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Malako, Uganda’s microcredit firm raises $100,000 from Gates Foundation backed DFS Lab

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Malako, a Ugandan microlender for the country’s low-income earners for bill payments with flexible repayments has received $100,000 in non-dilutive funding from Caribou Digital’s Digital Financial Services (DFS) Lab, an emerging markets fintech incubator backed by a $5m grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Malako is one of the four investees from DFS Lab’s first 6-day Design Sprint Bootcamp which was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania back in October. The four beat over 20 entrepreneurs from 10 countries working to introduce revolutionary digital financial services to the world’s poorest communities.

According to Jake Kendall, director, DFS Labs: “We are searching for breakthrough ideas with the potential to bring low income households from the cash economy into the digital financial realm and give them tools to improve their lives. The entrepreneurs were a very diverse and talented group from all over the world. Their different skills, perspectives and levels of experience produced valuable insights and led to dynamic, highly productive collaborations.”

The three other investees which will share DFS Lab’s $400,000 and a further six months of intensive mentorship include India’s Yooz an international remittance firm and Serv’d, an informal workforce tracker to proof employment to help them borrow, and Pakistan’s Credit Fix, a credit score builder for low income consumers to help them secure loans to improve their standard of living.

Kendall  added that using the Design Sprint Methodology, a process of structured brainstorming for answering critical business questions, entrepreneurs were taken through a workshop to design, prototype and test new ideas. By creating quick prototypes, they got actual feedback and saw the real potential for the solution they had created.

Though DFS Lab has no physical space in Africa or India, it provides entrepreneurs with the very best hands-on support, guidance and mentoring to help them bring their idea to life and to the mass market after the bootcamp.

Like teaching them to find top quality tube amps for the money,DFS is focused on empowering communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, through online and in-person mentorship and strategic counsel to fintech entrepreneurs in emerging markets to help them scale, get to profitability and empower the poor by giving them access to extensive networks and relevant, world-class advice on building successful ventures that change the way low-income consumers interact with digital financial services.

DFS Lab’s next cohort is set for April 2017 in South Asia. Apply here for chance to take home USD $100K in grantsnand six months of additional support from the DFS Lab.

ZUKU’S #Unstoppable Campaign Kicks-off

ZUKU Fiber officially launched one of its flagship projects dubbed ‘unbundle yourself…. I’m unstoppable’ which is set to revolutionize the communication landscape in Kenya, by allowing  their subscribers for the first time truly enjoy the thrills of unlimited news, sports, and various entertainments such as movies without worrying about the cost of internet access.

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The move is certain to disrupt the normal bundle based internet services currently in the market since at the moment there is nothing which compares to the Zuku unlimited internet which offers high speed unlimited internet by its very design and meaning  hence aptly named I’m unstoppable.

Zuku customers will be able to access unlimited internet usage throughout the day and night 24/7 at an affordable fixed monthly subscription fee based on an ingenious Fair Use Policy (FUP).

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Here is how it works! The fair use policy is a means to monitor and control Zuku international bandwidth capacity to give all users fair access to the available capacity. FUP ensures that this international bandwidth capacity is not used disproportionately by some and other are penalized on their account.

FUP continuously monitors the consumed volumes per customer in megabytes and during peak usage hours the fair use policy reduces the speed for those customers who have already consumed large volumes of data allowing other users to access internet unimpeded. Every month on a set date the volume’s account of all users is set to zero enabling all users to start afresh on a clean slate.

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Zuku’s fair usage policy is unique since there is no disconnection unlike other internet broadband service providers who impose a limited-volume-policy which stops your usage, or instigates expensive over usage metering, after the usage-volume-limit is reached

One thing should be clear though! FUP can only restrict the speed access to international bandwidth which is contended by all users.It does not limit the time connected to the internet through Zuku or the overall download/upload volume of any user, so the same does not apply to Zuku local bandwidth which is not shared or contended allowing customers to enjoy maximum speeds at the quoted internet bandwidth.

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Michael Dabaly, director of sales and marketing at Wananchi group said ZUKU will continue to innovate and be ahead of the pack by offering their customers unstoppable experience.

“We want to start a revolution by increasing our online community and brand popularity and we promised our customers unstoppable experience in accessing high speed unlimited internet”

Wananchi Group is the only service provider offering a triple pay platform that includes broadband, multi-channel digital television and voice telephony at the most affordable fixed price per month paid via a single bill.

Zuku Fiber is also the leading provider of internet, communication and entertainment through modern fiber technology in Kenya, with more than 300,000 homes in Nairobi & Mombasa having been covered by Zuku fiber, with plans to roll out more coverage and expansion across the region.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund invests $117.5m into Mainstream Renewable Power Africa power generation platform

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Global wind and solar company Mainstream Renewable Power has raised $117.5m investment deal from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the $177.5m of equity in the Lekela Power platform.

 

The $117.5 will come from RBF and the other investors, and $60m from Mainstream itself to finance it’s continued expansion of the Lekela Power platform, a joint venture with private equity firm Actis. The funding package will help Lekela meet its goal of constructing over 1.3GW of new power capacity in Africa by 2018, while addressing the challenge of climate change.

 

Other investors included IFC, the IFC African, Latin American and Caribbean Fund (ALAC) and the IFC Catalyst Fund, two funds managed by IFC Asset Management Company, Ascension Investment Management and Sanlam.

 

Mainstream Renewable Power CEO Eddie O’Connor said, “The teaming up of the world’s leading independent renewable power developer with a foundation started by members of the family that effectively founded the global oil industry, is a significant moment in the world’s transition to a new power system based on clean energy.

 

The deal will allow Lekela to continue to build its pipeline of wind and solar projects in Africa.  The platform plans to build four more wind farms in South Africa, a wind farm and two solar plants in Egypt, as well as wind farms in Senegal and Ghana.

Mainstream and Lekela are helping to fulfil the objectives of a series of key international initiatives, including the Obama Administration’s Power Africa, which aims to add 30,000MW of cleaner power generation through government and private partnerships, and the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All, which seeks to achieve universal access to power by 2030. Energy poverty has been recognised as one of the key challenges for Africa, with an estimated two thirds of people in Sub-Saharan Africa having no regular access to electricity.

How Kenya Spends | An Analysis of Holiday Purchase Trends

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Image credits: www.thenational.ae

Festive-SeasonBy Ben Lyon, co-founder and Director, Kopo Kopo, follow him on Twitter (@bmlyon)

This post originally appeared on Kopokopo.com here and has been reposted here with permission.

We’ve always been intrigued by how people spend their money. Search engines like Google work around the notion of “purchase intent” — that is, the idea that a user signals their intent to purchase something based on a keyword or keywords. But what about purchase history? What if you could create a snapshot of a national economy to understand what people actually buy, when they choose to buy it, and how their preferences change over time?

That’s exactly what we sought out to do.

Specifically, we wanted to understand how customers in Kenya spend over the holidays. We aggregated and anonymized data from more than 250,000 payments made by over 135,000 customers across 3,000+ merchant outlets in Kenya in December 2014. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we learned.

(As a caveat, it’s important to note that the analysis below is based on purchase trends from closed data, so it’s inherently limited. Our intent is to offer general hypotheses, not precise conclusions.)

Analysis of purchase trends

What are the biggest and smallest shopping days?

The biggest shopping day in December was Saturday, December 20th, the last Saturday before Christmas. We tend to see the most payments on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so a Saturday spike isn’t unusual. What is unusual, though, is the size of that spike: a 30% increase over the daily average for December. Our best guess is that this spike is the result of last-minute shopping, celebrating and travel preparation.

Given that December is typically a big spending month, we’re willing to bet that the last Saturday before Christmas is the biggest shopping day of the year.

The smallest shopping day in December was Tuesday, December 2nd, the first Tuesday of the month. This one isn’t too surprising as Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be slow across our merchant network.

Top 5 spending categories and average ticket sizes by category 

We tag each Kopo Kopo merchant with a “Merchant Category Code,” which helps us segment our database for purposes of analysis and fraud prevention. For example, you wouldn’t expect to see a Ksh 70,000 payment at a “Drinking place” (read: bar), so we would investigate any payment of that size within that category.

In order, the top 5 spending categories by payment count and value are below. We’ve also added the average “ticket size” (i.e. the average size of an individual sale) to each category.

  1. Bars – Ksh 1,184
  2. Restaurants – Ksh 1,399
  3. Hotels, Motels and Resorts – Ksh 2,178
  4. Convenience stores and specialty markets – Ksh 3,307
  5. Professional services – Ksh 2,494

Based on the above, we can infer that Kenyan customers prioritized entertainment and travel over the holiday period. The “Professional services” category includes everything from security to waste collection and photography, so it’s probably too broad to offer any meaningful insights.

Regional patterns

We segment Kenya into a handful of broad regions. In order to show how these regions have performed relative to one another over time, we’ve included the percentage value of each region relative to our total active merchant bases in December 2013 and December 2014.

Regional analysis

We originally hypothesized that activity in “Coast” would decrease relative to other regions due to a number of security-related incidents. As you can see, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case as “Coast” observed a 4% relative increase in merchant activity.  Further, it appears that more Nairobians traveled upcountry in 2014 than 2013, though the percentage changes are small enough to be within the margin of error.

Generally speaking, we’d say the regional analysis is interesting, but doesn’t prove a meaningful difference between December 2013 and December 2014. You should also note that columns “Dec-13″ and “Dec-14″ don’t add up to 100% because we haven’t geo-tagged 100% of our merchant base (this is ongoing). We categorize the balance as “n/a” for “not available.”

What do merchants communicate to their customers?

In addition to processing payments, we also enable our merchants to market to their customers via SMS (See: 5 Easy tips for running a holiday SMS promotion). We analyzed tens of thousands of SMS messages sent in December 2014 to see what words were most commonly used. Unsurprisingly, the top 10 most common words relate to holiday messages (e.g. “Happy new year” and “Merry Christmas”) and expressions of gratitude (e.g. “Thank”).

10 most common words in December

The 10 most common words used from January to November (every month but December) are in order below:

  1. Get
  2. Thank
  3. Dear
  4. FREE
  5. Call
  6. Every
  7. Month
  8. Day
  9. Now
  10. New

As you can see, merchants change tone over the holidays. Instead of promoting a certain response through a call-to-action (e.g. “Get” and “Call”) or tying an event to a specific time (e.g. “Now,” “Day,” “Month”), messages in December tend to look like this (an actual campaign message):

“Our Sincere thanks for your goodwill & loyalty throughout the past year.We wish you a happy holiday season,merry christmas & a happy new year.”

To be clear, there were plenty of promotional messages (mostly discounts and BOGO offers) throughout December, but they were eclipsed by holiday greetings.

As a side note, we thought it was interesting that merchants tend to write “FREE” in ALL CAPS vs. “Free” or “free.” We once noticed a meaningful increase in online signups when we changed “Sign up for free” to “Sign up for FREE,” so maybe there’s some psychological insight here.

That’s all for now… 

Ghana and 4 other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa provide better personal safety & security than the BRIC countries

Graph1.51The Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI) 2014 assess levels of prosperity in 142 countries by combining 8 core sub-indices including safety and security, personal freedom, governance and economy (standardized scores from -5=Low to 5=High).  Six of the 10 most improved countries on the LPI (2013 to 2014) are in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and they include Kenya and Rwanda, both of which are more improved than India. In support of this result, the Economy Sub-Index also shows that SSA has 6 of the 10 most economically improved countries. Read more here…