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Cellulant Group CEO Ken Njoroge to step down in June

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Cellulant Group co-founder and Group CEO Ken Njoroge is set to step down in June 2021 and leave the firm in December 2021 after 18 years at the helm.

As a Group CEO running Cellulant in over 38 markets, Ken is jumping off the lion willingly and honorably. His leaving is not related to the departure of the Nigerian co-founder and CEO late last year.

According to Njoroge, “After 18 years of running Cellulant, I have decided that 2021 will be my last year as (Group) CEO. In August 2020, we suffered a major internal crisis that saw my co-founder exit the business. It wasn’t the crisis, but the process that followed, which gifted me the clarity.”

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Ken adds that he also wants to spend time with his family, which has been part of the journey for the last sixteen years.

Ken’s friend and co-founder Bolaji became the Co-CEO of Cellulant in 2017, and was also the CEO of Cellulant Nigeria perhaps Cellulant’s biggest market. Abolaji’s experience in the agriculture sector saw him become the defacto head of Agrikore, a blockchain-powered smart contract-system for the agriculture value chain launched in September 2019 but now suspended. With his friend out, Ken is exposed and the lion is thirsty for more, he had to do something about it. Quit, remain relevant, reconnect with his old friends, and maybe start over.

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“My co-founder and I found a way to get close to the cub, speak to it and understand it. Before long, we found ourselves on the back of the cub, doing the thing that made life worth living- riding the Lion, creating and changing the world we saw. For me, Cellulant was an ode to the belief that Africa could build great things. To create a solution on this continent, by Africans and for Africans, even in a field as westernised as technology was the dream we committed our lives to. We ate, slept and breathed nothing else. Every day, we woke up and fed this cub… until it was a cub no longer,” Ken wrote.

Ken also says that COVID-19 gave him the opportunity to see beyond and with deep reflection, gave him the chance to pause, reflect and look into the future.

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“At some point in the life of every founder, the Lion outgrows you, and you find yourself on top of a beast. It walks and talks familiar, but at the same time, it is a whole different being. At that point, the Lion will send you some signs telling you this is where you jump off.  One of the things always going through your mind while riding the Lion is that if you jump off too soon, it loses its way; yet it will swallow you whole if you hang on too long,” he said.

Conceptualized in 2001 and founded in 2014 by Kenyan Ken Njoroge and Nigerian Ken Bolaji, Cellulant is a payment platform infrastructure service provider with operations in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Rwanda.

The firm’s various digital platforms connect buyers, sellers and other stakeholders in the entire value chain saw it raise $47.5m to help it scale its digital payment services and blockchain-based service Agrikore to more users in Africa.

Reaching over 40 million people across 11 African countries, Cellulant needed growth partners to reach even more users and that’s why it sold a $47.5m stake to the Rise Fund, an impact investing fund managed by growth equity platform TPG Growth, to broaden its reach and extend its payments ecosystem across the continent.

The Rise Fund invested alongside Endeavor Catalyst and Satya Capital to bolster growth for its easy-to-access digital payment solutions, interoperable financial services, and mobile banking solutions to help the unbanked open accounts, cut fees, and save for the future, as well as helping farmers and small and medium-sized business owners expand their reach through improved financial services. 

According to Yemi Lalude, Managing Partner for TPG in Africa, during the raise, “Cellulant occupies a unique position in the fintech ecosystem in Africa, with the potential to offer increased access, savings, and income to tens of millions of users across the continent. As more and more smartphones come online across Africa, Cellulant makes it easy for customers to increase their incomes.”

The Rise Fund, Satya Capital and Endeavor Catalyst joined Cellulant’s existing shareholders Velocity Capital Private Equity, Progression Capital Africa Limited and TBL Mirror Fund.

Njoroge says the from 2014 to 2018, Cellulant went through a phase where it needed dreamers as well as a fierce ambition. It required him to go out on the road and sell that dream to investors worldwide until finally, the money came in. However, “This phase necessitated an expansion of the dream and by extension, an expansion of the den,” said Njoroge. As they opened the doors to investors, Cellulant also opened its den for more lions.

Ken’s next journey is to nurture, build and grow a thousand more lion riders who can run faster, better, and with fewer mistakes.

Ken will transition from his role as the CEO by the end of June, and spend the rest of the year supporting all the teams and the new leader in the transition. He will remain a shareholder and director on the board.

As a shareholder and director on the board, Ken will be part of the boardroom at Cellulant with its other shareholders and investors to direct and inspire Cellulant’s talented management team.

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Milcah Lukhanyu
Milcah Lukhanyu
I cover tech news across Africa. Drop me an email at [email protected]

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