MainOne partners Signal Alliance to Deliver Microsoft 365 for Nigerian Businesses

L-R: Olusola Oworu, Hon. Commissioner, Commerce & Industry, Lagos State; Fola Adeola, Chairman, MainOne; Omobola Johnson, Hon. Minister of Communications Technology and Funke Opeke, CEO, MainOne at the launch of MainOne's new Tier III Data Center, MDX-i... yesterday.

Nigeria’s MainOne and Signal Alliance have partnered to provide Microsoft O365 to corporate subscribers in Nigeria with the best professional in-country installation and support for their support subscription.

Last year, MainOne expanded its enterprise offerings with cloud-based Microsoft business solutions. Signal Alliance, currently, is Microsoft leading Office 365 enterprise partner in Nigeria with over 50% account under their management and support.

Speaking during the joint product launch, Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Funke Opeke, “As a preferred Microsoft Cloud Solutions Partner (CSP), MainOne is committed to driving sales for Microsoft Office 365, Azure and other complementary products in Nigeria, by assisting enterprises to integrate core solutions and helping them bring cloud offerings quickly to market at a lower cost.”

Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud service solution that includes Microsoft Office and other services, such as email and collaboration, from Microsoft’s cloud server. It provides desktop functionalities and is available by subscription.

Microsoft Office 365 provides a comprehensive set of software tools and services that facilitate office documentation, communication and management tasks. No upfront installation or integration is required, other than an Internet connection and supporting Web browser. The Office 365 suite of applications includes several different online services, including Office Professional Plus, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype Online and a lighter version of Office Suite, presented as Office Web Apps.

 According to Adanma Onuegbu, Chief Executive Officer of Signal Alliance, “More businesses are adopting Office 365 because of its sophisticated collaboration and communications benefits, which saves time, money, and also frees valued staff resources.   Moreover, Office 365 offers the powerfully-integrated capabilities of SharePoint, Exchange, and Skype, in addition to Office Professional Plus and Office Web Apps, without the operational burden of on-premise server software. “

The CSP Program delivers a platform that enables MainOne to own the end-to-end customer engagement for Microsoft Azure and O365 customers. They can directly provision, bill, and support Microsoft Cloud Services for their customers. The partnership between MainOne and Signal Alliance allows Signal Alliance to leverage on MainOne’s Microsoft CSP Status to deliver and support Microsoft O365 services to their customers.

BitPesa Closes $2.5 million Series A round to expand its services across West and Southern Africa


 BitPesa, a digital currency payments company, has closed a $2.5 million Series A round to expand its services in the UK, Europe as well as further across West and Southern Africa.

The round was led by US-based Draper VC with participation from new shareholder Greycroft Partners and existing investors Digital Currency Group, Pantera Capital Management, Blockchain Capital, Zephyr Acorn, Future\Perfect Ventures, Colle Captial and BnkToTheFuture. The company was founded in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013 and has now raised a total of nearly $6 million.

According to Tim Draper, “BitPesa is well positioned to dominate the huge market opportunity for digital payments across Africa and beyond. It takes a locally-based team to work in the evolving landscape of frontier market financial services, and BitPesa’s approach to investing in teams, infrastructure, and compliance from Lagos to London gives them a strong advantage.”

Initially launched in Kenya in 2013, BitPesa has rapidly expanded its footprint both in Africa and around the world with operations in in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the DRC, the UK and Senegal.

In addition, it has direct integrations to transact with over 30 currencies and 2016 saw the launch of its API platform, which enables the fastest settlement and best pricing between African and Chinese banks. BitPesa focuses on B2B customers operating in and across its key markets and offers FX, Treasury, and Settlement products via API or live OTC trading. BitPesa’s clients include Fortune 50 multinationals, award-winning social enterprises, and some of the fastest-growing wholesale remittance companies around the world. This funding round accompanied a migration of its Group Holdings to Luxembourg. It is licensed in the UK as an FCA Authorized Payment Institution.

“We are delighted to welcome our new investors, all who have a deep knowledge of our region and an expertise in the payment sector. We work in unique markets with huge untapped opportunities for the right teams and shareholders that can execute on a vision. Our new investors share our vision and are able to add value to our team in our current and expansion markets,” said CEO, Elizabeth Rossiello.

We have started out 2017 with continued customer acquisition and growth, especially in our largest market of Nigeria. We are well on our way to achieving our goal of becoming the largest licensed payment company in the UK, Europe and Africa that offers real -time settlement at wholesale FX rates to frontier and emerging markets, with best in class compliance and customer service.”

South Africa’s Beauty on TApp expands to Nigeria and UK


Beauty on TApp, a South African mobile app that connects beauty service providers such as hairstylists, make-up artists, hair braiders, and eyebrow threaders and beauty product suppliers to potential customers in their area has expanded to Nigeria and UK after a successful run in South Africa.

Founded in 2015 by Mathebe Molise and Sihle Mchunu, the mobile application provides a seamless platform for beauty service and product suppliers to showcase their work and connect them to their customers.

“In order to ensure that we provide customers with the best beauticians and beauty products, we screen suppliers to ensure that we only offer you the best,” Molise said.

To ensure continuous good service, Molise added that customers have the opportunity to rate services they have received from the various service and product suppliers.  The ratings and feedback from customers acts as a value add for suppliers as this feedback from customers enables them to continuously improve their business.

The Beauty on TApp says it will continuously expand into new markets to make it a global app to give service providers and beauty product suppliers access to a greater market across the world.

The app works simply by allowing users to click on ‘get an Uber’ feature then salon physical addresses show up next to one’s destination. The user then picks the preferred beautician near their destination.  It’s expansion into new markets shows the app is serious on its mission to reach more users and help beauticians increase their reach as well. With increasing uptake of internet use across Africa, most of the normal services are are increasingly being moved online and Beauty on TApp is win for both consumers and beauty service providers.

“Whether you find your next hair stylist next door or visit an unfamiliar city, your beauty needs will be one TApp away. Beauty on TApp seeks to give users a database of reliable beauticians and beauty products wherever they are,” said the team on their website. “Furthermore, the app will make sure proudly South African products are marketed to global Beauty on TApp users. The application will soon allow registrations from beauty service providers from other countries, as we would love to give our users access to top beauty service and product suppliers wherever they are.”

Magic Bus Ticketing is armed with over $1m to bring sanity to Kenya’s public transport system


Magic Bus Ticketing is an SMS bus ticketing app that connects commuters to public buses in informal transportation systems allowing commuters to book or just know when the bus is coming, which is very valuable across Sub Saharan Africa where there is a lack of realtime bus schedules.

“It’s an easy way for commuters to text, book, and ride for intra-city travel,” Co-founder Iman Cooper told TechMoran. “No internet is required, making it accessible to the 80% of Kenyans who  own mobile phones, but the majority of whom can’t afford data. Now commuters can access transportation that is reliable, affordable, and timely.”

Founded last year by Leslie Ossete, Wyclife Omondi, Iman Cooper, and Sonia Kabra. The Magic Bus Ticketing team has together, lived and worked in more than 20 different countries, where they each have experienced firsthand the effects of not being able to get the right bus at the right time, leading to lost job interviews, visa applications, and other economic opportunities.

They were therefore inspired by a desire to bring reliable, affordable transport to all people; at their core, they believe access to transportation—and more importantly, opportunities, is a right for everyone. The co-founders are passionate about making this vision a reality through Magic Bus.

13015667_1582279212082581_597854866026587191_nAccording to the team, inadequate transportation is a widespread global problem. Across Africa and throughout developing countries, informal transportation systems have very real human costs. People lose hours waiting for buses, meaning they are late to work, losing income, wasting time–making it difficult to get from point A to point B in a timely and affordable manner. Transportation is often overlooked as a vital infrastructure that is needed to increase people’s ability to access economic opportunities that can help break the poverty cycle, which is why we are passionate about tackling this global problem.

Iman says that though policy might be failing as a course to development in Africa and other emerging markets, in the West it is different.

“Often in the West, like in Indiana where all the founders met at school, public transportation is managed by the government. However, in informal and privatized transportation sectors, like in Kenya if you want to impact millions of people you need to create innovative solutions which meets the industry where it is,” she told TechMoran. “Technology, like ours, is one way to do that. Of course, the right public transport policies by the government would go a long way in making transportation more effective and efficient, but right now we have found a way to optimize public transport by utilizing the usefulness of technology.”

Magic Bus Ticketing has raised $1M from the Hult Prize, which it will use to launch and scale its business in Kenya then to the entire East African region. The team says it learned a lot through this initial seed-raising round coupled with gaining a deeper understanding of our business, which will serve it well as we raise subsequent rounds.

The firm chose Nairobi as the perfect place to launch as one of the co-founders, Wyclife Omondi is from Nairobi and, after expressing his frustrations about the chaotic transport system where there are no set schedules or standardized fares, he realized that his frustrations were not just all in his head.

Another factor is that in 2011, an IBM transport study found that Nairobi has the 4th highest commuter pain point out of cities around the globe. That brought Magic Bus Ticketing’s attention to how crucial it was to address this problem in Nairobi. Thirdly, MIT’s Digital Matatus project had mapped the routes in Nairobi using technology, making the data open-sourced, which provided valuable information as a starting point. Fourthly, Kenya is the birthplace of mobile money and leads Africa in mobile money adoption, which is part of the Magic Bus Ticketing solution.

During its beta-pilot the firm was working with a bus company in Rongai, where it quickly gained early users, serving over 5000 tickets in a very short period.

Iman says the firm is fortunate that there has been research done and that much data has been made available regarding Kenya’s public transport sector.

‘It helps us create a more effective and relevant transport solution. The right data is informative, and knowledge is power.  We believe the right data can be crucial to creating  more efficient public transportation systems, and has the potential to impact city planning in a really positive way,” she told TechMoran.

According to the firm, one of the biggest challenges in the Kenyan transportation system is that there are many stakeholders in the privatized system but the firm is doing its best to talk to all the stakeholders involved, conducting focus groups to get everyone’s input about its solution.

Also, another challenge it faces is the change in behavior required of commuters, to go from a cash-based system to cashless payments. By allowing commuters to see the benefits of a cashless system, the firm believes it can help facilitate this change smoothly.

“Globally and across Africa we are seeing a rise in start-ups that are aiming to solve big problems that traditional corporations can’t or have yet to solve,” said Iman. “We think startups and especially social enterprises are unique in the sense that they are flexible enough to adjust rapidly to market needs and are passionate about being solutions to the problems they see in the world. For us, we are addressing transport as a startup and from a social enterprise perspective because we believe transportation for low-income populations has been too long overlooked by telcos and corporate entities.”

Iman adds that it is a challenge the firm is excited to take on and help solve through Magic  Bus. There’s  never a shortage of real problems that need solving, such as access to clean water, education, or healthcare; hence there’s always enough space for both startups and corporations to co-exist and do good in the world. By using both approaches the firm is sure to see impactful change for these large-scale problems that are confronting humanity.

Since 3 out of our 4 founders are emerging women leaders, Iman says its the team’s sincere hope that women’s leadership positions continue to advance and grow, rather than being set back by Trump’s election.

“Far too many women leaders have paved the way for us as women and women of color, to get to where we are now. Their sacrifices, courage, and strength to stand up to the status quo, would make it unacceptable for us to stop pushing forward to promote women’s leadership in every sector, across all aspects of society,” she concluded.

Kenya’s Talent Board launches to help job seekers easily find jobs through referrals


Kenya’s TalentBoard has launched to help job seekers easily find jobs from their friends through referrals taking on struggling job boards and headhunters.

“The easy way to find a new job is to hear about one from a friend,” says Juliet Gateri, a professional recruiter and co-founder of TalentBoard. “Talent Board leverages the power of referrals and crowd-sourcing to ensure a seamless recruitment process for the employer, job seekers and recruiters.”

As a professional recruiter, Gateri says she is always overwhelmed with employer requests looking for the perfect candidate, given that each job advertised easily gets a minimum of 100 CVs from applicants.

“Talent Board offers value to employers, where the platform shortlists for them automatically without having the hassle of doing it manually through the platforms matching algorithm as 70% of applications are usually not within the scope of the employer. Additionally the employer can access passive job seekers who can be directly referred by their networks or friends,” Gateri said.

Talent Board also allows everyday people to become part-time recruiters and earn a few on every successful referral.

“Our goal is to have a very vibrant community of professional recruiters and industry professionals,” Gateri asserts. “We are leveraging the social and professional connections of individuals along with the diverse candidate pool of our recruiting community to be able to fill open positions.”

According to her, many job boards work well for entry-level positions, but require additional resources when seeking more seasoned talent.

“Once you start looking for hard-to-find professional roles in executive positions or with specific skills set like in technology, finance, sales and marketing, you’re going to find it more difficult to find talent on job boards,” she said. “You’re not going to find passive candidates or senior candidates, who don’t hang out on job boards.”

It all comes back to the main goal: to minimize the time and resources it can cost a company to find a good job candidate.

“We completely take away the administrative burden from the employers with one simple platform, Talent Board” she concluded.



IFC & The MasterCard Foundation to invest $1m through FINCA in the DRC to expand access to credit


IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, together with The MasterCard Foundation have invested $1 million through microfinance institution FINCA in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help it expand access to credit and digital financial services for low-income people and small-scale entrepreneurs.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has made great strides in increasing financial inclusion in recent years, yet less than 11 percent of adults in the DRC have an account with a formal financial institution, and only 2 percent have access to formal and regulated credit services. Such financial exclusion can be a significant constraint on individual and overall economic development.

Andrée Simon, CEO of FINCA Microfinance Holding Company, said, “FINCA is dedicated to providing access to responsible and affordable financial services to low-income Congolese. This initiative will propel FINCA to better leverage the power of digital technology and put banking in the hands of our customers, no matter where they live.”

IFC will provide advisory services for two years to help FINCA DRC strengthen its ability to offer access to credit for customers and to expand its mobile banking operations to increase its reach by 200,000 new clients. The project is part of the Partnership for Financial Inclusion, a joint initiative of IFC and The MasterCard Foundation to expand microfinance and advance digital financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

While mainstream commercial banks in the DRC almost exclusively serve large corporate clients, FINCA DRC focuses on providing financial services to small-scale entrepreneurs that constitute the largest part of the informal economy. FINCA DRC currently is the largest microfinance institution in the Democratic Republic of Congo, operating in four regions of the country through a network of 20 branches and 900 FINCA eXpress agents. About half of its 256,000 customers are women.

Riadh Naouar, head of IFC Financial Industry Group Advisory Services in Africa, said, “It is exciting to see how FINCA has already begun to transform the financial landscape in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a ground-breaking mobile banking solution. Access to financial services for all is a cornerstone of inclusive economic growth and development.”

PEG Africa partners BIMA to reward loyal customers in Ghana with free medical insurance covers


PEG Africa, West Africa’s pay-as- you-go financing firm has partnered with BIMA, the global microinsurance and health pioneer, and Prudential Life to give free insurance cover as a reward to loyal customers and those that timely remit their loan repayment.

The two firms says they have already provided insurance cover to over 2000 families during pilot but they will now scale the program nationwide. The medical insurance cover underwritten by Prudential Life pays out for every night spent in hospital as a result of illness or injury. Prudential Life, has 1.268 trillion USD in assets under management and 49,000 employees.

“We are excited to be at the forefront of our industry, being the first player to provide these kinds of value -added services to rural consumers. BIMA has worked hard to design a product around the needs of our customers and the results from the pilot are very positive. With this cover, our customers have the security of knowing that unexpected healthcare costs won’t limit their ability to access life-changing solar power”,’ said Hugh Whalan, Chief Executive Officer of PEG Africa.

PEG provides financing for solar products to low -income households on a 12 month rent-to-own plan, and PEG’s typical customer lives in a rural area and earns $5-$10 per day, spending up to 30% of that income on poor quality fuels such as kerosene, candles and batteries. While these customers have little ability to purchase a solar home system for cash, the payment plan offered by PEG allows them to purchase it over time, building ownership in the asset over 12 months with daily payments of 50 cents.

One of the primary reasons that PEG’s customers cease repaying their solar loan on-time is a health emergency that requires hospitalization. Poor consumers often have little or no savings, and an unexpected emergency or health issue can mean they spend the following months living hand-to-mouth. Realising this challenge, PEG worked with BIMA to create a unique insurance product that is specifically tailored to the kinds of emergency situations faced by a poor rural household.

Russell Haresign, Ghana Country Manager at BIMA, commented, “The PEG hospitalization product means that a period of illness or injury won’t prevent a family from paying for the services it needs to succeed. We are very proud to work with PEG, creating an innovative solution that tackles a business challenge whilst creating real value for consumers”.


Furniturespot.co.za brings to life your furniture ideas by connecting you to talented craftsmen


Furniturespot.co.za wants to make IKEA look old-school by making sure all your furniture dreams come to life by simply allowing you to upload your idea, receive quotations from makers, chose your favourite and wait for your furniture to be delivered.

The new online marketplace for custom made furniture connects the public to best artisanal craftsmen in South Africa to have their furniture custom-made at affordable prices.  The platform simply connects furniture shoppers and craftsmen all across South Africa.

Founded by Wouter van Bockel and Lizet Bloo, Furniturespot.co.za was inspired by the fact that the founders couldn’t find what they were looking for when they were redecorating their house.

“It took much more time than expected,” said Wouter. “We drove hundreds of kilometres in the city of Johannesburg. These artisanal craftsmen are difficult to find because they don’t have a website and there is no rating system available where you can pick the best furniture makers.”

“It was either too expensive, too big, too small or just not the right colour,” said Bloo. “To create exactly the pieces we had in mind, we went custom. But we couldn’t find furniture makers to be trusted. This is how we got the idea to start Furniturespot.co.za.”

Focusing on supporting local artisans and building the South African economy that relying on imported furniture, Furniturespot.co.za aims to build trust between local artisans and furniture shoppers as well as bring the convenience and speed needed in the furniture market vetting the artisans for quality and trustworthiness.

The two are also reminding shoppers that custom made furniture is way more affordable than what people think as they have cut out middlemen and costs involved in shipping and customs duty.

Luxity.co.za is South Africa’s marketplace for authentic pre-owned luxury goods


Luxity.co.za is an ‘OLX’ of authentic pre-owned luxury boutique giving everyone the chance to own high-end fashion items such as  a stylish Louis Vuitton handbag, a pair of luxurious Gucci sunglasses or some trendy Louboutin’s at affordable prices.

Developed on a regulated marketplace model but with a focus on authentic pre-owned luxury goods the site will allows users to buy and sell authentic used luxury goods that are still in great condition to allow its users be trendy, follow the fashion and look stylish and expensive at an affordable price. The site allows sellers the choice between an immediate cash buyout, a store credit, or the option to list an item on the site.

Founded  in October last year by Luke Calitz, Luxity aims to make everyone’s lives more convenient with access to some of the world’s most coveted brands, ranging from designer handbags, clutches, wallets and purses as well as other leather accessories, premium high heels and flats, high-end scarves, luxury sunglasses, among others with a full money back guarantee, should you ever prove that an item you bought on the site was a fake or counterfeit.

According to Calitz, “Going to an actual second hand store is not always the most pleasant of experiences and you never know what they might have in stock. On the other hand, going through a platform such as Gumtree or OLX might result in a counterfeit product. “With Luxity, our customers can browse from the safety and convenience of their homes, pay online and have a courier deliver a guaranteed authentic luxury item to their door in just a few days.”

Though the site is heavily focused on women accessories, there are plans to start building a pre-owned luxury item section for men with authentic watches, pens, belts and man bags among others.  Luxity stocks a variety of luxury brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, CHANEL, Burberry, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent among others.


Mastercard launches 2Kuze, a mobile marketplace to connect farmers to buyers & banks in East Africa


Mastercard has launched 2KUZE, a mobile marketplace connecting smallholder farmers, agents, buyers and banks in East Africa in a move set to digitize agriculture in East Africa.

2KUZE, which in Swahili means “Let’s grow together,” is expected to enable farmers to buy, sell and receive payments for agricultural goods via their feature phones from any location in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

According to Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa and head of financial inclusion for International Markets at Mastercard,’ By using mobile, a technology that is so ubiquitous among farmers in Africa, we can improve financial access, bring in operational efficiency and facilitate faster payments.”

Developed at the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi, 2KUZE is being launched in partnership with Cafédirect Producers Foundation, a non-profit organization working with 300,000 smallholder farmers globally. Currently, 2,000 small-scale farmers in Nandi Hills, Kenya are currently using the solution to sell their produce and working with farmer-friendly agents to ensure they reach the right buyers for the best price.

2KUZE makes transacting much safer and simpler for all stakeholders in the agricultural supply chain – the farmer, the buyer and the agent. Farmers using 2KUZE can conduct the entire transaction of selling produce and receiving payments via their feature phones, without having to walk for hours to the markets. This enables farmers to capture a greater percentage of the wholesale value of their goods by providing price transparency, more direct access to buyers and empowerment of farmer-friendly agents.

Mastercard says 2KUZE supports women farmers, who often have household duties that prevent them from leaving the farm gate and are more often subject to having to take whatever deal is given to them on the day. Digitizing these transactions in a trusted, auditable environment provides a legitimate financial footprint, opening up access to loans and other financial services, and also introducing a more efficient process that benefits the entire value chain, as well as the overall economy.

Mastercard Lab is exploring the potential for 2KUZE to help farming communities receive the right level of investment and to encourage more efficient ways of doing business with smallholder farmers. 2KUZE is one of several broad-based collaborations on which the Mastercard Lab for Financial Inclusion is working.

Wala, a digital banking platform is launching to make banking FREE for everyone in Africa


Wala, a digital banking platform is launching on Android to make banking free for everyone in Africa and completely change the way consumer’s access, engage with, and use financial products and services.

Tricia Martinez, Wala’s Co-founder and CEO told TechMoran the app will be launching in Alpha with the first few hundred users at the end of Q1 2017 and will then expand to Beta with the next few thousand sign-ups followed by a full-market release in South Africa.

“Wala is the first digital banking platform for Africa,” Martinez said. “The Wala platform and model makes banking FREE for everyone and completely changes the way consumer’s access, engage with, and use financial products and services. From accounts, to payments, to insurance, personal finance has never been easier or more affordable with Wala.”

According to her, the Wala philosophy is different. By working in partnership with banks and other financial services providers, Wala can offer zero-fee and below market rate products to mass market consumers. Martinez adds that the Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone.

Wala was inspired by Martinez’s work in Kitgum, Uganda where she had launched a mobile cash transfer solution for subsistence farmers in one of the most underserved areas of the country.

”We were doing some really incredible and impactful work, but I was conflicted. The women we were providing cash transfers to would receive mobile payments, go to an agent and pay a fee to cash out, and then place that money in cash boxes in their huts. They had no safe place to guard it, to grow it, or create more value from it,” she said.

According to Martinez, whether a subsistence farmer living in rural Uganda or an Uber driver in Johanessburg, South Africa the problems remain the same- financial services are extremely costly and generally inaccessible due to reasons of inefficiency and distribution. Martinez adds that it was her time in Uganda that made her realize banking was the problem, but also the answer. And from there, Wala was born!

Wala works simply.

Once a user registers and downloads the app they can digitally register for a current account. At minimum, a user needs an ID book to register. Users can then open savings accounts. From here, users can deposit and withdraw money through partner ATMs and agents, receive direct deposits and inbound payments, send p2p payments to friends and family in the Wala network, buy airtime and pay bills, and login to check balance, move money between accounts, get insights into spending habits and history.

In the future, users will receive debit cards/prepaid cards to transact directly with merchants, get access to insurance, international payments, loans, and credit all through the Wala mobile platform!

Wala’s business model is that it makes money when its customers save more money! Wala works in partnership with banks and other financial services providers to offer free or below market rate products. The Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone.

“We don’t generate revenue by charging fees on transactions or cross-selling products,” she says. “Instead, our partners pay us for bringing assets into their banking system. We built our model this way so that we always stay in line with the needs and financial stability of our users. If they improve their financial lives, Wala succeeds.”

Wala is currently backed by angel investors that recognized the massive opportunity to innovate the banking industry throughout emerging markets while also solving a global problem impacting billions of people.

Wala works closely with a number of banks and financial services provider so it can provide zero-fee banking and below market rate financial products to our users.

But just how is Wala helping to improve users savings culture?

Martinez says the Wala philosophy is different from most financial companies. Rather than focusing on lending it focuses explicitly on savings.

“There is no shortage of companies that are willing to offer consumers loans and that’s because they can do so at high interest rates that end up costing people an arm and a leg. Loan businesses are very profitable as long as they are run properly and loan businesses that target the poor or people with bad credit can even be predatory, making it worse for the consumer long-term.

Of course there are banks and companies that do provide good loans but we believe financial health starts with something more basic: a bank account. A bank account allows you to safely store your income, grow your savings, and even hold your loan money. Having an account helps you build a financial history, which will allow you get loans at lower interest rates in the future. With Wala, consumers can easily send payments to their community, pay bills, and access other great financial tools. But again, it all starts with a bank account!,” Martinez told TechMoran.

Building a savings culture is imperative according to her and Wala’s number one priority is to protect customers and ensure they get zero-fee banking and affordable financial products so they can get on the path towards financial stability.

In the meantime, Wala is the only company that can provide ZERO-FEE banking. From traditional banking to mobile wallets and payments to loans, most financial products in Africa are transactional-based meaning they charge consumers for any type of transaction.

“If you use mobile payments with a telecom provider you will incur fees to send money, receive money, hold money, withdrawal money, etc. But with Wala, we cover all fees for you and make the experience convenient through a digital only tool so that you don’t have to deal with the additional financial stress. No more hidden fees. No more long queues. Just Wala,” the CEO told TechMoran.

Though Wala has seen considerable success even while still in beta, the biggest challenge so far has been change. Martinez says change in any form is extremely difficult to accomplish and the firm is pushing boundaries on multiple fronts- banking, technology, policy.

”Everyday we have a new challenge, but we have an incredible team driving forward every step of the way,” she said.

As a financial company, she says most startup founders would agree with her that the greatest challenges are:

  • Acquisition- It takes time to build trust when you are dealing with people’s money. Fintech isn’t like building another social media app, it’s creating solutions for the most important asset in people’s lives- money.
  • Policy- Many regulators are risk averse and implement policy for a reason making it often times difficult to navigate complex systems. It can take a long time to build relationships with regulators and to get them on your side and in the startup world time is our most precious commodity.
  • Fundraising- Even if you have the greatest idea, solution, product, customers, etc. investors always want more especially when you are in underserved markets so you need to figure out how to stay lean and continue to build and grow with limited capital.

Prior to Wala, Martinez founded two companies and devoted her time to socially innovative initiatives in areas including microfinance, economic development, and women’s empowerment. Her previous work ranges from cash transfer solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to the development of an investment fund for underserved markets.

Martinez received her Masters of Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Irving B. Harris School with a concentration in Development and Behavioral Economics. It was there that she began learning how small scale improvements could make lasting impacts through methods of financial innovation.

On why she launched Wala in South Africa first, Martinez said while consumers throughout every African country need better banking and financial services, her and the team strongly believe that South Africa is the best country for Wala to launch in given the customer base and financial industry.

”The most important part of Wala is creating what I like to call a “consumer-driven” financial solution. Everything we do is for consumers and our goal is to provide zero-fee accounts to all Africans so financial empowerment becomes a reality. Over the last 10 months, we have seen a huge increase in our customer base specifically in South Africa. We have almost 1M South Africans who have signed up for a Wala financial community via Facebook and given how quickly that number is growing we want to focus our energy here,” she told TechMoran. ”Additionally, South Africa is the financial hub of Africa. Most banks are headquartered in Johannesburg, industry experts reside throughout the country, and the banking infrastructure is developed and very advanced. We need to make sure we are not only close to our partners, but also valuable resources that will help us grow.”

After South Africa, Wala plans to expand throughout Africa in the coming years to markets including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Egypt, and many more. Wherever customers are in need of better banking, Wala promises it will be there.

If you are interested in being one of the first users for zero-fee banking in South Africa register at www.getwala.com/register or send us an email at [email protected] to join the thousands of users who are joining the platform daily.

Online photographer booking site PhotoMasters is raising a Series A round to expand across Africa


PhotoMasters, an online photographer booking platform based in Kenya is starting a Series A funding round to raise additional capital to continue the growth and development of the platform.

With over 42,000,000 people within Kenya, with 20% converting into confirmed bookings, the firm aims to incorporate offline photographers meet-ups as avenues to cultivate quality customer service and once proven a success way of connecting customers to professional photographers, the firm intends to roll out within the remaining countries in East Africa, i.e Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. While considering a mobile App for the service.

Founded by Sonia John and Michael F David, the platform’s increasing registry of professional photographers in Kenya aims to grant access to individuals, companies and organizations to such professionals with just a touch of a button.

Prior to starting PhotoMasters, Sonia John, Co-founder & CEO was a marketing coordinator for MTN and holds a BSc Economics and Statistics student.

As a student, Sonia was freelancing as a  photographer and in the process fell in love with Photography and in July 2016, decided to start a business to benefit the society and professionals in the field she loved, photography.

The other co-founder and CTO, Michael F David has been a consulting associate at Visionary Arc where he designed business concepts and models that are focused on the gig economy and big data. With his interest in the shared economy and the way technology can be used to empower or connect people to professionals, PhotoMasters was the next best choice for him.

Speaking to TechMoran, Sonia said her inspiration started with a personal problem in the beginning.

”The only way I could get customers for my gigs was through referrals and social media,” she said. ”I was looking for a way to ease customer access to my services by creating a platform where direct connection was possible. I realized at the same time that several professionals were in my position. I decided to do something about that, with Michael we embarked on creating a platform that would fill this gap in the market.”

According to Sonia, while access to actual data on the performance of the creative industry in Kenya is difficult to come by, largely because of the public perception that the industry is not a commercially viable sector, obvious indications like the growth of creative spaces, tech hubs and art festivals tell a different story.

“The increase in number of people taking photography and videography as a profession has steadily increased over the years and so also has the customer demand for the provision of such services,” she told TechMoran. “PhotoMasters bridges the gap between increasing customer demands for professional services and freelancer professionals who offer such by creating a virtual marketplace for the exchange to occur.”

 The scope of the PhotoMasters market covers over 15 different industries including, but not limited to, the film industry, the advertising industry, the wedding industry, the fashion industry and several others. This is because, all the industries mentioned above are part of the many that require the services of top- notch professional photographers. As such, Sonia says PhotoMasters market is well over KES 50 Million worth.

PhotoMasters makes money from bookings fees, advertising and changing price dynamics including the season, duration of booking and location of events.

Sonia tells TechMoran that although the creative industry is growing, most people and governments do not see it as a commercially viable sector, as such, no policies have been put in place to continuous develop creatives. This has resulted in photographers and others in this industry concentrating more on their art as opposed to the massive business opportunities available in this space.

“PhotoMasters is the first online photographer booking service in Kenya. Our goal is to disrupt the current referral method by linking customers directly to the service providers,” Sonia concludes.

JA South Africa Youth Enterprise Development Programme; Nurturing Female Entrepreneurs


Do you have a great business idea and dream of becoming an entrepreneur, but don’t know where to start? Mastercard invites out of school, unemployed or self-employed young women between the ages of 18 and 35 to participate in the Junior Achievement South Africa (JA South Africa) Youth Enterprise Development Programme.

Kicking-off at various community centres around Gauteng, Western Cape and Limpopo on 6 February 2017, 260 applicants will be selected to take part in a 20-week programme that aims to empower women to pursue entrepreneurial ventures of their own.

By participating in three hour theoretical and practical sessions two afternoons a week, the budding entrepreneurs will focus on business theory, market research, financial and business management, sales and marketing, as well as the basic steps of computer literacy.

“Our programme focuses on encouraging and guiding young women to become economically active, enabling them to contribute towards self-sufficient communities,” says Nelly Mofokeng, Managing Director at JA South Africa.

The Youth Enterprise Development Programme was launched in 2013 in response to the high rate of youth unemployment in South Africa, and has grown substantially in reach and impact. Nearly 1,700 South Africans have completed the programme to date, with many going on to realise their entrepreneurial dream.

“At Mastercard, we understand the importance of helping young entrepreneurs realise their business ideas as their success is vital for the growth of the country’s economy,” says Mark Elliott, Division President, Mastercard, South Africa.  “Women are increasingly playing an active role in the Small Medium Enterprise segment and we are proud to support their growth through this programme, which aims to teach them the fundamental skills required to develop their ideas, and grow their businesses.”

Application forms must be submitted no later than 31 January 2017 and are available in the following areas:

  • Gauteng: Siyafunda Community Technology Centre (East Rand), Tshepo Themba Development Centre (West Rand), Diepsloot Skills Centre (Diepsloot) and Olievenhoutbosch Development Centre (Pretoria).
  • Western Cape: The Communiversity in Vrygrond.
  • Limpopo: Vexospark Community Technology Centre in Polokwane.

Criteria for entry:

  1. You must be between the ages of 18 and 35 to participate in the programme
  2. You must have at least a Grade 10 education and upwards
  3. You must be able to read and write in English

A Continent of Angel Investors


By David van Dijk, Co-Founder & Director General, ABAN

The beauty of transitioning between calendar years is that it seems easier than normal to take stock of what has been over the past twelve months and what will be over the next year. For angel investing in Africa, 2016 was a firm step in the right direction and 2017 is set to build on this.


2016 Quick Highlights:

Double the number of Angel groups in Africa – Lagos Angel Network introduced syndicated Deal Days – South African Business Angel Network launched – 3rd African Angel Investor Summit took place – 500+ investors attended Angel training – better Angel/VC data emerging – consistent, pervasive expose of the “African Opportunity” at leading global events – Multiple firsts – growing interest and involvement from diaspora – more support from major global institutions including AfDB, WorldBank and EIB – While most African countries also in 2016 offered a challenging business environment

“2016 saw the rise of cross border collaboration of Angel groups across the continent and an increasing focus on Angel investor education as their investments in startups continued to grow. We also saw a marked increase in the number of Business Angel Syndicates and Networks emerging,” said Tomi Davies, ABAN President.


Lessons learnt or reinforced over the past year:

  • Angel investing in Africa is in its infancy, there is still much work to be done to introduce potential investors to the concepts and best practices of early stage investing
  • Co-investing is critical to moving Angel investing forward faster: this is a vital mechanism in risk reduction, more shared learning and on-boarding first time investors
  • Inspiring events are the number one way to draw communities together, allowing investors to make relevant connections
  • For Investors-By Investors is a format of knowledge-sharing that is set to grow, resonating with established and prospective Angel investors
  • Funding is only one aspect of Angel investing, contributing relevant business acumen and market access to a start-up are just as important – this makes angel funding Smart Capital
  • Corporate CEOs and successful Founders in Africa are in prime position to become Angel investors, introducing them to early stage investing will be key for the future
  • There is still a long way to go before anyone expects national policy makers to introduce incentives for Angel investing in Africa
  • It is crucial that both Angels and Founders are aligned with similar values, expectations and a common end goal
  • Comparative to the US and Europe, Angel investors in Africa need relatively little capital to be notable players in the market; this presents a real opportunity for new and small players in the US and Europe to have a superior market position by relocating to/focusing on African deals
  • Increasing interest and involvement from the African diaspora Angel Investors
  • Angel Investing in Africa is a long-term game and there are very real challenges to doing business

Infographic ABAN 2016

There are two facts from the last year that are particularly exciting and worth writing home about:

  1. The number of visible Angel investor groups, networks and initiatives grew to over 40 across 25 African countries (up from 20 at the end of 2015); and
  1. More than 500 established and new investors based in Africa participated in ABAN Masterclasses and Bootcamps over 2016.

Arguably this suggests a ‘coming-of-age’ and reaching critical mass for Angel Investing in Africa. There is a growing community of African Angel investors talking to each other (unimaginably important) and uniquely positioned to fund and grow African start-ups. Angel investing in Africa is kicking into second gear. Angel capital unlocks the innovative ventures and entrepreneurs critical to generating much of Africa’s employment and hope for a better future.


How ABAN fits into the picture


The African Business Angel Network (ABAN) has been one of the pivotal drivers behind this shift. Formally established as a non-profit organisation in 2015, its mission has been to increase the quantity and quality of Angel groups and investors active in African early stage investment markets.

ABAN has organised, co-organised, supported and addressed dozens of events since its formation. This activity has revolved around a clarion cry to understand and invest in the “African Opportunity”.

For the African diaspora and investors resident on other continents, this means showcasing the forecasted trajectory of Africa’s economic growth and the high calibre of existing start-ups. In other words, raising awareness of of the opportunity to invest in African start-ups, now, on the continent forecast to have the greatest economic growth over the next 20 years.

For potential and existing investors in Africa, the opportunity is the same, but the call to action is to lead and not wait for international investors to come to Africa. Improving know-how, connecting networks, mentoring new investors, shaping policy and encouraging greater levels of investment are all part of growing a stronger culture of Angel Investing in Africa.

Tomi Davies, President of ABAN motivates that, “Yes, we have problems, especially in the space of education, power and security. But we have something else — a growing middle class with cars and university degrees and a youthful population with energy and drive. The rest of the world is excited about what we can achieve and ready to support us. But first we must support ourselves.”

To get a sense of the of the growing level of activity around Angel Investing in Africa, here is a list of the 2016 events that ABAN led or contributed to:

Istanbul, Turkey, February 21-23, World Business Angels Investment Forum

Medellin, Colombia, March 14-17, GEC and inaugural GBAN members meeting

Washington DC, USA, March 22, ABAN Roadshow

Philadelphia, USA, May 9-11, ACA Summit

Porto, Portugal, May 26-27, EBAN Annual Congress

London, UK, June 22, Africa Technology Business Network

Silicon Valley, USA, June 22-24, Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Nairobi, Kenya, August 11, ABAN Masterclass

Johannesburg, South Africa, August 24, SABAN Johannesburg launch

Johannesburg, South Africa, August 26, ABAN Workshop @ DEMO Africa

Hargeisa, Somaliland, September 19-21, ABAN Masterclass

London, UK, September 29, The Next Frontier by MEST

Douala, Cameroon, October 7-8, ABAN Masterclass

London, UK, November 1, UKBAA Summit

Marseille, France, November 3-4, EMEA Business Forum

Cape Town, South Africa, November 10, SABAN Cape Town Launch

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 11, Africa Works Conference

Lagos, Nigeria, November 17, 3rd African Angel Investor Summit

Bangalore, India, November 21-23, World Start-Up Expo

Zagreb, Croatia, November 28-30, EBAN Winter University

Cairo, Egypt, December 6, ABAN Masterclass

Lagos, Nigeria, December 10, ABAN Masterclass with Rising Tide Africa

Connecting people, organisations and opportunities is at the core of nurturing Angel Investing in Africa. Starting 2017 compared to a few years ago, there is a vastly superior awareness of (and information about) what is happening, where and who is involved.

pic aais 2016(1)

Event highlights from 2016:

3rd African Angel Investor Summit

It should come as no surprise that the theme of the 3rd African Angel Investor Summit was Co-Investing: Making It Work Together. Held in Lagos on 17 November 2016, over 150 investors gathered to connect and share best practices – opening up the channels of communication and trust required for syndication and co-investment.


SABAN launches

In the latter parts of the 2016 the South African Business Angel Network (SABAN) launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town, establishing a body that not only drives forward Angel Investing in South Africa, but also connects the financial and other infrastructure of South Africa to Angels around the continent and abroad. Over 150 people participated in these two launches, with many more expected to benefit from SABAN’s initiatives in 2017. Speakers included Baybars Altuntaş (Chair, World Business Angels Investment Forum), Anthony Record MBE (Co-Founder, Welsh ICE) and Connie Tzioumis (Director of Global Partnerships, U.S. State Department) and Audrey Mothupi (NFBAN Board Member).


LAN launches Lagos Startup Deal Days

The inaugural Lagos Angel Network (LAN) Startup Deal Day took place on 31 March 2016, followed by two further Deal Days on June 30th and November 16th. These three events brought investors and startups together, generating much needed investment activity and providing important opportunities for experienced and novice investors to co-invest. In total US$475k was raised directly over the three days and more than US$200k in subsequent transactions – small by US standards, but significant in Africa (for now).


The Launch of Rising Tide Africa

The Global movement bringing together female investors to learn and invest together has now launched in Africa. ABAN is proud to have been part of this initiave from day one and is really excited about initiatives like this where experieced and new investors come together to exchange best practices and mobilize many more local investors.


Masterclasses Series expanded

Following on from Nairobi, Lagos and Cape Town in 2015, ABAN Masterclasses took place in Hargeisa Somaliland, Douala, Cairo, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Lagos in 2016. With a focus on For Investors-By Investors, these sessions were well attended with top speakers sharing skills and experience with local investors. Candace Johnson (EBAN President), Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien (Rising Tide Africa Lead Investor), Swiss-based investor Balz Roth,  Brigitte Baumann (Go Beyond Investing), Tomi Davies (ABAN President) and Stephen Gugu (Victoria Ventures lead) were just a few of those contributing to Masterclasses.


The value of partnerships and collaborating


The primary reason Angel Investing in Africa took a big step forward in 2016 is due to the many organisations and individuals who have collaborated and partnered – investing their time and resources to see more Smart Capital unlocked in Africa.


In particular ABAN’s work would not have been possible without the headline support of the WorkInProgress! Alliance and the LIONS Africa Partnership. Many other organisations have been instrumental to the success of the year including VC4A, EBAN, GEN, WBAF, Intercontinental Limited Trust, Socius and all the different national and local Angel groups across Africa. David van Dijk, ABAN’s Director General, comments that, “our supporters, volunteers and advocates are among the best any non-profit organisation could hope for – we are enormously proud of them all and appreciate the contributions they are making to Angel Investing in Africa”.


Looking ahead to what 2017 has in store, ABAN has a busy year lined up – assisting as many investors, groups and networks as possible realise their Angel investing potential. Masterclasses, Bootcamps and the 4th African Angel Investor Summit will all take place in the second half of 2017. In Q1 ABAN will be present and participating at two global events, the first in Istanbul for the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) and the second in Johannesburg for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.

Reminder: All investors and VCs are invited to participate by 23 January to the 2017 Venture Finance in Africa research conducted by VC4A and partners, vc4afri.ca/investors (5 minutes to complete). The 2016 report can be found here on VC4A.


Circular economy, providing new business opportunities in the sanitation sector


By Saskia Makkink, CEO Africa Funded

Africa Funded supported about 250 entrepreneurs launching innovative business models and currently manage and develop a portfolio of ventures with water, sanitation and energy related business models.

Based on this expertise we recently have been approached by the Toilet Board Coalition to identify opportunities to scale sanitation-related business initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Toilet Board Coalition is a platform of corporates aiming at accelerating business in sanitation initiated by Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, LIXIL and Firmenich.

Twenty-four sanitation-oriented companies were screened using the circular economy models to assess their readiness, contextual challenges and opportunities to scale. This screening process, along with looking at the prospective fit with the members of the Toilet Board resulted in the selection of several entrepreneurs to join the accelerator.

depiction-of-the-circular-economy-by-the-ellen-macarthur-foundation1We learned a great deal along the way, and have been able to draw some conclusions and useful prescriptions about how best to approach opportunities in the field of sanitation in developing countries.  The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the main conclusions for the benefit of additional stakeholders in the sector that are undertaking similar activities.

This research has been coordinated by Saskia Reus-Makkink, Founder of Africa Funded. We manage Aqua for All seed funding accelerator programs
New business opportunities in circular economy!

What do we mean by the ‘circular economy’? The concept of the circular economy is fairly simple – what’s considered waste for one (industry) is treasure to another (industry).  This is absolutely the case in the sanitation business: toilet waste is a resource with potential commercial value.  Sanitation is an industry with significant potential for waste to be transformed from an undesirable expense into a positive contribution in a commercially viable system, generating income, and improving health and environmental conditions.

The analysis of current business models in turning faecal sludge into valuable resources generated input for two separate reports published by the Toilet Board. One of the reports, entitled “Sanitation in the Circular Economy”, uses the circular economy approach to ‘shine a light’ on sanitation as a significant and largely untapped business opportunity. Hereunder a few highlights of this report.

In this study, various stakeholders were surveyed: SMEs (small/medium-sized enterprises) involved in sanitation across low income markets, experts from multinational corporations, academics, and specialists from across the “waste” management value chain.  They were asked to respond to the following question:

Can demand for products derived from toilet waste become strong enough to create self-sustaining, commercially viable sanitation businesses, reducing dependence on public and aid funding, as well as reducing health costs?


Central questions addressed in this study:

  • What products or materials of value can be upcycled from toilet resources?
  • Are there scalable business models to deliver sustainable supply of these products to the market?
  • Is there commercial interest and demand from large industrial operations to become buyers into the system?

Key Findings

The initial inquiry into Sanitation in the Circular Economy with entrepreneurs operating in low income markets, academics, and multinational corporations, has produced six key conclusions to be further explored:

  1. Toilet resources are a major part of the bio-cycle that are mostly unexploited
  2. The Circular Economy could transform sanitation from a costly service to a more self-sustaining and value adding system of resources
  3. There are 3 Circular Economy cycles for sanitation
  4. There are renewable resources available for corporate supply chains today
  5. There are innovative applications for industry in the future
  6. There are significant leapfrog opportunities for low income economies


Toilet waste has value.  Here are a few of the potential resources which can be produced from toilet waste:


  • Green energy: mixed with other biological resources waste can provide a green energy supply in the form of biogas, liquid, or solid fuel, which can be used directly or converted into electricity and heat.
  • Agricultural products: There are rich possibilities for waste to be used in agricultural products – compost, organic fertilizers, and soil conditioners.
  • Potable/Grey water: Fecal matter contains up to 75% water, and urine is 95% water. New technologies are being developed extracting the water, filtering it and producing either potable or processed grey water for use in agriculture, aquaculture or water intensive industrial operations.
  • New applications can use material derived from toilet resources to produce innovative new products and raw materials for use in production of animal feed, plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals. For example, new applications are being developed to neutralize pathogens in fecal sludge.
  • Source of information & health data: waste can be analyzed to provide useful information for health interventions, disease prevention and control of public health.

Further observations from this study:


  • Applying the circular economy model in new contexts usually involves reconfiguring products, supply chains, and business models. An integrated approach to toilet resources (formerly “waste”) should maximize the use of the bio-cycle within the overall economy.
  • A biological resource system is not only valuable in itself, but enables innovation in the use of biological substitutes for a wide range of plastics/products.
  • Circular Economy business models offer additional sustainability, because one is using something that was previously wasted.  Suppliers may be able to providing ongoing support services rather than making a one-time sale. The models are circular because the supplier is to support long product life, and take responsibility for product at end-of-life. Note that in most western countries sanitation systems are funded by taxes and not profitable businesses by themselves.


Opportunities for multinational corporations and SME’s


We’ve mentioned some of the potential products to be derived from toilet waste, but how is it attractive for investors? In what form? Who can benefit or profit?

This study identified ‘opportunity spaces’ for multinational corporations to invest in sanitation business in order to gain access to a reliable source of raw materials, the volume of which is predictably tied to population (growth).   In this sense, toilet waste is a renewable resource to feed into the supply chains of global and  emerging market operations for certain products (such as in agriculture, and greywater industrial use).  Further, we expect demand for toilet waste to grow as it is used in the R&D of new bio-cycle products which will also require toilet ‘resources’.

For SMEs, the opportunities are to be found in building local holistic biological “waste”/resource systems.   This involves the whole chain – waste collection and treatment, (including addressing currently unmet needs, such as adequate provision and maintenance of toilets), innovation in the creation of biological substitutes in existing products, the creation of new products derived from toilet resources, and producing locally-relevant agricultural products, water and energy.

Saskia Reus-Makkink: “For SMEs scaling up their innovative business models with multinationals provides great value in sales, distribution and branding. Beside tapping into extensive sales and distribution channels, recognizable and trusted brands can be leveraged to reach underserved customers with sanitation and energy solutions. On top of that it also provides access to expertise, R&D capacity and  corporate networks providing great learning and development opportunities for the team itself”.

We hope to have inspired you to dig deeper into this study.  For the complete report “Sanitation in the Circular Economy” please click here.


Kairos Society looking for 50 seed-stage startups addressing complex global challenges


The Kairos Society under its  Kairos 50 (K50) competition is looking for  50 seed-stage companies that are actively addressing complex global challenges with a market-ready prototype or product to invest in them.

According to Head of K50 Search Committee at Kairos Society in a statement, “Fearless, ambitious, and entrepreneurial young minds around the world are leveraging technology to build creative solutions to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Millennial founders are not afraid to dream big to create a better and brighter 2017. We want to amplify their impact!”

Stawinska says the organization will reveal these companies at the Kairos Global Summit, where they will unveil their disruptive technologies to the world on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

At last year’s Kairos Global Summit, over 100 investors attended the Kairos 50 showcase, and showcase. She adds that over $350k was invested live at the event, including an investment led by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams and James Joaquin of Obvious Ventures. The top 25 Kairos companies of the past 4 years have collectively raised over $500mm in investment capital, with a market cap of over $2bn.

“As the head of this years K50 search committee, I am on a mission to find 50 of the most talented seed-stage startup founders who are pushing industries forward from all corners of the world!” she added.

To participate, nominate a venture from your country that is contributing to building a better and brighter future for all. To be eligible, each applicant should have co-founder status, he or she must have been under the age of 26 at the time the company was founded, each company must have a product or prototype that can be demoed at the time of submission and must clearly fit one of the following two categories:

Cutting-edge Technologies Entering Massive, Outdated Industries (such as transportation, logistics, healthcare)

New Products & Services Addressing Fundamental Human Needs.

The participants much be able to attend and showcase the product or prototype at the Kairos Global Summit, which takes place in New York, NY from April 21-22. They may bring other co-founders or team members. Companies should be pre Series A at the time of application and applicants must have at least one reference to give feedback to Kairos on their team, product, and traction.

Apply here.

Marissa Mayer out at Yahoo, firm starts new life as Altaba

cc image courtesy of jdlasica flickr

Marissa Mayer has chose to resign from Yahoo as the firm starts a new life under a new name, Altaba as the Verizon deal closes months after the two signed a Stock Purchase Agreement in July 23, 2016.

Other members of the board who have chose to resign include co-founder David Filo, Eddy Hartenstein, Richard Hill, Jane Shaw and Maynard Webb.

Mayer and the rest are resigning from the company on their own will upon the closing of the sale. Her intention to resign is not due to any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.

Altaba will operate as an investment company immediately following the closing. Altaba’s main assets will be Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba. The sale does not include Yahoo’s cash, its shares in Alibaba Group Holdings, its shares in Yahoo Japan, Yahoo’s convertible notes, certain minority investments, and Yahoo’s non-core patents (called the Excalibur portfolio).Other media assets will be tansfered to Verizon. Altaba’s size of the Board will be reduced to five (5) directors. Tor Braham, Eric Brandt, Catherine Friedman, Thomas McInerney and Jeffrey Smith will continue to serve as directors of the Company following the Closing, and Mr. Brandt will serve as Chairman of the Board.

Effective January 9, 2017, Mr. Brandt will become Chairman of the Board and Mr. Webb will become Chairman Emeritus of the Board.

In July last year, Verizon announced the intention to acquire Yahoo’s operating business for approximately $4.83 billion in cash, subject to customary closing adjustments giving it access to Yahoo’s 1 billion monthly active users including 600 million monthly active mobile users through its search, communications and digital content products.

Verizon said Yahoo will be integrated with AOL under Marni Walden, EVP and President of the Product Innovation and New Businesses organization at Verizon.

Speaking in July last year,  Lowell McAdam, Verizon Chairman and CEO said: “Just over a year ago we acquired AOL to enhance our strategy of providing a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers. The acquisition of Yahoo will put Verizon in a highly competitive position as a top global mobile media company, and help accelerate our revenue stream in digital advertising.”

His hopes were botched when Yahoo in December and September suffered severe hacks putting Yahoo’s acquisition hopes in despair.

Marissa Mayer, who has been CEO of Yahoo since 2012 has failed to turn around the company’s fortune says the sale of its operating business, which effectively separates its Asian asset equity stakes, is an important step in Yahoo’s plan to unlock shareholder value for Yahoo.

Yahoo will join AOL’s The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, MAKERS and AOL.com, and market-leading programmatic platforms — including ONE by AOL for both advertisers and publishers.

The addition of Yahoo to Verizon and AOL will create one of the largest portfolios of owned and partnered global brands with extensive distribution capabilities. Combined, AOL and Yahoo will have more than 25 brands in its portfolio for continued investment and growth.

Yahoo’s key assets include market-leading premium content brands in major categories including finance, news and sports, as well as one of the most popular email services globally with approximately 225 million monthly active users. Additional technology assets in the advertising space include Brightroll, a programmatic demand-side platform; Flurry, an independent mobile apps analytics service; and Gemini, a native and search advertising solution.


TechWomen is open for applications till January 17


TechWomen, a professional mentorship and exchange program developed in response to President Obama’s efforts to strengthen relations between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa is open for applications till  January 17, 2017.

Semifinalists will be contacted via email in/around March 2017. Final decisions will be made no later than early May 2017.

TechWomen participants are selected based on the eligibility requirements below. Applications are reviewed by independent selection committees composed of industry leaders and regional experts. Semifinalists may be interviewed by United States Embassy personnel in their country of permanent residence.

2017 TechWomen Eligibility Requirements. Applicants must

  • Be women with, at minimum, two years full-time professional experience in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Please note that internships and other unpaid work experience does not count toward the two-year professional experience requirement.
  • Have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree/four-year university degree or equivalent.
  • Be proficient in written and spoken English.
  • Be citizens and permanent residents of Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Zimbabwe at the time of application and while participating in the program.
  • Be eligible to obtain a U.S. J-1 exchange visitor visa.
  • Not have applied for an immigrant visa to the United States or participated in a visa lottery in the past five years.
  • Not hold U.S. citizenship or be a U.S. legal permanent resident.

Preference will be given to applicants who

  • Demonstrate themselves as emerging leaders in their chosen professional track through their work experience, volunteer experience, community activities and education.
  • Are committed to return to their home countries to share what they have learned and mentor women and girls.
  • Have limited or no prior experience in the United States.
  • Have a proven record of voluntary or public service in their communities.
  • Have a demonstrated track record of entrepreneurialism and commitment to innovation.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to participate in exchange programs, welcome opportunities for mentoring and new partnership development, and exhibit confidence and maturity.

Pezesha Wants to Become Africa’s Largest Peer to Business Micro Lending Marketplace


Pezesha.com has launched in Kenya with plans to become Africa’s largest peer to business lending market place, after members of the team realized from an earlier experience at Pesa Zetu that peer to peer micro lending was too risky and nearly impracticable.

Founded late last year by Hilda Moraa, an entrepreneur popularly known for founding and exiting WezaTele to Jumo, Pezesha, aims to disrupt the largely ignored peer to business micro lending segment and fuel growth among SMEs which provide 80 percent of employment in Africa. Pezesha works on the same model like off-grid energy marketplace Trine.

By entering the SME financing market, Pezesha puts itself at the center of the world’s development agenda fighting both unemployment and SME financing as well providing individuals with avenues to invest their money and earn returns on it better than having it in saving accounts which only earn some 7 percent return annually.

According to a report by the World Bank, “Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in most economies, particularly in developing countries.  Formal SMEs contribute up to 45 percent of total employment and up to 33 percent of national income (GDP) in emerging economies.”

The same report also adds that in the next 15 years, over 600 million jobs will be needed in Africa and Asia to absorb the growing global workforce where formal jobs are with SMEs. SMEs also create 4 out of 5 new positions.

However, access to finance is a key constraint to SME growth; without it, many SMEs languish and stagnate. That’s where Pezesha comes in.

The World Bank adds that SMEs in these markets are less likely to be able to secure bank loans than large firms and an estimated fifty percent of formal SMEs have no access to formal credit. Estimates show that some 70 percent of all MSMEs in emerging markets lack access to credit and the current credit gap for formal SMEs is estimated to be US$1.2 trillion; while the total credit gap for both formal and informal SMEs stands at US$2.6 trillion.

According to estimates, there are over 400 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in both Africa and Asia. Of these, around 30 million are formal SMEs, 70 million fall under formal micro enterprises; and over 300 million are informal enterprises.  If Pezesha can serve 1 percent of SMEs in Africa and Asia, the SME survival rate is likely to go high translating to more jobs, more revenue for governments through tax, more cash flow in the market and improved lives; and even more return on investment for individual investors.

The biggest advantage to Pezesha is that there are firms doing micro lending to individuals and the market is already aware hence acquiring SME clients is a no-brainer. However, Pezesha is not the only player in these SME financing market as banks are increasingly working to close the SME finance gap.

Another study by the World Bank found that there is an increasing involvement of Kenyan banks in the SME segment. The report says the total SME lending portfolio in December 2013 stood at3.84 billion, representing 23.4% of the banks’ total loan portfolios.

Source:World bank
Source:World bank

Pezesha therefore has an uphill task ahead to attract local peer to SME investors and institutional  investors to see it grow and expand into all these markets in Africa and Asia. Apart form finances, discipline and integrity matters a lot in building and growing such an enterprise and Pezesha should not associate itself with PesaZetu where Moraa was a country manager lest PesaZetu’s ghosts come to haunt it.


FNB scoops another global award


FNB has won the title of Excellence in Mobile Banking at the Lafferty Global Awards in Cape Town, jointly with Sterling Bank of Nigeria.

FNB was recognised for its innovative approach and achievements in integrating mobile technology as one of the preferred channels of banking for its clients, allowing them to conveniently and safely manage their financial affairs from anywhere at anytime.

Three weeks ago FNB was also recognised for having the ‘Best Mobile System/Service Initiative’ for its innovative FNB Banking App during the Annual Banking Technology Awards 2016 held in London.

Yolande Steyn, Head of Innovation at FNB says, “We are delighted to be awarded yet another global accolade in such a short space of time. FNB has come a long way in its digital journey as has reached key milestones in seamlessly integrating mobile technology into all aspects of its banking systems.”

The App has consistently been rated globally and most recently also won the title of Best in Customer Experience and led to the bank being named Most Innovative Bank in Africa.

FNB began disrupting the mobile banking space in 2002 with the launch of inContact, an SMS based banking alert service, followed by cellphone banking in 2004, Smart Devices and South Africa’s first banking App in 2011.

“We didn’t stop there,” says Steyn, “FNB’s innovative spirit has recently seen the launch of the FNB App 5.0 bringing FNB Pay, a first in Africa, allowing Android smartphone customers to pay by tapping their phone on a contactless point of sale terminal, removing the need for cash and cards.”

The FNB App 5.0 also delivers Smart inContact which helps customers approve transactions without the risk of sim swap fraud, and gives them the ability to report fraud in 1 touch for suspicious transactions. Further features of this version are Fingerprint ID and Watch App for Apple and Android devices, and Secure Chat allowing customers to chat to their banker 24/7 without the need to call or visit a branch.

FNB was also the first bank to launch a branded SIM card in 2015, and further disrupted the mobile ecosystem this year with its own branded FNB CoNexis smartphone. The FNB Smartphone, SIM card and App provides customers with secure 24/7 banking with rewards and savings.

Lafferty Global Awards recognise and a reward long-term, sustainable excellence in the financial service sector world-wide, as well as innovative or creative efforts to improve customer experience.