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Chari, a Moroccan B2B eCommerce and Fintech raises $5M at $70M valuation in most significant seed round

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Chari Co-Founders; Sophia Alj and Ismael Belkhayat (Image: Supplied)

After completing the summer‘21 batch of Y Combinator, Chari announces the closing of a 5M USD seed round co-led by Rocket Internet, Global Founders Capital, and P1 ventures. Some of the other investors who participated in this round are Plug and Play, Y combinator, Village Capital / MetLife Foundation, Orange Ventures , Air Angels – AirBnB investors, SPE Capital, Pincus Private Equity, Reflect Ventures, The Chandaria family, Michael Lahyani, CEO and founder of Propertyfinder and the management company of an American Ivy League University.

This is the first time many of these investors, including GFC, PnP, Orange, Village Capital… have invested in a startup in Morocco.

‘We have carefully selected the VCs of this seed round based on their ability to help us build a great business. We are now focusing on achieving our short-term targets to raise a significant Serie A in six to nine months’ said Ismael Belkhayat, Cofounder and CEO of Chari, and a Cornell University and BCG Alumni.

The post YC funding took four weeks to close, and the round values Chari at $70 million. The investor’s excitement to Chari comes as the startup addresses the procurement issues of the 300k grocery stores of Morocco and Tunisia.

‘We are happy to lead the way of the nascent Moroccan startup ecosystem. We hope that this seed round will be one the first of a long series of noticeable seed funding in Moroccan Startupssaid Sophia Alj, Cofounder and COO of Chari, and a McGill University and McKinsey Alumni.

Chari partners with FMCG Multinationals and local manufacturers to distribute their goods to local mom and pop shops in less than 24h. It also provides payment facilities and financial services through the recent acquisition of Karny.ma.

The money raised will be used to expand Chari and Karny to French-Speaking Africa. In addition, Chari plans to embed financial services such as digital payment, money transfer and BNPL in its product roadmap.

 

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Press Release

Malawi receives US$14.2M drought recovery insurance payout

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In a ceremony presided over by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the African Risk Capacity Group, in the presence of Representatives of Partners organisations (Ambassador of Germany to Malawi), and of the UN system (WFP and UNDP country directors), delivered a symbolic US$14.2 million insurance payout cheque to the Malawi Government.

“I assured Malawians that we have enough food for everyone and even those few whose crops had not done well would be provided for. My confidence came from the fact that we had taken this insurance policy to support Malawians in time of need. And I want to thank the ARC Group for honouring the agreed payout,” said His Excellency, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi.

The Government of Malawi had a drought insurance policy, supported by the African Development Bank through its Africa Disaster Risk Financing (ADRiFi) Programme Multi-Donor Trust Fund. Many regions of Malawi, particularly the Central and Southern regions, are experiencing severe food insecurity caused by drought-related events like erratic rainfall and crop failure.

The Governments of the United Kingdom, through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and Switzerland, through the Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation contributed to the ADRiFi trust fund. The Government of Germany, through KFW Development Bank/Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as the International Fund for Agricultural Development subsidized Malawi’s insurance policy premiums.

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During the 2020/21 season, the country experienced an unprecedented dry start to the production season, leading to higher rates of sowing failure in significant parts of the Southern and the Central Regions as modelled by Africa RiskView, the African Risk Capacity Group’s (ARC) risk modelling and early warning tool. This, combined with mid-season erratic rainfall conditions in most parts of the country resulted in a modelled number of people affected estimated at about 6.4 million, the second-highest number of affected people, since 2001.

“ARC’s drought insurance mechanism is an innovative pan-African tool that provides our member states with the funds needed to better plan, prepare and respond to climate-related disasters,” said ARC Group Board Chairperson, Dr. Anthony Mothae Maruping. “The payout to the Government of Malawi will not only release pressure on public finances but it will also bring nutritional and financial support to those that have been affected by the droughts caused by an increasingly variable and changing climate,” he added.

“Malawi is a signatory of the ARC Treaty and a key partner in the region. We have no doubt that the funds disbursed will support the country in scaling up its response to the drought-induced challenges,” said United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and ARC Group Director General, Ibrahima Cheikh Diong.

“ARC’s drought insurance product ensures the swift release of funds when they are needed most, allowing them to be channelled effectively to respond to a crisis. The most vulnerable in the country, who are facing severe hunger, will now have access to food relief,” declared Lesley Ndlovu, CEO of ARC Limited, the insurance affiliate of the ARC Group.

 

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Press Release

The State of AI in Africa: 2022 Report

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The State of AI in Africa Report launch was held on the 14th June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Pretoria, South Africa and co-hosted by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4IR South Africa and City of Tshwane. This 32-page report will appeal to analysts, enterprises, channel managers, governments, VCs or investors, NGOs, Embassies, trade missions and regional promotion agencies who are seeking deeper insights about the dynamics of this rapidly growing frontier tech market.

A key finding was just how cross cutting this technology is, with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya dominating this sector and AI impacting at least 120+ separate market segments across Africa. Privately owned SMMEs or Micro businesses make up 75% of this sector, 40% of which were founded in the last 5 years, showing the importance nation states need to place on supporting their local tech ecosystems.

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It’s also attracting serious capital, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD Series A funding earlier in 2022.  The global AI market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%. Bradshaw concluded, “It’s a positive sign that this technology and the growing regional AI start-up ecosystems can win big across Africa if these trends continue.”

A copy of the report can be obtained online here.

The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specializing in the 4IR or smart tech sector in Africa. They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.

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valU, Lifestyle-Enabling Fintech, Enters into An Agreement with The Alhokair Family

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valU CEO, Walid Hassouna and Karim Awad, Group CEO of EFG Hermes Holding

valU, MENA’s leading Buy-Now, Pay-Later (BNPL) lifestyle-enabling fintech platform, announced today that Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair, Salman Abdulaziz Alhokair, and Abdul Majeed Abdulaziz Alhokair (“Alhokair Family”) have entered into an agreement to acquire a 4.99% stake in valU through a capital injection of USD 12.4 million, signifying a valuation of USD 247.4 million for the company.

Currently subject to relevant regulatory approvals and satisfaction of certain conditions precedent, the transaction marks Alhokair Family’s first investment in a BNPL platform in Egypt, underscoring valU’s strength in the market and marking a key steppingstone for the platform to create strategic regional partnerships.

The transaction comes on the heels of valU’s entry into the Saudi market last week through FAS Finance, a joint venture (JV) with FAS Labs in which FAS Labs owns 65% while valU owns 35%. The launch of FAS Finance and the strategic partnership bring a lifestyle-enabling solution to Saudi shoppers, with valU offering greater affordability and value for customers, all available through one digital platform.

“We are thrilled to be further growing our partnership with the Alhokair Family. The transaction puts valU, the largest BNPL provider in Egypt, at a USD 247.4 million valuation, and is a testament to valU’s visible success story, business model, and potential for growth in Egypt and on a regional level,” said Karim Awad, Group CEO of EFG Hermes Holding. “We are proud to have grown a strong brand like valU that, since late 2017, has not only established itself as the leading BNPL platform but has also attracted the interest of the world’s largest retailer, Amazon, one of the most important brands globally, and now one of the region’s most prominent retail players, Alhokair,” concluded Awad.

valU is a fast-growing, innovative fintech platform in the MENA region that serves more than 574,000 app clients in Egypt, the Arab world’s largest consumer market. In its home country, valU currently boasts over 5,000 points of sale locations catering to hundreds of thousands of customers transacting in home furnishings, electronics, home appliances, fashion, auto spare parts, healthcare, education, and travel, among a wide array of other services. With its entry into the Saudi market, valU will be present across Alhokair’s expansive retail network of more than 1,000 stores as well as online on the VogaCloset and monobrand websites, including 14 in Saudi Arabia. It will also extend to other vendors, retail networks, and merchants to include and cover the entire Saudi market.

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Alhokair Family’s agreement to acquire a stake in valU signals investors’ interest in the NBFI space in Egypt and puts it on the map as a leading innovator and exporter of financial inclusion solutions, at a time when inflationary pressures are on the rise in the country and the rest of the region.

“We are extremely proud of the fact that Alhokair Family is now a shareholder in valU. Preceded by the announcement of valU’s entry into KSA last week – our first new-market entry since we began operations out of Cairo 5 years ago – the acquisition agreement cements our solid partnership with Alhokair, a retail powerhouse and a perfect partner on our journey to expand across the region,” said Walid Hassouna, CEO of valU. “valU has definitely filled a financing gap in the Egyptian market and supported financial inclusion. The business model that we created strives to have a positive daily impact on hundreds of thousands of consumers, retailers, and service providers across the country,” concluded Hassouna.

Last month, EFG Hermes Holding and Amazon entered into an option agreement whereby Amazon agreed to acquire USD 10 million in EFG Hermes GDRs with the option to replace that investment into valU at a future date, translating into a stake of 4.255% of the issued share capital of valU.

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