access to other services such as insurance.

Moustapha says Chargel did over $1.2 million in GMV in 2022, adding that they are close to surpassing that figure so far this year.

Chargel is the brothers’ fourth stab at entrepreneurship after they returned to the country upon completing their studies in the U.S. Their plan is to tap the expected trade boom in Africa. Freight demand within Africa is expected to grow 28% by the close of the decade as intra-regional commerce flourishes, driven by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the single largest unrestricted trade region in the world. As trade within Africa already relies on road freight transport, this growth is set to further grow the demand for trucking services.

Senegal’s logistics tech startup Chargel raises $2.5M seed funding by Annie Njanja originally published on TechCrunch

Ivorian fintech Julaya gets $5M to become banking partner for businesses in Francophone Africa

Ivorian payments-led fintech startup Julaya has extended its pre-Series A round by $5 million. The company, which facilitates B2B payments for businesses in Francophone West Africa, mainly via mobile money channels, has raised a total of $7 million in the financing round. 

In 2019, West Africa reported the most live mobile money services in any region, with 56 million active accounts. In Ivory Coast, one of Francophone Africa’s largest mobile money markets, 75% of the population own a mobile money account, compared to 20% who hold bank accounts. It’s why Julaya launched its services in the west African country and has since expanded into Senegal, where mobile market penetration is around 80% as well as other countries in the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) region, which also have prevalent mobile money usage. 

Small to large enterprises in these countries can use the Julaya platform to make bulk payments to other businesses and their unbanked employees through existing mobile money channels. But they can now access more services, for example, the startup’s prepaid card — issued by Mastercard — for corporate expense management. The cards are tailored for businesses’ travel needs, other online expenses and easy import of transactions into their accounting systems, CEO Mathias Léopoldie told TechCrunch in an interview. 

“Our sense or strategy with the cards is to provide a full range of service. Because if you have just cards, I don’t think you could build a great startup with a lot traction as you would like, for example, in the U.S.,” said the chief executive, who founded the company with Charles Talbot. “The card payment industry, except for South Africa, maybe Nigeria and a little bit in Egypt, is a developing one and while you might be able to grow a business on that, it’s almost impossible in our region [Francophone Africa].”

Léopoldie stated that offering cards — most of which are physical (upon clients’ requests) — is not the main strategy for Julaya in terms of revenue growth. It’s a switching cost strategy which, according to him, differentiates the fintech from competitors such as YC-backed, which see cards as the main driver. 

More than 40% of Julaya’s 500 small and medium businesses (SMBs), startups, large corporates and government institutions use its corporate expense management feature. While the most significant volumes come from medium to large enterprises, the fintech has surprisingly seen greater adoption from its traditional and non-digitised small clients, remarked Léopoldie. 

Within the past year, the Ivorian-French startup has also extended its range of products to include a “Cash & Collect” solution that allows “fast and secured” cash collection, especially in the FMCG sector. Here, businesses can deposit their cash from physical and field sales into their Julaya account via a mobile money agent branch without going to a bank. 

Last July, Léopoldie said the fintech was processing more than $1.5 million monthly. Those numbers have increased fivefold to more than $7.5 million, with revenues seeing identical growth at over 500% year-on-year. Brands such as Jumia and Sendy are some of Julaya’s clients.


Image Credits: Julaya

European venture capital fund Speedinvest led Julaya’s pre-Series A extension round. EQ2 Ventures, Kibo Ventures, angel syndicates Unpopular Ventures and Jedar Capital, existing investors Orange Ventures, Saviu, 50 Partners and Ivorian business angel Mohamed Diabi and professional football player Édouard Mendy also invested in the round. 

Mendy’s participation — his first in Africa and second globally — spotlights athletes’ growing involvement in Africa’s venture capital scene. This week, TechCrunch featured Byld Ventures, a $15 million fund targeted at African fintechs. A striking observation from the news was the number of athletes involved as the firm’s limited partners; some have also made direct investments from various reports. Mendy is African, unlike the others who are mainly Europeans. While he might be one of the first African athletes to back startups, Léopoldie assumes there’ll be more examples in the foreseeable future. 

“I think he’s a bit ahead of the curve. We see that football stars, or high-net-worth individuals in the sports industry, are starting to see that they need to invest in venture capital for two reasons. The first one is that even though it’s a risky asset, it brings great returns. And second, they need to use their image to show that they don’t only care about their sports career but want to be an inspiration to their home country. It was meaningful for Édouard Mendy because he’s Senegalese.”

Julaya also received investment from its CFO and country manager in Senegal. Proceeds from this financing round will assist the fintech in further expansion plans across Francophone West Africa as it plans to open offices in Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso, hire talent and boost product development.

Enrique Martinez-Hausmann, principal at lead investor Speedinvest, said the firm’s portfolio company is changing how businesses operate in a complex payment landscape across Francophone, which also has known players such as CinetPay and Bizao. As we look ahead, the potential for Julaya’s technology goes far beyond its payment capabilities, having the opportunity to become a close banking partner for companies in West Africa,” Martinez-Hausmann remarked. 

Ivorian fintech Julaya gets $5M to become banking partner for businesses in Francophone Africa by Tage Kene-Okafor originally published on TechCrunch

Kenya’s HotelOnline acquires hospitality software company HotelPlus

HotelOnline, a Kenyan-based Yanolja-backed travel technology scale-up that fashions itself as an e-commerce and digital marketing enabler in the hospitality industry, has acquired HotelPlus, a software provider with clients in 22 countries.

The full terms of the transcation were not disclosed but Eric Muliro, who founded HotelPlus in Kenya 13 years ago is getting a payout and $1.9 million in shares in HotelOnline, which was valued at $24 million before the deal. Muliro has also been appointed as HotelOnline’s chief technology officer.

HotelOnline said the deal has increased its customers by over 2,200 and opened the door for additional customers and unique offerings like payment solutions, AI-driven pricing, and revenue management.

“We are significantly increasing our client base, while capitalizing on the combined strengths of both companies, creating a force to reckon with in East Africa’s hospitality industry,” HotelOnline co-founder, Havar Bauck, told TechCrunch.

“Because the HotelPlus client-base currently uses on-premise software, this creates a unique integration opportunity with our cloud solutions…We are creating a massive win-win situation for the HotelPlus clients, in other words,” said Bauck, who co-founded HotelOnline with Endre Opal in 2014.

Trond Riiber Knudsen of the TRK Group, an Oslo-based venture capital firm and an investor in HotelOnline, said in a statement, “A deal like this helps build a strong African travel-tech player, with a local and continental foothold. This is a key part of what we aim to contribute to through our stake in HotelOnline. We see great potential in the new company, and we look forward to the journey from here.”

HotelOnline helps hotels to establish and increase their visibility online to tap a wider clientele base. It helps its clients to deploy booking engines and gain prominence on distribution channels like, in addition to equipping them with the capacity to manage operations on their own platforms using cloud-based digital tools including property management systems. It offers management services to property owners too.

HotelOnline said it is planning an aggressive expansion across Africa, where it currently has over 6,000 clients spread across 27 countries, by tapping HotelPlus’s reseller network, and the growing hospitality industry — which is recovering strongly from the ravages of the pandemic. It immediate plan involves attaining a dominant position in East Africa, and in Nigeria and Senegal, as it works towards being a powerful pan-African player.

“HotelPlus has built an impressive commercial organization, with skilled sales people, a high-performance reseller network covering more than a dozen countries across the continent. Integrating these resources, prepares the ground for our accelerated expansion in Africa,” said Bauck.

The deal comes months after HotelOnline closed its Series A funding earlier in the year backed by Yanolja, a first in Africa for the Softbank and backed South Korean travel technology company. Yanolja offers cloud-based solutions for accommodation, restaurants and residences, and boasts over 43,000 customers in 170 markets.

Having Yanolja’s backing has given HotelOnline the financial muscle to cut deals and make investments that will help it scale and expand in its current and target markets. HotelOnline’s other investors includes Tore Hofstad, Stratel AS and a group of angel investors from Nigeria.


Kenya’s HotelOnline acquires hospitality software company HotelPlus by Annie Njanja originally published on TechCrunch

Wave, a Stripe-backed African fintech valued at $1.7 billion, cut 15% of its staff in June

Wave, an African fintech that offers mobile money services in Senegal and Ivory Coast, laid off about 15% of its workforce last month. TechCrunch first got a whiff of the layoff news on LinkedIn, where Jessica Chervin, a former Andela executive who joined Wave as an expansion lead in March, wrote that she was leaving the company.

“Like many tech companies, Wave is adjusting rapidly to the jarring changes in capital markets in recent months and like the best of them (and importantly, as a financial institution), it has had to make very hard calls in order to ensure that it can continue to serve customers in existing markets now and long into the future,” Chervin, who is also angel investor, wrote. “This vital shift in strategic priorities means that I and many others are leaving Wave far earlier than anyone had hoped.”

TechCrunch reached out to Wave for comments on the matter and a spokesperson confirmed that “close to 15%” of the company’s almost 2,000 staff were let go. Thus, the layoffs affected almost 300 employees, most of whom worked in Wave’s new markets: Burkina Faso, Mali and Uganda.

According to a statement Wave released to its employees on June 30, the company said it was scaling back its teams in these markets as part of efforts to make sure it doesn’t have to depend on new funding at a time “when investors around the world are cutting back.”

Wave said its decision to pull out from newer markets will help it double down on Senegal and Ivory Coast, core markets “where we are market leaders in mobile money with growing businesses” as it continues to serve its new markets.

In 2020, Wave officially spun off from Sendwave, a remittance platform that WorldRemit acquired for about $500 million in cash and stock. The company, which operated a stealth launch two years prior in Senegal, has since raised over $290 million in equity and debt capital funding to date. The firm, run by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk, was valued at $1.7 billion at its last fundraise last September after it raised $200 million, the largest Series A in Africa. It was led by Stripe, Sequoia Heritage, Founders Fund and Ribbit Capital. The startup’s other investors include Sam Altman and Partech Africa.

Wave’s platform is akin to PayPal (with mobile money accounts, not bank accounts). It runs an agent network that uses cash on hand to service customers who can make free deposits and withdrawals and get charged a 1% fee whenever they send money.

The company is disrupting the mobile money industry dominated by banks and telcos with its app-based solution, cheaper fees and QR-based tech. And despite its continuous squabble with these incumbents due to eating into their market share, Wave claims to serve over 10 million users monthly across its operating markets.

Wave is the first unicorn out of Senegal and the overall Francophone Africa region. However, its staff cuts across its five markets, Tunisia, Kenya, the U.S., Germany, Nigeria and the U.K. The company’s spokesperson said that a small percentage of the released employees operated remotely across these countries.

“The people we’re parting ways with are some of the smartest and most dedicated in our industry. Letting them go is one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make as a business,” the remainder of the statement read. “We regret the impact on employees and their families, but we feel strongly that the best way to honor these colleagues is to ensure their contributions last. Wave is offering enhanced benefits and packages to all affected employees to express our deep appreciation for their valuable contributions, hard work, and dedication.”

Layoffs have become the norm as rising interest rates and an extended bull run that swept across private and public markets over the last couple of years, among other factors, combine to make life difficult for tech companies. Amidst recession fears, investors are being stringent with their money, mainly toward growth- and late-stage startups. As a result, startups have had to cut costs and trim down workforces to survive; those who have had some success raising capital have had to adjust to pre-pandemic valuations.

Big Tech companies have fired (Microsoft) and hinted at firing (Meta) employees. Small- to large-sized startups in various sectors globally such as Substack, Hopin, Coinbase, Bolt, Byju, Twitter, PayPal, and Tesla, have downsized too. And though it seemed, at first, that the knock-on effect would take a considerable amount of time before reaching Africa, news of layoffs from mobility startup Swvl and healthtech company Vezeeta made the rounds last month.

However, just as the situation wasn’t dire for Swvl and Vezeeta, it isn’t for Wave. The Senegal-based startup likely has enough money in the bank for the next few years, and last week, it secured a €90 million syndicated loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Lendable, Norfund and other lenders in one of the largest debt deals on the continent. The loan, Wave said, will help it increase its customer base and grow operations in Senegal and Ivory Coast.

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.

Khaby Lame dethrones Charli D’Amelio as the most-followed TikTok creator

Just in time for VidCon, TikTok has a new most-followed creator on the platform: Khaby Lame, a 22-year-old from Senegal who rose to fame by stitching and dueting other TikToks, wordlessly fixing viral “life hacks” that didn’t initially work.

As of yesterday, Khaby Lame has 142.7 followers, eclipsing longtime leading TikTok creator Charli D’Amelio to take the number one spot.

The youngest D’Amelio spoke on a panel with Lightricks at VidCon today, but she wasn’t upset about losing her number 1 title — after all, it’s just a matter of bragging rights.

“I had number one for two years. It’s time for someone else to have that spot, and I’m proud of him. He’s a friend, and there’s no bad blood,” Charli D’Amelio said on the VidCon stage. “It feels great to know that someone else is getting that spot — someone that is sweet and a good person and loves what they do.”

She also told the crowd at ViCcon that she has 2400 TikTok drafts — the mystery!

But for creators to make the big bucks, it’s not just about the followers. It’s how you leverage them.

Charli D’Amelio, her sister Dixie D’Amelio and their parents have spun up a media empire, complete with a Hulu reality show, a clothing line with Hollister, numerous brand deals and a Snap original show of their own. The D’Amelio sisters and their parents have also become venture capitalists themselves, investing in FaceTune maker Lightricks. Even as TikTokers like Lame rise to fame, Black creators are noticeably missing from Forbes’ highest-paid influencer list. Charli D’Amelio sits at No. 1 with $17.5 million in yearly earnings, while her sister Dixie is bringing in $10 million.

To combat these disparities, platforms like Snapchat and Patreon have launched incubator programs for BIPOC creators, giving them access to more upfront capital, production resources and mentorship.

In terms of overall follower counts across platforms, only one YouTube channel has eclipsed the 200 million mark: T-Series, an Indian record label and film company. For now — until TikTok rolls out better monetization options for creators — most opportunities to capitalize on the fame built there happen off-platform.

Update, June 23, 2:10 PM PT: Charli D’Amelio did address Khaby Lame passing her in follower count. A quote was added.

Snap will pay 25 Black creators $120k in a new accelerator program

On stage at VidCon, Snap announced its first accelerator program for emerging Black creators. Over the course of a year, Snap will pay 25 selected applicants $10,000 a month ($120,000 total) to help launch their careers, marking a $3 million total investment.

This program is part of Snap’s 523 initiative, which aims to support underrepresented creators. Snap is also enlisting Google Pixel, UNCMMN and Westbrook Media as partners.

“Black creators face unique systemic barriers across the creator industry — from disparities in compensation and attribution, to toxic experiences and more,” the company wrote in a press release. “We believe one of the ways we can help remove some of those barriers is to provide mentorship and financial resources to emerging Black creators in the early stages of their professional career.”

Of course, this program is also beneficial for Snap itself — they’re essentially making sure that 25 emerging creators have the funding and support to make it big, but they’ll do so as a Snap-first creator, focusing their efforts there perhaps more directly than on TikTok, Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts.

Patreon also recently launched Pull Up, an incubator for creators of color, noting that BIPOC creators are paid 29% less than their white peers. These programs mark an industry-wide response to inequity in the creator economy. Last year, Black dancers on TikTok went on strike after their viral dances were consistently copied without credit, and in 2020, a TikTok “glitch” made it so that videos tagged #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd looked like they had 0 views.

Snap’s news comes at a time when the tides may be slowly changing. As of yesterday, Charli D’Amelio’s multi-year reign as the most followed TikToker has ended, with Senegalese-born Khaby Lame taking the throne with 142.7 million followers, compared to D’Amelio’s 142.3 million. Still, OkayPlayer noted earlier this year that Black creators were noticeably missing from Forbes’ highest-paid influencer list — D’Amelio sits at #1 with $17.5 million in yearly earnings, while her sister Dixie is bringing in $10 million.

Even as Black creators gain recognition on these platforms, follower numbers don’t always directly translate to money. The D’Amelio’s fortune doesn’t come from just posting videos — they have a Hulu reality show, a clothing line with Hollister, numerous brand deals and a Snap original show of their own. The D’Amelio sisters and their parents have also become venture capitalists themselves, investing in FaceTune maker Lightricks.

Aside from its 523 accelerator ecosystem, Snap also runs Yellow, a tech incubator that invests $150,000 into creative startups. Snap says that 7 out of 9 companies funded in 2021 have at least one BIPOC or woman founder, which unfortunately remains a rarity in tech.

Tunisian edtech startup GOMYCODE raises $8M to expand across Africa and the Middle East

Yahya Bouhlel started coding in his early teens. Within this timeline, he interned at several companies in Palo Alto, California. Most of his work revolved around building apps and iPhone games.

When he came home to Tunis, he met many students who wanted to build products like him each summer. And it was one such summer in 2017 that he had the concept of GOMYCODE.

After completing his studies in France and working a year for Amazon in London, Amine Bouhlel, Yahya’s older sibling, moved back to Tunisia. His new job was to open a subsidiary for a French open source tech startup and that required hiring developers on the ground. However, finding a sizable number in Tunis was tough.

“At that time, I had just graduated from high school and I had a free summer. Amine was struggling to find higher web developers,” CEO Yahya Bouhlel told TechCrunch in an interview. “So the idea of building a school or a learning experience with the spirit of Silicon Valley came, and we started GOMYCODE as a summer project and camp and grew that year.” Amine, the company’s chief operating officer, held the title of CCO for Jumia Tunisia from 2018 to 2021.

The edtech, launched in 2017, is announcing today that it has closed an $8 million Series A round. It’s the largest round at this stage on the continent (barring Andela if it’s not counted as an edtech). AfricInvest, through its Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund (CAIF) and French-based development finance institution Proparco, co-led the early-growth round.

This brings GOMYCODE’s total financing to $8.85 million. It raised $850,000 seed in October 2020. One of its investors from the seed round, Wamda Capital, doubled down in this new financing.

In addition to Tunisia, GOMYCODE is present in Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Nigeria. The startup hopes that the Series A funding will drive its presence in 12 countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Saudi Arabia. It also plans to deepen its presence in the countries already present, especially Egypt and Nigeria.

Image Credits:

By 2030, it is predicted that the number of youths — people between the ages of 15 and 24 — in Africa will increase by 42%, according to the UN. One of the most pressing challenges the continent currently faces — and will still meet — is upskilling these people in a region where some countries have unemployment rates reaching 30%.

While there are various jobs in every facet of life, tech jobs are currently in high demand in the global economy these days. As such, most venture-backed startups build around upskilling students and professionals in software engineering and generally tech-facing skills. In Africa, a few of them include unicorn Andela, AltSchool, Gebeya, Decagon, Semicolon and others. They operate online-only or hybrid models (a combination of offline and online settings).

GOMYCODE utilizes the latter. It offers over 30 learning tracks ranging from web development to digital marketing and data science to artificial intelligence. Students are required to spend 50% of their time learning online and the other half at one of GOMYCODE’s network of 20 physical centers. Bouhlel says the company has local teachers in every country — over 500 in number — and they teach students in over 12 languages.

“We’re addressing a demand that almost no other company is capturing at our scale,” said the chief executive. “Local traditional training centers offer outdated content and methodology, and international online players struggle to enroll African students due to their lack of understanding of local markets and unaffordable price points. We have a blended education model, we teach in twelve local languages, and we’re positioning ourselves as a regional leader.”

Students on the platform go through two types of programs. One section is composed of skills-driven introductory courses that take up to 3 months and cost an average of $250. The other section involves 5-month-long career-driven studies with an average price of $750.

GOMYCODE says it partners with various institutions to place its students. It claims to have successfully placed 80% of its students through a job-placement program. On the other end, it also works with business clients that use a study now, pay later plan for their employees. This model makes up just 10% of GOMYCODE’s revenues (the company’s overall revenues have grown 3 times each year since its inception).

“There are a lot of impact and mass market players. We are targeting a wide range of students. So our courses are not just for graduates or professionals, or people from a specific social class,” he said. “GOMYCODE programs target mass markets, and our blended model makes us accessible and affordable, which you don’t see a lot.”

The edtech platform has grown from 100 students in its first year to around 4,000 active students today. About 55% of its students come from Tunisia, while the rest are shared among the seven other countries. With this new investment, GOMYCODE is going into full blitzscaling mode and hopes to reach 100,000 students and open 50 centers across Africa and the Middle East in the next 2 years. Already, over 1,000 students enroll in one of its 30 courses every month, the company said.

Meanwhile, Khaled Ben Jilani, the senior partner at lead investor AfricInvest, believes the edtech market in Africa is untapped, and solutions like GOMYCODE “will have a huge positive impact on everyone in the tech and education ecosystem.”

Betastore gets $2.5M to solve stock-outs, financing challenges for informal retailers in West and Central Africa

About 80% of household retail in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered through informal channels, which perennially face several challenges like stockouts, leading to an instability in earnings, and a lack of attractiveness to financiers. These challenges befall millions of micro-retailers across the continent, and Betastore, a B2B retail marketplace for informal retailers, is working to resolve in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

The Betastore marketplace enables informal traders to source fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) directly from manufacturers or distributors – which keeps the prices of the products competitive by eliminating interactions with sales agents. It also works with logistics partners to ensure the delivery of goods within 24 hours.

The Nigeria-based startup plans to provide these services beyond its current three markets by expanding to Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon by the end of this year, after closing $2.5 million in pre-series A funding from 500 Global, VestedWorld, and Loyal VC. Betastore has to date raised $3 million in funding.

“What is really important for us is to be able to continue to scale by leveraging our asset-light model. We plan to enter new markets before the end of the year and to expand to 100 cities across Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal. We are also planning to reinforce our technology and leadership teams, and to bring in new products and to improve existing ones,” said Betastore CEO, Steve Dakayi-Kamga, who co-founded the startup with Leo-Armel Tchoudjang mid 2020.

The asset-light model means Betastore does not have any capital and labor intensive assets like warehouses or its own fleet of vehicles for delivery. Dakayi-Kamga said that this has helped the startup to optimize its technology to ensure that retailers source goods from the closest distributors. On average, a retailer using Betastore makes 4.4 orders per month.

“Our technology enables retailers to order on demand, access a variety of products and solves logistics headaches for them too. With Betastore, they don’t have to close their shops to go get goods from distributors stores or the market, and do not have to lose close to half of the margins in in the logistics,” said Dakayi-Kamga, who previously worked for Jumia, where he led the e-commerce platform’s logistics, warehousing and marketplace fulfillment department.

The B2B ecommerce platform is set to introduce financing in July, a launch that follows a pilot program involving 200 retailers that the startup carried out last year.

The BNPL financing strategy, Tchoudjang says, will be based on retailers’ sales and will go a long way in helping them to grow the value of their shopping baskets, and ultimately their businesses. The startup plans to charge an interest based on product margins.

Betastore is currently integrating its technology into a network of financing partners including fintechs and banks.

“The mandate of some of the partners we have on board is to support the economy by financing small businesses, but are not able to lend to them because they do not have the data to inform decisions. We have the visibility of what is happening in this sector, and have data they can use to extend financing,” said Tchoudjang, who previously held executive and leadership roles within the IFC-backed AccessHolding AG network in Africa. He has also helped multinationals rollout fintech and microfinance products for emerging markets in the past.

Retailers use the Betastore wallet to repay loans, deposit money for their operations, and to send, receive and save money.

“The wallet helps them separate their business money from their own money, and it is directly connected to the whole banking system, meaning that retailers can receive and send money to any bank, and load cash with any agency banking platform,” said Tchoudjang.

Since launch, the startup claims to have grown its customer base and revenues by 10 and 12 times, respectively. The startup anticipates greater growth especially after entering more countries and rolling out its buy now pay later (BNPL) product, as it taps the retail market in sub-Saharan, which was valued at $380 billion in 2021, contributing 20-50% of the region’s GDP on average.

“We want to simplify access to goods and services for the retailers and for the end consumer because we see the merchant as an agent able to make access to goods and services easier. We started out in Nigeria, and we are expanding within Francophone Africa on our way to being a pan African player,” said Dakayi-Kamga.

Amit Bhatti, the principal at 500 Global while commenting on the latest funding round said, “We believe Betastore’s talented team is creating market efficiencies that have the potential to boost the growth of Africa’s retailers. With Betastore, merchants can get greater transparency into wholesaler inventories and price points.”

Norebase raises $1M to allow companies start, scale, and operate in any African country

Startup pitches with promises to provide various services to Africans — across different sectors — are commonplace now. And in trying to sweet-talk investors, what’s not taken into context or often disregarded is that Africa is a fragmented $3 trillion market. The continent is also home to more than 1.2 billion people with below-average disposable income, most living in landlocked nations.

It’s one of the few explanations for why intra-continental trade has proven difficult for years. But in 2019, various policymakers across different parts of the continent signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement — a framework for Africa to be a single market for trade and services — to make intra-trade less painful (side note: the agreement is yet to make any significant impact.)

Adetola Onayemi was part of the negotiation team that saw the agreement take effect in January 2021. His experience from this activity, coupled with working as a technical adviser to the vice president’s office in Nigeria a couple of months back, led him to launch Norebase, a trade tech startup that has raised $1 million in a pre-seed round.

In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Onayemi, a lawyer by profession, said the idea for Norebase came after various conversations on how his clients and colleagues in tech could leverage AfCFTA for their businesses.

“I had done all this work in policy, ease of doing business, free trade agreement, and I was advising some people in tech who would say, ‘listen, I just raised new capital to enter new markets, I dont know how I’m supposed to navigate it,'” the chief executive told TechCrunch on a call.

From Onayemi’s point of view, the growth of Africa’s digital economy revolves around gains in six segments: education, payments, logistics, transport, identity, and trade.

Trade has the least startup activity in a market that received $5 billion in VC funding last year. Tola believes this is because particular skill sets and an understanding of intracontinental nuances are needed to build beneficial solutions. And as someone with extensive knowledge and background, it made sense for him to take up the challenge.

“Providing a framework where people can operate and scale their solutions to several markets at once is incredibly important,” said Onayemi, who also co-founded Future Africa, an Africa-focused VC fund. “Our solution is for people in the local market moving into their first market or a company in their fourth market trying to scale their enterprise.”

The traditional options involve the painstaking process of interfacing with various law and accounting firms, trademark registries and hiring a team to manage these processes. Meanwhile, there’s also a trust and accountability factor between clients and firms hired to complete incorporation in another country.

“People can make mistakes in this sort of situation and Norebase has shared learnings over time to help people avoid these mistakes. We aggregate that knowledge and provide one platform that ensures you don’t have to worry too much about trust,” the CEO added. “From telling us to set up takes days. We know the rules, so you don’t have to spend time talking to lawyers and getting documents — we simplify all that.”

Onayemi launched Norebase with Tope Obanla in September 2021. It allows founders and businesses to start and scale across several African countries at once or periodically.  According to Norebase, businesses that use its platform can be incorporated in any African country within “a few minutes” and expand to new locations in a week. These countries include Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mauritius and Burkina Faso.

In addition, Norebase upsells on other services as long as they abide by regulatory and compliance requirements. They include opening bank accounts, virtual mailing addresses, and trademark and IP registration. Norebase doesn’t have a fixed fee and charges its clients based on the services they want, Onayemi said on the call without commenting on the company’s pricing range.

Tola Onayemi

Tola Onayemi (CEO, Norebase)

Recently, Norebase began offering African companies the option to incorporate in the U.S. It also launched Incorporation API, a plug-and-play service that allows other companies such as payment processors and banks to provide incorporation services to their customers.

Here’s a use case on how it works. Payment processors such as Flutterwave and Paystack have caps for unregistered merchants on their platforms, limiting the transactions they can make. There’s usually a prompt to these merchants to fully register their businesses before resuming usage.

The problem with this is that some merchants may refuse to continue this process despite knowing their earnings are at stake. So Norebase’s pitch to these payment processors — and other platforms with stringent KYC and regulatory commitments — is that via its Incorporation API, they can prevent this churn by letting merchants complete their registration right on their sites.

This incorporation-as-a-service plugin positions Norebase as a global player in the trade tech space. It’s one of the few companies offering such services, including Firstbase. The service, which is only available for incorporating businesses in Nigeria, the U.S. and Kenya, currently has nine partners; however, the CEO declined to mention their names.

On traction, Norebase claims to have delivered 100% month-on-month growth in transaction volumes for the last six months. It has also grown 40% month-on-month growth in revenue during this same period. Some of its regular offering clients include startups we’ve covered before, such as Brass, Nestcoin, Edenlife, Orda, Sudo Africa, and others like GetEquity, Workpay, Kloudcommerce and Patricia.

“What we do multiplies the valuation of almost every startup because then they can access more markets from the get-go,” said the founder of the partners using its platform.

Although the company plays in a market with little competition (Lagos-based Sidebrief is one company offering similar services), it won’t stay that way for long as the trade tech opportunity — particularly as African businesses continue to transact with each other and western countries — is poised to open up in the next couple of years and attract more funding.

Pan-African funds Samurai Incubate and Consonance Investment led Norebase’s pre-seed round. Other VCs include Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad, Kinfolk VC, Future Africa, Ventures Platform, Microtraction, Boleh Venture, Voltron Capital, Wuri Ventures and Afropeneur.

The round also welcomed participation from well-known executives in Africa’s tech ecosystem, including Shola Akinlade, CEO of Paystack; Odunayo Eweniyi, PiggyVest COO; Adia Sowho, the COO of MTN Nigeria; Seni Sulyman, CEO of BlackOps.

Norebase will put the funds into bettering its plug-and-play API, broadening its trademark registration technology stack, and hiring more talent, Onayemi said.