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Acacia Innovations’ Kuni Safi is a cheap and clean alternative to wood fuels

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The Kuni Safi team
The Kuni Safi team

The high demand for wood fuels is rapidly destroying Kenya’s forests and fueling the impacts of climate change locally. In an attempt to curb the decimation of forests, earlier this year the government temporarily banned logging and timber harvesting in public forests. As a result, wood fuels have become difficult to access, in addition to their being environmentally unfriendly. Acacia Innovations has come up with a cost effective and clean fuel in the form of briquettes, Kuni Safi. Kuni Safi, aims to be an economical, reliable, high-quality, healthy and eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood fuels. Acacia Innovations say that every tonne of Kuni Safi used saves 25 trees.

TechMoran spoke to Acacia Innovations Founder Elana Laichena about the company.

Briefly tell us about yourselves, your educational background, team and how they came together to form Acacia Innovations
Founder & CEO Elana Laichena has a M.Sc. in City Planning from Pratt Institute in NYC and worked in renewable energy in New York for 5 years before moving to Kenya with her Kenyan husband. Shortly after moving to Kenya, she joined a social enterprise which made charcoal briquettes from sugarcane waste. From that experience, she learned about the huge opportunity of the sector but noticed a lot of gaps in the market. She decided to start her own company to tackle those gaps and provide a clean cooking fuel that was reliable, high-quality, and delivered on time to schools and small businesses. Her first hire was Danstan Otieno, who worked at the first social enterprise as Sales Team Coordinator. Danstan is now Sales Team Coordinator at Acacia Innovations and has 3 years of sales experience and is an expert on briquettes. Our other leadership includes Annastacia Nganga, Operations Coordinator, and Mark Laichena, Director (see bios at www.acaciainnovations.com/team). Currently, the team is 5 full-time employees and 6 sales representatives.

How would you describe your company; how does it work and make money?
We supply Kuni Safi briquettes, an eco-friendly alternative to charcoal and firewood as well as affordable energy saving jikos (cookstoves) to schools and small businesses. We are already the largest supplier of clean cooking fuels to schools in Kenya. Our Kuni Safi briquettes are made of 100% sugarcane waste and are nearly smokeless. This helps keep the kitchens clean with less soot and reduces indoor air pollution, which leads to over 14,000 premature deaths in Kenya every year. In addition, Kuni Safi helps schools and businesses save money. Our customers save an average of 35% compared to firewood and 60% compared to charcoal.

We have also introduced an affordable energy saving cookstove called Kuni Safi Jiko for restaurants, hotels, caterers and small schools who cook for 20-100 people per meal. We designed and locally manufactured this cookstove to be optimized for our sugarcane waste briquettes. Unlike other institutional cookstoves, it is portable and can be used with any ordinary sufuria which the customer already owns.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
There briquettes technology is not new in Kenya, but the average Kenyan still has never heard of briquettes! This pointed to a huge gap in effective branding, marketing, and sales. Additionally, our competitors either target large-scale industry or small-scale households, with schools and small businesses being totally left out. Over 95% of schools in Kenya cook with charcoal or firewood, but no one else has the distribution infrastructure to be able to reliably deliver to schools in the quantities that they need (between 1 sack to 10 tons). Likewise with energy saving cookstoves, the other models on the market are either designed for households or for schools with more than 200 students, so they are either too small or much too expensive for a small school or restaurant.

We started this company to build a national distribution system to get briquettes and affordable cookstoves out to schools and small businesses. We focus on modern and proactive customer education and on-time and reliable deliveries.

What are some of your products and How has uptake been like since you launched?
We have sold Kuni Safi to over 170 schools, restaurants, hotels, and hospitals in 15 counties across Kenya since we launched in October 2016. 90% of our school customers give us a second order. We recently launched a pilot project for Kuni Safi Jikos in February 2018, and we have 5 schools who have purchased them during the initial pilot. We offer an innovative financing model for our cookstoves, in which we sell the cookstove at 50% off, if the customer signs a contract to purchase our Kuni Safi briquettes at a minimum of 26 sacks over 26 weeks (6 months).

See www.acaciainnovations.com/kunisafi for more details.

Chandaria Primary cooks posing with Kuni Safi briquettes

Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
Our competitors include industrial briquette companies as well as household briquette companies. We distinguish ourselves by building a national brand with a guaranteed quality and reliability. We deliver on-time in quantities from 1 sack to 28 tons. And we provide top-notch after-sales support, including a practical training for every customer to ensure they use our briquettes economically and save money.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
Kenyans can be very resistant to change and skeptical of things they haven’t heard of before. It can take us over a year to convince some school cooks that our product can actually be an improvement on charcoal or firewood. Since almost no one has previously heard of briquettes, we are the ones building the market.

Additionally, transporting low-cost bulky goods across Kenya comes with a number of challenges like the roads being washed out due to rains, heavy traffic jams, and vehicle breakdowns.

What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
Identify something that you think other companies are doing badly which you can improve upon. And to start, focus on gaining customers and making revenues to grow your business, rather than trying to fundraise right away. Many entrepreneurs get so focused on fundraising that they lose sight of their mission to serve customers. If a customer is willing to pay for a product, that is the best sign that you are doing something that is valuable for them and the world.

GSMA & mobile money providers launch mobile money certification to help offer transparent financial services

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GSMA and mobile money providers across Africa and the world have launched the GSMA Mobile Money Certification, in a bid to offer transparent and more resilient financial services to millions of mobile money users around the world.

According to the GSMA, the certification is designed to enhance consumer trust and accelerate commercial partnerships by setting a high bar to which all providers can aspire. 

“The GSMA Mobile Money Certification is a consumer-focused initiative, aimed at giving customers confidence that a provider has taken steps to ensure their funds are in safe hands, their rights are protected and they can expect a high level of customer service,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “

The certification scheme follows a three-year consultative process led by the GSMA, which worked together with providers in Africa, Asia and Latin America to understand the challenges of their business and assemble best practices from these markets.

Certification is open to all mobile money providers, whether they are a mobile operator, a bank or other type of payment service provider. Orange Côte d’Ivoire, Safaricom (Kenya), Telenor Microfinance Bank Ltd. (Easypaisa Pakistan), Tigo Tanzania (Millicom Group) and Vodacom Tanzania are the first to be certified, covering 98 million accounts in four markets.

The certification promotes the application of consistent risk mitigation and consumer protection practices across key areas of business. The requirements include a set of eight high-level principles and 300 detailed criteria covering issues such as security, consumer rights and the prevention of money laundering, financing of terrorism and fraud.

The Certification criteria complements providers’ compliance efforts, but goes beyond regulation in its detail and scope, defining and promoting industry best practices in detail. Responsible business practices are essential to help regulators achieve their goals around financial inclusion, stability, integrity and consumer protection.

The operational management of the certification is contracted to an independent scheme operator, Alliances Management, which has responsibility for training and overseeing independent assessors to ensure all assessments are consistent and objective. The benchmark for achieving certification has been set high to serve as an aspiration to all providers and a pass mark of 100 per cent is required.

BBOXX to raise £2.5m via Energise Africa to provide affordable solar energy products in Rwanda, Togo & Nigeria

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 Lendahand Ethex and BBOXX have announced a new Energise Africa partnership to raise £2.5m in total through a series of smaller investment offers, allowing BBOXX to extend its roll out of life changing solar systems across Rwanda, Togo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.

The first offer, launched today, enables BBOXX to raise low cost inventory finance directly from Lendahand Ethex’s growing base of socially motivated impact UK based investors, with the goal of providing 2,500 rural Rwandan households with life changing solar systems.

Just recently, Azuri Technologies raised £1.7M via the Energise Africa platform. UK aid will be providing matched funding of 25% of the campaign value to boost the impact of UK social impact investors. Energise Africa was launched last year with financial support from UK aid and Virgin Unite with the objective to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the UN agreed Global Goal 7 – to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

Lack of energy access in sub-Saharan Africa is a significant problem, with more than 600 million people currently without mains electricity supply. In Rwanda, 9.5 million people or 81% of the population cannot access mains electricity, which has a negative impact on quality of life and limits people’s chances of achieving economic prosperity.

BBOXX provides off-grid communities in Rwanda and other sub-Saharan African countries with smart, affordable and clean energy solutions for around £3-5 per month on a Pay-As-You-Go basis.

To date BBOXX has installed more than 150,000 systems and provided around 750,000 people with access to energy. The company is driven by a vision to provide clean, reliable energy to 20 million people by 2020.

 “Working with Lendahand Ethex as crowdfunding via their Energise Africa campaign represents an exciting mechanism to help us access critical finance to achieve our objectives. This raise is part of the first credit facility of many, which is likely to result in up to £10 million of retail investment over the next few years, providing an estimated 100,000 households in Africa with access to clean and affordable energy,” said Mansoor Hamayun, CEO, BBOXX.

Energise Africa makes it simple and straight forward for eligible retail investors through to more experienced investors to invest in solar businesses that can deliver a clear social, environmental and financial return. The first Energise Africa project for BBOXX will focus on Rwanda and aims to raise £250,000 of investment in order to provide clean energy to 2,500 families.

Investors in this BBOXX bond offer will also generate a potential annual return of 5% over a 36-month period and these returns can also be held tax free within an Innovative Finance ISA. Capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.

 

The Islamic Development Bank sets up a new $500M fund to support science, technology and innovation

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The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has announced the launch of a new $500M fund supporting science, technology and innovation initiatives that will tackle development challenges around the globe.

The Transform Fund will provide seed money for start-ups and SMEs to develop their ideas and facilitate the commercialization of technology among the IsDB’s member countries, many of which are developing nations. Transform will run in tandem with IsDB’s new online hub, ENGAGE which launched last month and is designed to connect innovators in the world’s developing communities with market opportunities and funding.

According to H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank said:“The Islamic Development Bank understands that people living in the developing world need more than just grant funding. They need sustainable solutions to help them build their own way out of poverty. At the same time, we do need to offer access to the resources they need to realize their goals and change the world. That is why we have launched Transform. We know that real financial support in the science and technology sectors is needed in order to drive inclusive and sustainable development. Transform will ensure our members have access to a vital flow of financing facilities to help finance innovative ideas linked to real development solutions.”

 

The projects supported by the Transform Fund will greatly benefit local communities in member countries, as well as Muslim communities in non-member countries. The Islamic Development Bank also announced the establishment of two high-level boards to provide critical advice and guidance to the IsDB and help set the Bank’s STI strategic objectives towards achieving its development mission.

Additionally, a new Board of Trustees for the Transform Fund will provide counsel and expertise to ensure the fund is able to achieve its ultimate goal of driving economic and social progress through science, technology and innovation.

Applicants will need to submit a ‘call for innovation’ via the IsDB Engage website – www.isdb-engage.org. Each proposal must be accompanied by an initial idea concept note or detailed project proposals outlining their innovative solution to a challenge facing a member country or Muslim community in a non-member country.

The IsDB is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with major hubs in Morocco, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Senegal, and gateway of offices in Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

The IsDB Group has evolved from a single entity into a group comprising of five entities: Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export (ICIEC), and International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC).

Azuri Technologies Raises £1.7M via the Energise Africa platform for Electrifying Africa

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Over the last 9 months, Azuri Technologies has raised £1.7M to deliver power to some 16,000 households via the Energise Africa platform, run by UK’s Lendahand Ethex.

Energise Africa provides information on a range of possible solar investments and allows lenders to keep an eye on the performance of their investment. Retail investors make a potential return of 5% per annum on their investment

The finance enables Azuri to supply PayGo solar home systems to off-grid households in Africa on a commercial basis. The cost of the solar home system is less than the cost of the kerosene lamps and mobile phone charging fees that it replaces and provides clean light and power for phones at the touch of a button.

According to Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of Azuri Technologies,“We are delighted to be associated with Energise Africa and work with the crowd to fund off-grid solar projects. Innovative financing is ensuring that we can solve the problem of energy access in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Off-grid solar energy is providing a way for the 600 million Africans to leap-frog over the traditional grid and obtain access to modern devices powered by clean energy.

With the advent of pay-as-you-go technology, consumers can access solar energy, which is as an affordable alternative to kerosene lanterns and phone charging fees. But in order to scale, providers of pay-as-you-go solar technology require commercial debt finance to build the solar equipment in the first place.

Cambridge-based Azuri Technologies provides pay-as-you-go solar products and services across sub-Saharan Africa from its regional bases in Kenya and Nigeria. Energise Africa is an initiative of two of Europe’s online impact investing platforms Ethex and Lendahand and supported by UK aid and Virgin Unite.

Energise Africa has already provided solar businesses with £2.68 million of critical investment needed to enable more than 24,000 rural families across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique to access to clean and affordable energy.

 

 

Equity Bank cuts charges on its PayPal withdrawal service to 1 percent

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Equity Bank has reviewed withdrawal charges on its Equity PayPal Withdrawal service in a move that will see users pay as low as 1% on withdrawals made from their PayPal account.

According to Equity Bank Group CEO and MD, Dr. James Mwangi: “Financial inclusion continues to remain at the core of our business strategy. We have listened to our customers and introduced new tiered withdrawal charges.”

The new rates for withdrawals from PayPal to Equity bank accounts will see customers withdrawing $5001 and above being charged 1% of the withdrawal amount, between $2001-5000 will be charged 1.125%, between $1001-2000 will be charged 1.25%, between $501-1000 and customers withdrawing $500 and below will be charged 1.5% of the withdrawal transaction respectively as indicated below.

Withdrawal amount in USD 5,001> 2,001-5,000 1,001-2,000 501-1,000 <500
Fee 1% of the Withdrawal amount 1.125% of the Withdrawal amount 1.25% of the Withdrawal amount 1.375% of the Withdrawal amount 1.5% of the Withdrawal amount

“The PayPal service with Equity allows our customers to accept payment globally and withdraw locally. By introducing tiered pricing, we hope to encourage more usage from businesses and consumers already using PayPal. At the same time, we hope to continue creating value for our users and as a result, increase their engagement level with this platform,” added Dr. Mwangi.

According to its 2017 end of year Financial Results, Equity Bank recorded a 132% increase in the volume of transactions across its international money transfer platforms. PayPal’s volume of transaction increased significantly in the past year as well. PayPal withdrawal time was last year reduced from 8 days to 3 days.

Equity Bank, which is the only Bank in Kenya where PayPal customers can make withdrawals from their accounts, reiterated its commitment to continue putting in place innovative channels geared towards enhancing customer experience in line with the technology advancement. Through Equity Bank, customers are able to withdraw funds from their PayPal accounts through their Equity bank accounts.

Energy 4 Impact to involve community members in the development and operation of mini-grids in Rwanda

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Image:inhabitat.com

Energy 4 Impact has said it will involve community members in the development and operation of mini-grids in Rwanda under its Sida-funded Scaling Off-Grid Energy in Rwanda (SOGER) programme,

These will see community-owned cooperatives join forces with mini-grid developers to construct pico-hydro grids at 10 sites across Rwanda, providing clean energy access to about 7,500 people.

According to Victor Hakuzwumuremyi, SOGER Programme Manager at Energy 4 Impact, “Energy 4 Impact has put in place the necessary mechanisms, including hiring of a legal firm to facilitate the establishment of the relationship between the community and the developers. We have ensured the agreements are legally binding and that the benefits generated by the grant-funded pico-hydro plants over their life cycle benefit the community.”

Community members, through cooperative societies, and mini-grid developers will therefore start to jointly design, finance, develop and operate mini-grids to deliver renewable energy in remote areas for household and productive use. Communities can buy-in a project and help raise the required funding.

Some of the community cooperatives working with E4I include Umucyo Cooperative in Mudasomwa, Nyaruguru District and Kodukaru Cooperative in Mpanga Sector (Nyankorogoma Site) Kirehe District. Kodukaru Cooperative holds 44.3% shares in the SPV whilst Nyankorogoma Hydropower Ltd, the developer, holds the remaining 55.7%. In Mudasomwa, Umucyo Cooperative has a 35.4% stake while the developer, Hobuka Ltd, holds 64.6% of the shares in the mini-grid.

Mudasomwa is a 34kW pico-hydro with a cost of around $107,000. The community and the developer in Mudasomwa will raise 10% and 25% of the capital expenditure respectively. The community members will offer their contribution in cash or by working on the project during construction. Energy 4 Impact will offer part of funding through a grant provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The remaining 15% will be raised through debt raised by the developer.

Construction of the pico-hydro plant in Nyankorogoma will cost around $86,000. Again, Energy 4 Impact will provide part of the funding as a grant through the SOGER programme. The developer will raise 10% of the cost, while community members will raise 7% through a cash contribution or by working on the project during construction. The outstanding 13% will be raised through debt by the developer.

Upon completion, the 11kW pico-hydro power in Nyankorogoma will connect 141 households, 17 commercial centres, three churches and one grain milling machine. Since the community exports unprocessed maize, sorghum and cassava only to import back in processed form, it is expected the newly available power will create a platform for value added processing activities, as well as attracting new businesses to the area.

Energy 4 Impact will advice on markets and supply chains, on the economics of their business case and accessing capital to acquire electrically powered equipment.

The SOGER programme has a strong focus on gender and is implementing gender sensitisation activities across the productive use and pico-hydro sectors. The SOGER project is aligned with the Rwandan government’s vision to achieve 100% electricity coverage by 2020 through blending both on-grid and off grid solutions across the country.

As part of these efforts, Energy 4 Impact is supporting 30 pico-hydro developers in total in Rwanda to set up power plants through grant financing, linkages with other investors or financial institutions and technical support.

Africell raises $116.5m to fund its 4G roll-out & expand across sub-Saharan Africa

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Africell Holdings has signed a new $116.5m syndicated loan for the expansion of its mobile network operations across sub-Saharan Africa.

According to founding CEO and Group Chairman, Ziad Dalloul  Africell‘s success comes from the communities it works in and its management’s focus on operational efficiency to create value for its customers. However, Africell has been in customers bad books for refusing to register locals in Uganda with national IDs and passports and only signing up expats. It’s growth might be hindered and investor money lost if this continuous.

“It is important to partner with investors who truly understand our business model as well as our markets to structure solutions that support our growth programs.”

Lintel Capital UK Advisors LLP, the company’s advisor led and structured the 5-year deal between the company and a syndicate of 4 international investors consisting of Gemcorp Capital, funds advised by Helios Investment Partners and others.

With operations in Gambia and Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda,  the mobile telephone operator will use the 5-year facility to fund its fund 4G roll-out to meet the growing demand for data in SSA, whilst simultaneously providing the necessary operational flexibility the company requires to expand opportunistically, a key aspect of the company’s growth strategy.

Shawn Gates, Lintel Capital’s CIO and lead advisor for the deal, said: “This deal represents another successful milestone in Africell’s evolution, and we expect it to help unlock meaningful growth opportunities as the company continues to expand. Africell has all the characteristics we look for in a company: strong track record, good growth prospects, clear development impact and a positive enterprise culture. We are very proud to have arranged this deal and of the ongoing partnership we’ve formed with Africell to continue shaping its bright future.”   

BBOXX raises €1 million via crowdfunding platform TRINE to expand its operations in Kenya & reach a further 10,000 households

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BBOXX, an off-grid solar systems firm operating across Africa has raised €1 million to expand its operations in Kenya to deliver the on-grid experience to a further 10,000 households.

The €1 million target was hit on 9 March, making it the fastest fundraise of debt finance ever in the industry over crowdfunding platform TRINE, a crowdfunding site for energy projects. BBOX raised €1 million in less than a month after the two launched their first of six crowdfunding rounds on 10 February.

The loan will be disbursed at the beginning of April and enable BBOXX to scale up its operations in Kenya.

In a statement, Mansoor Hamayun, CEO and co-founder of BBOXX, said, “The speed at which these funds were raised shows the enormous interest in tackling energy poverty. There are over 1 billion people without access to reliable electricity; it is a truly global challenge.

”Our smart solar systems provide reliable energy access, delivering power for lights, home appliances and smartphones, which make a huge impact to economic development among the world’s poorest communities.

Crowd-investors can invest as little as €25 on TRINE’s platform to bring clean energy where it is needed the most.1,500 individuals across Europe have already invested via TRINE and it is expected this number will grow as new fundraising activity commences over the coming months.

The targeted €6 million investment will be the largest crowd sourced capital raise in this history of off-grid solar energy.

Off-grid solar energy is a sector where access to finance is key and the partnership between TRINE and BBOXX enables channeling of unlocked finance from private individuals while solar companies like BBOXX get access to much needed capital to continue providing thousands of people in rural communities with clean energy.

According to Sam Manaberi, CEO and co-founder of TRINE, “We’ve tripled our funding capacity on the platform – it’s an increase of 300% in a month, which is fantastic. It shows a very large demand for sustainable investments and that TRINE’s product solves a large problem.”

M-KOPA raises $10m from CDC & FinDev Canada to double down its off-grid efforts in East Africa

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Kenya-based M-KOPA has raised its first ever investment of US$10million FinDev Canada in its latest funding round led by CDC and follow on investments by existing shareholders Generation Investment Management and LGT Venture Philanthropy.

As part of this investment, Dave Easton from CDC has officially joined M-KOPA’s Board of Directors.

According to Nick O’Donohoe, CEO, CDC says, “CDC is committed to supporting the off-grid solar industry in Africa and we’re demonstrating that commitment today by increasing our investment in M-KOPA by a further US$7m. M-KOPA is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of low-income families in East Africa by bringing affordable and clean energy, financial services and essential appliances to their homes.”

The raise comes just after the Kenya-based M-KOPA has connected 600,000 homes across Africa, providing 75 million hours of kerosene-free lighting each month. Its battery-powered systems come with lights, phone charging, and a solar powered radio – with daily mobile money payments being less than the cost of traditional fuels. Customers can now also opt for a more powerful system with digital solar TV.

Most of the three million people living in M-KOPA connected homes are classified as low-income with per capita income of less than US$2 per day.  Access to power is a major issue in Africa. According to the International Energy Agency, more than two-thirds of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa live off the electricity grid.

Jesse Moore, Co-Founder and CEO, M-KOPA says M-KOPA is about upgrading lives of its customers with high-quality and affordable energy solutions and the investment will help it bring power to another one million households over the next five years.

Women stand to gain the most from this off-grid solution and availability of electricity will have a transformative impact on family life. M-KOPA also offers good-quality jobs for women, with 52% of 800-plus East African work force of permanent employees and 44% of its commissioned sales agents being female.

After completing their payment plan the customer owns the system outright, or is able to get more cost-effective financing for a range of productive assets. M-KOPA has sold over 250,000 of these upgrade assets including more lights, televisions, energy-efficient cooking stoves, water tanks and internet-enabled smartphones.

“Our investment will allow M-KOPA to reach more households across East Africa, providing access to power, improving the environment, creating significant levels of employment and helping customers save money and build a credit history,” said Paul Lamontagne, Managing Director of FinDev Canada.

 

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry, E4Impact Foundation Finalize Plans To Fund Kenyan Startups

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KNCCI CEO (Center) poses for a picture after a meeting with E4Impact team headed by CEO Mario Molteni at KNCCI head office (1)

 

The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & industry and the E4Impact foundation have announced that they will fund, incubate and mentor 20 local businesses with the aim of boosting entrepreneurship in Kenya.

Already the Italian Agency for Development Co-operation has disbursed €542,000 which will be channeled through the E4Impact accelerator to enable the 20 local businesses get business support, increase their revenues, receive mentoring towards profitability and impact as well as enable them partner with Italian businesses.

“The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry being the largest business membership organization in the country is delighted to be part of this programme that will lead to a positive impact on local businesses as well as open opportunities for partnerships with Italian businesses with similar interest. The chamber has been on the front line in facilitating business linkages between local and international investors and hopes that the lucky 20 businesses will make a meaningful impact in their sectors of operation,” said Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry CEO, Angela Ndambuki.

Whereas the programme targets all sectors it will have a preference towards the Italian preferences that are relevant for the new Kenyan “Big Four Agenda” which includes manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing and food security. Therefore, the accelerator will for one-year host Kenyan businesses in the following sectors: agri-food, fashion and design, leather, machinery and equipment, construction and affordable housing, healthcare, green business and renewable energy, innovative ICT services and infrastructures.

Among benefits for the accelerated 20 companies include: one-year office space, a customized training itinerary, international and local coaching and mentorship access to professional services such as legal, accounting, communication among others. The businesses will also have access to seed grants based on milestone attainment, better relationship with potential investors and financial institutions and links to interested Italian companies for partnerships.

E4Impact has also expressed its desire to bring onboard the private sector to boost the funding to €800,000.

Post revenue startups or scale ups in the formal and informal sectors registered or to be registered in Kenya can apply if they meet the requirements which include: an innovative product or service, have an existing customer base, have a team of co-founders with existing complimentary skills and have a clear social or environmental impact. Interested businesses have until 30th March 2018 to apply.

BBOXX raises $4m in debt financing to expand its off-grid operations in Togo

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From left to right: Joe Segal (BBOXX), Mansoor Hamayun (CEO, BBOXX), H.E. President Faure Gnassingbé, Thomas Chevilotte (BBOXX advisor), Honorable Minister Cina Lawson, ICT Minister, and Honorable Minister Marc Bidamon, Minister of Energy. (PRNewsfoto/BBOXX)

BBOXX, a renewable energy and software firm has received $4m in debt financing from Union Togolaise de Banque to provide electricity access to people in Togo and across Sub-Saharan Africa.

The deal will help unlock BBOXX and Togolese Government’s ‘Cizo’ initiative which aim to provide access to reliable and sustainable energy such as solar for communities across the country.

Apart from the deal from Union Togolaise de Banque, Africa Guarantee Fund, a firm that helps assists financial institutions increase their financing to African SMEs, provided a 50 per cent pro rata credit enhancement, giving further weight to the deal.

In a statement, Mansoor Hamayun, CEO of BBOXX, said, “The deal with Union Togolaise de Banque will also make financial matters much more straightforward for us and will help drive our expansion across Togo. We are already providing our services and the on-grid experience they bring to customers in Togo and are looking forward to continuing to work in collaboration with the Government through 2018 and beyond.”

New in Togo, BBOXX has operations in Rwanda, Kenya Nigeria and Cameroon in Africa and has so far deployed over 150,000 helping change lives of more than half a million people in 35 countries by giving them access to smart energy for lights, smart phones and home appliances.

In July 2017, BBOXX was awarded a contract by the Togo government to roll out 300,000 solar home systems in the country by 2022 to create more than 1,000 direct jobs in the next five years. The latest funding will help BBOXX and the Togo government to improve access to electricity for people in off-grid communities.

BBOXX aims to bring electricity to more than 2 million citizens by 2022 through pay-as-you options via mobile payments and create jobs in rural areas for Togolese people.

Nairobi Garage lowers prices with new affordable workspace package targeted at on-demand users

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 Nairobi Garage has launched an affordable office space package dubbed the Club Space offering members on-demand access to a desk from Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, signifying the bust in the co-working space business in the market.

Nairobi Garage’s Club Space offers half-price access to professional meeting rooms, discounts on event space, and access to the central Nairobi Garage online network of over 500 members.

The networking lounge offers the opportunity to meet like-minded members from Kenya and across Africa, make all-important connections, and attend a variety of events and seminars.

The new offering aims to open the Nairobi Garage doors to the widest audience yet – providing for the very early-stage entrepreneurship community which does not yet need full-time workspace, while also bringing corporate and large-scale organisations into the fold, offering them an entry point into the ecosystem.

“At Nairobi Garage we constantly endeavour to create the best possible environment for the continent’s innovators to thrive.  We want to make it easy for our members to access the services and networks they need.  The launch of the Club Space reflects our belief in the importance of connections – we understand success is built on a foundation of strong partnerships and collaboration, and we want to help make those connections happen,” says Hannah Clifford, director of Nairobi Garage.

Membership of the Club Space is on an application-only basis, with 200 places available.  Early confirmed members include investors, established entrepreneurs, and international media.

The Club Space membership is priced at KES4,500 (US$45) per month. Recently, Workstyle Africa launched with on-demand co-working packages in Nairobi with plans to expand across the region.

TRINE partners BBOXX to launch a €6 million crowd-investment initiative for off-grid solar solutions in Kenya

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Photo source: umaizi.com

TRINE has joined forces with BBOXX, a UK-based solar-powerhouse to launch a €6 million investment initiative for off-grid solar solutions.

The initiative will allow crowd-inves-tors to invest as little as €25 making it possible for anyone to bring clean energy where it’s needed the most.

According to Sam Manaberi, CEO and co-founder of TRINE, “This partnership is an important milestone in accelerating electrification in rural Africa whilst offering people here the chance to invest sustainably. Anyone can invest as our mini-mum is only €25 but many people go between €500-€1000 as they see it as a compliment to their investment portfolio, whilst providing social and environmental impact.”

With over 500,000 customers worldwide and 100,000 products in service since they were founded in 2010, BOXX is leading the solar revolution with their innovative products and unique business model.

The two firms say the first campaign is open for investment and will finance 3,500 solar systems, providing reliable and affordable electricity to over 50,000 people in Kenya and Rwanda.

To celebrate this huge milestone TRINE is offering one investor the opportunity to travel to Kenya and see their investment in action. Once the first million euro campaign is fully funded, an investor will be selected to travel with a friend to meet BBOXX and their customers. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see the real impact of energy access.

Sierra Leone’s Easy Solar raises undisclosed funding from Acumen Fund & Gaia Impact Fund

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Sierra Leone’s Azimuth trading as Easy Solar, a pay-as-you-go solar distribution company has raised funding from Acumen’s Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative, an effort to bridge the funding gap in off-grid energy and accelerate access across the developing world to make clean energy affordable to those underserved by the grid.

According to Leslie Labruto, Global Energy Lead at Acumen,  “We invested in Easy Solar because of the audacity of the team to impact one of the world’s poorest markets. Easy Solar’s founding team has the right recipe of grit, local knowledge, and intuition to become a top employer in the country and make an off-grid energy company work in Sierra Leone.”

More than 87 percent of Sierra Leone’s 6.4 million people live without electricity and, in the country’s rural communities, only one percent have access. To serve these populations, the company tapped into the Sierra Leone Energy Revolution following the government’s commitment to nationwide energy access by 2025.

Easy Solar offers solar-powered devices on a rent-to-own financing structure. Easy Solar’s online platform allows the company to track where payments stand at all times while empowering its agents to serve their customers. Easy Solar is building a brand based on trust, enabling it to overcome many of the hurdles in delivering energy solutions in a challenging market.

Founded in 2016 by Alexandre Tourre, Nthabiseng Mosia and Eric Silverman, Easy Solar has grown from under 500 customers in early 2017 to more than 7,000 today. The company is quickly building a nationally trusted brand by providing best-in-class customer service to deliver pico-lantern and solar home system products to their customers.

“We see our investment in Easy Solar as an opportunity to help scale an energy company serving low-income customers and building a new clean economy in Sierra Leone,” said Guilhem Dupuy, Investment Manager at Gaia Impact Fund. “We are excited to partner with Acumen in supporting entrepreneurs and companies committed to bring an end to energy poverty.”

Sierra Leone is a new market for Acumen, which now works in 13 countries across East and West Africa as well as Latin America, South Asia and the United States. While the country has faced a number of challenges—from its 11-year civil war to the Ebola crisis in 2014 to a rash of mudslides in 2017—Acumen and Gaia Impact Fund see Sierra Leone as a frontier market prime for entrepreneurs to develop affordable, sustainable solutions across multiple sectors that serve the poor.

“Sierra Leone presents a complex environment, but one where we know we can excel,” said Eric Silverman, co-founder of Easy Solar. “We are thrilled Acumen and Gaia Impact Fund took a bet to invest capital not only in us but in our team as whole and ultimately in the country.”

 

In two words, what keep entrepreneurs going?

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As budding, and even established entrepreneurs, it is very important to have that thing which keeps you going. Which no matter the challenges you face, it’ll be an advantage as you overcome obstacles. It could be anything, and it could be everything.

Different strokes for different folks, as we speak to entrepreneurs who are great in their own rights. In two words, they were asked to state that thing which keeps them going. It is not to say that every budding or aspiring entrepreneur must have the exact same thing, but it is to say that if you need what to push you, know where to look.

Speaking with Sanusi Ismail, founder of colab, the first Coworking space and incubator in Kaduna. Where he championed the forming of a tech ecosystem even in the whole northern part, he did tell us that God, and Grit were two important factors that kept him going. At the one year anniversary of Farmcrowdy, Jimoh Maiyegun who serves as the company’s Chief Technical Officer emphasized the importance, saying, “a lot of prayers went into the company” at its early stages. So. God. Grit.

In the same vein, while we interviewed Raymond Umeh, founder Skarabrand, an online furniture company, he thought in the same line too. For him, Grit and Patience kept him going till this point. Grit again, right? I believe one very important trait of an entrepreneur is his courage, which explains why grit keep showing its head always. And patience, is a virtue too.

For Joshua Chibueze, who co-founded SharpHire, feedback from users across their 3 products does it for him. Basically, when you receive positive feedback, you get assured that you are on the right track, yeah?

So, entrepreneurs, in two words, what are the things that keep you going?

Execution Point Limited Gets CMA Approval as First Online Foreign Exchange Broker in Kenya

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UK’s Execution Point Limited has been approved and granted an operating license by Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority as the country’s first Online Foreign Exchange Broker.

The firm has been issued with a non-dealing online foreign exchange broker license therefore it will act as a marketplace connecting clients to licensed foreign exchange buyers and sellers in return for a commission.

As a non-dealing Online Forex Broker, Execution Point Limited will connect clients to sellers or buyers online or via mobile devices locally or internationally. It can’t trade or offer advice on what to buy or sell. All execution is done by clients and traders and Execution Point lets the speculation of one currency price against another currency to the discretion of the traders.

E-commerce firm Copia Global sets up a new distribution hub in Nairobi to run thousands of deliveries a day

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Copia Global, a direct to end consumer e-commerce enabled shopping service has set up a new central distribution centre at warehousing facilities firm Africa Logistics Properties in a move that will enable it run thousands of deliveries a day.

According to Tim Steel, CEO of Copia Global, “Copia provides a unique direct to end consumer e-commerce enabled shopping service, bringing choice, convenience and opportunity to rural and peri-urban customers across Kenya. This involves a complex and challenging supply chain. We are very excited to be relocating our fulfilment centre operation to ALP North Logistics Park. The facility is ideally located for us and our suppliers and perfectly suited for us to reliably meet the day definite delivery needs of our customers. It will allow us to continue our rapid growth in using e-commerce to supply FMCG, construction and farming inputs more effectively and efficiently directly to previously underserved communities.”

Copia Global has signed a long term lease for nearly 4,500 sqm of ALP North Logistics Warehousing Complex to benefit from the highest pallet densities in the market and therefore the lowest pallet storage costs per square metre. Copia will be able to run thousands of deliveries a day from the e-commerce company’s new central distribution centre to its agent network across the regions.

“E-commerce requires distribution efficiencies, rapid access, ease of entry and exit, and modern logistics software, to achieve truly efficient warehouse management,” said Toby Selman CEO of ALP.

ALP, rents its modern warehouse units to occupiers on long term leases, has already leased 14,000 sqm of its Phase 1 warehousing to Freight Forwarders. The Phase 1 warehousing will be complete for occupation in September 2018. 

“Copia has a fast growing business model serving the rural regions of Kenya with FMCG products. By operating from Nairobi’s first grade-A logistics distribution complex, it will gain significant competitive advantage, benefitting from lower supply chain costs per pallet, and ultimately benefitting Kenyan consumers,” said Toby Selman.

The need for sophisticated warehousing and logistics facilities is key for e-commerce operations.

 

 

OLX closes Kenya & Nigeria offices, says marketplace to continue operations uninterrupted

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Naspers-backed OLX is trimming its headcount in Nigeria and Kenya as it moves to turn profitable this year.

Speaking to TechMoran, Peter Ndiangui, OLX Kenya country manager said, “We made a difficult but important decision in Kenya and Nigeria to consolidate our operations between some of our offices internationally.

“Our marketplace will continue to operate in Kenya and Nigeria – uninterrupted – as it has since 2010. We remain committed to the millions of Kenyans who use our platform to buy and sell every month. We continue to be focused on constantly innovating to make sure that OLX remains the top classifieds platform Kenya.”

The OLX Kenya platform will run but will be operated by 3 hubs internationally which will impact the Kenyan staff. These changes are specific to Kenya and Nigeria.

“This is a business decision, carefully thought to enable us to continue to provide the best services to our customers in the country. This is entirely a business decision carefully thought to enable us to continue to provide the best services to our customers in the country,” said Ndiangui.

OLX wants its customers to know the marketplace will continue to operate in Kenya and Nigeria – uninterrupted – as it has since 2010, and there will be no changes to its customers, who will continue to have the best service available.

By being remotely run, OLX hasn’t confirmed how the affected employees in the various departments will be helped to ensure a smooth transition from their jobs. OLX’s top leadership is highly likely to be retained and to join the firm’s new hub in Johannesburg.  There is a likelihood that the firm will be reducing its investments in customer acquisition and awareness.

Recently Jumia Rwanda announced a shift to a fully B2C marketplace after the online e-store platform proved to be costly to run. Nigeria’s classifieds platform Efiritin shut operations too sometime last year.

BBOXX & Bamboo Capital Partners launch BEAM, a $50m fund to invest into off-grid energy firms in Africa

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Bamboo Capital Partners, a private equity firm delivering positive social and financial value, and BBOXX, a next generation utility have launched BEAM to initially deploy USD$50 million in equity for distributed energy service companies (DESCOs) and will unlock further debt capital in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

BEAM starts with a first equity investment in BBOXX and its data-driven DESCOs, providing off-grid energy to consumers in Africa and Asia, to scale and generate greater impact in their respective markets. In addition to the equity capital from BEAM, the investment platform will catalyse further capital through debt, joint ventures and co-investments.

According to Jean-Philippe de Schrevel, Founder at Bamboo Capital Partners, “BEAM will catalyse substantial investment into off-grid energy access initiatives across the developing world. By drawing in and encouraging further capital via joint ventures, debt and co-investments, we have a bold and ambitious vision of providing millions more with access to energy to improve their everyday lives.

With some 1.1 billion people across the world without access to reliable energy, BEAM aims to play an instrumental role in delivering energy services to transform lives in the developing world. BEAM aims to aid the growth of an array of off-grid energy service companies, spanning solar home systems, large solar, and metering applications such as pumps and mini-grids.

BEAM will initially focus on ten countries then scale across continents. Partnering through BEAM will enable distributed energy service companies to benefit from BBOXX’s data-driven smart technology to improve operational efficiency and enhance customer service.

This includes Pulse, a cloud-based task management platform, which enables distributed businesses to improve efficiency. Pulse digitalises a business’ entire sales and service management, automating tasks for sales agents, technicians, call centres and its supply chain. For example, Pulse uses product monitoring to predict failure and allow the operational team to proactively support customers, automatically schedules field staff tasks, and understands what type of customer is most likely to default.

Mansoor Hamayun, Chief Executive Officer of BBOXX said, “BEAM solves two key market failures to scale DESCOs across the developing world – firstly, access to equity before debt becomes viable, and secondly it allows to drive disaggregation in what has been a vertical integrated model – both essential to scale.

BBOX says BEAM will allow it to take its successful model in Rwanda and Kenya and expand it across Africa and Asia by solving a key financial challenge.