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Top 20 Francophone African Startups Enter World Bank Group Tech Acceleration Program

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L’Afrique Excelle’s start-ups specialize in tech solutions for the African market designed to expand reach and access to services

BAMAKO, Mali, March 12, 2019/ — Twenty of the most promising Francophone African tech start-ups will participate in the L’Afrique Excelle (Afrique-Excelle.com) residency in Mali, a full-week bootcamp set to kick off the Francophone edition of the World Bank Group’sXL Africa (www.XL-Africa.com), tech start-up accelerator. From March 24 to 30, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to network and learn from leading industry experts, increase their regional visibility and network with potential corporate partners and investors.

L’Afrique Excelle is the francophone adaptation of the popular XL Africa program which seeks to foster a stronger connection between entrepreneurs in Anglophone and Francophone Africa while providing support to those from less developed digital ecosystems, particularly in fragile countries such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo and Mali. The launch of L’Afrique Excelle coincides with several new ecosystem initiatives from the public and private sectors, including the French Development Agency’s Digital Africa (http://bit.ly/2NYh4oH) initiative, the recently established Africa-focused investment funds extending their reach beyond Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa in addition to the upcoming Francophone Africa Investor Summit (FAIS) (www.FrancophoneAfricaInvestorSummit.com), a regional West Africa event designed to convene early-stage investors, large companies, and business-supporting organizations.

L’Afrique Excelle’s start-ups specialize in tech solutions for the African market designed to expand reach and access to services. These include fintech, transportation, healthcare, cleantech, data analytics and enterprise software. Companies in the program have their products or services currently available in one or more Francophone African markets, have strong revenues, and are well-positioned for growth and cross-border expansion. During the Mali Residency, this cohort will benefit from training, individual consultations and peer-to-peer learning, The Residency will conclude with a venture showcase at the Francophone Africa Investor Summit. A select 10 companies will advance to the France Residency in May 2019, where they will receive intensive training and mentoring at thecamp (TheCamp.fr) withSophia Business Angels (SophiaBusinessAngels.com), coaching by experts at Deloitte‘s (http://bit.ly/2TyEZ43) and Google‘s (http://bit.ly/2T0p2yJ) offices, and get exposure to investors at the upcoming AfroBytes (www.AfroBytes.com) and VivaTech(VivaTechnology.com) conferences to be held in Paris on May 15-18, 2019. With participation from Africa’s leading investment groups,L’Afrique Excelle will help these start-ups attract early stage capital between US$250,000 and US$5 million.

“Similar to the XL Africa program, L’Afrique Excelle has attracted a number of growth-oriented digital start-ups from Francophone Africa. Many of them have already raised seed funding, totaling over $11 million, and are active in several African markets. This is a strong signal regarding the competitiveness of Francophone African start-ups and their contribution to Africa’s digital economies,” said Sebastian Molineus, Director of the Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice at the World Bank Group (www.WorldBank.org).

The selection process for L’Afrique Excelle is led by an external investor committee. Over 30 VC funds and investment groups have come on board as official program partners, with the fund managers vetting the companies, reviewing their applications and conducting interviews. The selection was completed by a panel of industry experts from prominent Africa-focused funds including Proparco(www.Proparco.fr/fr), Orange Digital Ventures (DigitalVentures.orange.com), GSMA (http://bit.ly/2ES39MK), Brightmore Capital(BrightmoreCapital.com), BlackPearl (www.BlackPearlCap.com/BPC/), Partech (PartechPartners.com), AHL Venture Partners(www.AHLVenturePartners.com), GreenTec Capital (GreenTec-Capital.com), Outlierz Ventures (www.Outlierz.co), Accion(www.Accion.org), First Growth Fund, Compass VC (http://bit.ly/2HdMSVY) and Oikocredit (www.Oikocredit.coop).

L’Afrique Excelle is an opportunity to highlight the work of companies from the francophone world and give them a well-deserved and much needed exposure,” lauded Sofien V. Sidhoum, Partner at GreenTec Capital. “I enjoyed discussing with the founders I have been introduced to and found their respective models to be of great interest and responding to clear and present needs. I look forward to the next steps and especially the VivaTech part where start-ups will have a powerful stage to showcase their endeavors. I am already convinced that this kind of program should be run on a yearly basis.”

“Supporting a new generation of African entrepreneurs in building innovative business models to solve the continent’s challenges is at the core of our mission” said Babacar Seck, investment officer at Proparco. “Our participation in L’Afrique Excelle enables us to meet with exceptional entrepreneurs who dedicate their efforts to solving significant challenges on the continent.”

The selected start-ups participating in the event are:

StarNews Mobile (StarnewsMobile.com) (Media / Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast) Lifi Led (www.Lifi-Led.ci) (Cleantech / Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, CAR, Liberia, Madagascar)
GiftedMom (GiftedMom.co) (Healthtech / Cameroon, Ivory Coast) AmA (Fintech / Senegal)
Paps (Paps.sn) (Logistics/ Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast) LONO (www.LONOci.com) (Cleantech / Ivory Coast)
Tripafrique (www.TripAfrique.com) (Transport / Ivory Coast) Sudpay (Sudpay.com) (Fintech / Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea)
Firefly Media (FireflyMedia.tv) (Adtech, Transport / Senegal) Exportunity GBC2 (www.Exportunity.company) (Fintech, Import/Export / Mauritius, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo)
Solaris Offgrid (www.SolarisOffgrid.com) (Fintech, SaaS, Solar / Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda) SmartOne (www.SmartOne-Group.com) (Big Data / Madagascar, Mauritius)
Optimetriks (Optimetriks.com) (Retail Technology / Mali, Senegal, Niger, Ghana, Kenya) CityTaps (www.CityTaps.org) (Water & Sanitation / Niger, Senegal)
MaTontine (Matontine.com/en/) (Fintech / Senegal, Ivory Coast) Diool (www.Diool.com) (Fintech / Cameroon)
LAfricaMobile (LAfricaMobile.com) (Connectivity, SaaS, API / Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso) OniriQ (OniriQ.com) (Cleantech, Offgrid Energy / Senegal)
Ouicarry (www.Ouicarry.com) (Logistics/ Senegal, Benin, Mali, Togo Eyone (www.Eyone.net) (Healthtech / Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger)

L’Afrique Excelle is powered by the World Bank Group and the Tubaniso Agribusiness and Innovation Center (TAIC) (http://bit.ly/2u0Jx41) with financial assistance from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) (www.AICS.gov.it/language/en/) and implemented by VC4A (https://vc4a.com), Suguba (https://www.Suguba.org) and Sahel’Innov(https://www.SahelInnov.org).

For more information on the program and the selected start-ups, visit www.Afrique-Excelle.com.

To attend the Francophone Africa Investor Summit, visit www.FrancophoneAfricaInvestorSummit.com.

Logistics

Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Technology

Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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