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MarketForce secures $2M Pre-Series A round, plans to launch in Nigeria and scale up RejaReja in East Africa

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MarketForce Co-founders, Tesh Mbaabu (Left) and Mesongo Sibuti (Right) (Image & Release: MarketForce)

Kenyan-based MarketForce, a B2B platform for retail distribution of consumer goods and digital financial services in Africa, announces a $2 million Pre-Series A round, bringing total funding to-date to $2.5 million. With this fresh round of funding, MarketForce has brought on V8 Capital, Future Africa, Greenhouse Capital, Launch Africa, Rebel Fund, Remapped Ventures, and a couple of strategic angel investors as new investors. They joined Y Combinator and existing investor P1 Ventures, who also participated in the oversubscribed round.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 90% of household retail transactions are in cash, and delivered through a network of about 100 million MSMEs, with 42 million in Nigeria alone. Retail payments on the continent are expected to top $2.1 trillion by 2025, and MarketForce aims to digitize a large portion of these offline transactions.

Co-founded in 2018 by Tesh Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibuti, MarketForce uniquely combines a field sales automation SaaS solution with it’s “RejaReja” B2B marketplace to digitize how informal retail merchants buy and sell FMCGs and digital financial services. RejaReja helps these corner shops, commonly referred to as ‘dukas’ in Kenya, get better service, assortment, and access to new revenue opportunities, outfitting them with the technology and support they need to transform themselves from simple FMCG outlets to comprehensive financial service hubs for the continent’s last-mile communities. Currently available in Kenya, RejaReja offers informal retailers next-day delivery for hundreds of SKUs from the leading FMCG brands.

Last month, MarketForce announced the strategic acquisition of Digiduka, which was formed and funded during the inaugural cohort of the Antler programme in Nairobi. This was a huge fintech step forward as RejaReja now provides a wallet that allows retailers to collect mobile money and bank payments via mobile app, WhatsApp bot or USSD shortcode, eliminating the high mobile money transaction fees and enabling merchants accept digital payments, access working credit and earn more by acting as distribution agents for popular financial services such as airtime, bills, utilities, and even insurance.

With this round of funding, MarketForce plans to launch in Nigeria and to scale up RejaReja to more towns in East Africa.

“We are seeing significant demand for our radically improved way for companies to distribute their goods and services in Africa, and we’re thrilled to get a boost from returning and new investors at this crucial time,” said Tesh Mbaabu, Co-founder and CEO of MarketForce. “The combination of our technology with the offline distribution network that we are building is essential to creating maximum output and impact in African retail distribution. Our goal is to create income growth opportunities for a million retailers and independent sales agents across Africa within the next five years.” 

“Our clients and partners understand MarketForce’s power to increase sales performance and productivity across markets and industries,” said Co-founder and CTO Mesongo. “We are building the operating system for retail distribution in Africa, and we have the right combination of technology and team to make our Pan-African vision a reality.” 

Today, MarketForce clients are able to gain access to both our software and the RejaReja marketplace, which has garnered over 15,000 retail customers, processing thousands of orders daily, and we are experiencing double digit revenue growth month over month. The MarketForce SaaS product on the other hand has garnered over 10,000 monthly active users, with over 300,000 transactions worth over 500 Million USD processed to date through the platform in 3 key markets; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Clients and partners include Safaricom, Pepsi, Grain Industries, Fort Beverages, Madison Insurance, Platinum Credit, Momentum Credit, Letshego, Pezesha and Lami.

A happy RejaReja customer in Nairobi (MarketForce)

“We are glad to be backing MarketForce in this round of funding, given their ability to build a differentiated, powerful and all-inclusive digital commerce platform for informal retailers in Africa. Similar to Paystack, another successful African YC company who targets merchants selling online, RejaReja targets the millions of underserved informal merchants who are still offline when it comes to business automation and payments,” said Tobi Oke, Managing Partner at V8 Capital Partners. 

“We are proud to back MarketForce to build the future of retail in Africa and help catalyze the digitization of the African retail market, which is highly informal, fragmented and undigitized, but holds a lot of untapped potential to improve incomes and enable millions of African retailers to grow their businesses. MarketForce sits in a place that enables them to generate a lot of value and empower every single participant in the massive retail industry,” said Adenike Sheriff, Principal at Future Africa. 

“We are excited to strengthen our partnership with MarketForce,” said Mikael Hajjar, Managing Partner at P1 Ventures. “MarketForce is one of the fastest-growing African leaders in sales and distribution automation technology. We’ve witnessed the pain point that MarketForce’s product addresses and how its customers realize major productivity gains over substitutes.” 

“I have known Mesongo and Tesh for over two years and MarketForce has proven that they know how to leverage the entire retail supply chain as a gateway for digital payments. Their organic as well as acquisition-driven growth & expansion strategy thus far has proven that their understanding of unit economics and marginal customer acquisition costs is solid. As a pan-African fintech company, they are very well positioned to tap into the $700 billion that gets transacted in this space every year,” said Zachariah George, Managing Partner at Launch Africa. 

 

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Asilimia secures $2 million to build the financial infrastructure of Africa’s informal economy

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Asilimia founders and employees (Image: Asilimia)

Asilimia, a startup that is building the digital infrastructure to connect African MSMEs to the formal financial economy, has secured $2 million. To grow its team, deliver new services and expand into new markets in East Africa. The startup raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from a wide range of investors, including two-time unicorn founder, Fredrik Jung Abbou (co-founder of Kry and Lendo), Norrsken Impact Accelerator and other prominent founders from across Europe.

It also raised $1 million in a debt round that included Bpifrance and GreenTec Capital Partners. The pre-seed funding will support team growth and expansion while debt funding will enable Asilimia to extend credit to MSMEs, providing much-needed financing to help them scale their businesses.

Asilimia is on a mission to build the digital financial infrastructure of Africa’s highly fragmented and paper-based informal economy, and address the $360 billion credit gap that is impacting the continent’s 150 million MSMEs. Despite contributing approximately 38 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, lack of consolidated data means MSMEs are considered as high risk, leaving them locked out by traditional financial institutions.

And even in a country like Kenya that has a higher financial inclusion rate than most of the continent due to the advent of M-Pesa, most MSMEs still use pen and paper to record their transactions, and 30 percent of their profit is spent on mobile money transaction fees.

Asilimia has built an affordable and easy to use digital platform that formalises payments, revenue collection and accounting for business owners. Making it easier to monitor their business activities in one place. Using just their mobile phones, business owners can record their expenses and sales. Track pending payments and gain financial insights through a simple dashboard that is more efficient than using pen and paper. They can also connect their personal mobile money accounts and save up to 90 percent on transaction fees.

This consolidated and verifiable business data de-risks business owners. Making it easier for them to access a range of financial services, including insurance, savings and loans to meet their specific needs, accelerate their growth and support development in their communities. The startup is growing at 30 percent week on week, and the app is used an average of 90 times per month per customer.

According to Tekwane Mwendwa, CEO and co-founder of Asilimia, “Africa’s informal businesses are the backbone of its economy and we want to unlock their GDP to drive further growth and development across the continent. Our focus over the last few years has been to build a solution that works and this new funding will enable us to take it into new markets and impact the lives and livelihoods of more business owners.”

Asilimia was founded by Tekwane Mwendwa and French entrepreneur Morgane Kablan to build the first financial infrastructure of the informal economy in Africa. The startup was incubated in the prestigious Station F programme in Paris. And it has also been through the Norrsken Impact Accelerator programme.

Funda Sezgi, co-founder and Managing Director at Norrsken Impact Accelerator said, “MSMEs play a vital role across Africa and making it easier for them to succeed is great for the continent as a whole. Tekwane and the team have built a solution that works and we are delighted to be supporting them as they drive prosperity in a key sector for the African economy.”

 

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António Henriques da Silva: The right time to bet on Angola is now

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António Henriques da Silva; Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Angola’s Agency for Private Investment and Export Promotion (AIPEX) 

The Republic of Angola has always generated enormous interest from investors in all sectors all over the world. However, recently the economic changes caused by the sudden drop in oil prices and the devastating effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on world economies, many people are questioning whether the Angolan market is a safe bet to make their capital profitable and solidify their entrepreneurial endeavors.

The answer is, undoubtedly, positive.  With the vaccination process enabling effective control of the pandemic in Angola, this is the right time to invest in the Angolan economy. Investors can also leverage the series of assets that will be privatized as it will allow national and foreign investors easier access to a vast range of economic sectors that will generate enormous profitability in the near future. This is based on several factors.

The first is the implementation of a set of economic and social reforms devised by the Executive, whose main objective is to contain the impact of the decline in oil production, mitigating the Angolan economy’s excessive dependence on this sector. Investment priorities are now being directed towards other areas, such as agriculture, agriculture, livestock, mining, energy production and water supply, as they are fundamental to achieving economic sustainability. This strategy has been generating progressive growth in the non-oil sector’s GDP and according to international rating agencies, this will lead to real growth of  2.9 per cent to the Angolan economy by 2023.

President João Lourenço’s reforms include a fight against corrupt practices that had taken root in some fringes of the public administration. The business environment is now much more transparent and facilitates investment and entrepreneurship and this has also been recognized by the IMF, international political leaders and non-governmental organizations who address this issue. This is further evident in the Republic of Angola’s rise in the rankings of the International Transparency Index.

The disastrous effects of the pandemic have accentuated the need to diversify the Angolan economy with a more intense focus on non-oil sectors. Economic reforms became even more effective with the new Private Investment Law of 2018, which placed all investors, national and foreign, on the same level, with the same access rights to tax incentives and financial support. Even the sensitive issue of capital repatriation is safeguarded by this law, as it guarantees foreign investors the right to transfer dividends or other direct investment income abroad. And since 2020, the import of capital from foreign investors who intend to invest in Angolan companies is exempt from licensing by the Angolan central bank.

Many great investment opportunities reside in the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone (ZEE), which offers various quality services, generating an excellent business environment for investors. The ZEE has modern, flexible, unbureaucratic business practices and a commitment to simplifying business approval of new public and private investment projects.

The  ZEE’s management ensures the highest international standards and, it is without equal on the African continent. This is evident in the wide range of services on offer including, the provision of public transport to all employees, waste collection,  a reliable supply of fuel, water and electricity, and a secure connection to a state-of-the-art fiber optic network. 

With the privatization program of state assets in full development, many of which are located in the industrial perimeter of the Luanda-Bengo Special Economic Zone, the Republic of Angola has the necessary conditions to receive foreign direct investment to diversify the economy, increase domestic exports, reduce dependence on external markets and foster job creation. The ZEE  is working towards building an economy capable of sustainably developing a GDP that is not based on an excessive dependence on oil.

Yes, have no doubts. Now is the right time to invest in Angola!

Article By: António Henriques da Silva will be speaking at the 6th Annual Meeting of the African Economic Zones Organization (AEZO) on 25 November 2021, in Accra, Ghana.

 

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Egypt’s Dark Store Grocery Delivery Startup, Appetito Raises $2M Pre-Series A Round Led By Jedar Capital

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Appetito Founders (Image: Supplied)

Cairo-based Dark Sore Grocery Delivery startup Appetito, has raised $2M in its latest funding round.  The Pre-Series A round was led by Jedar Capital, a US based early-stage VC focusing on MENA and Emerging Asia. With additional participation from Golden Palm investments, DFS Lab and a group of prominent angel investors and family offices. Some of which had previously invested in similar grocery startups namely Jiffy in U.K and Chaldal in Bangladesh. The company had previously raised a seed round of almost $500k earlier in April.

The company currently operates 7 dark stores in Cairo and plans to expand to 150 stores by 2024.

Commenting on the size of the opportunity, Founder and CEO Shehab Mokhtar said “The grocery retail market size in Egypt is valued at $60 Billion. The fact that 2% of it is currently online, creates a massive opportunity for growth betting on the younger generations as 50% of the Egyptian population are below the age of 25 years.”

“I am happy Jedar Capital is leading the current round after participating in Appetito’s previous Seed round. In the past 12 months, I was amazed by how Shehab managed to build an A-plus team and created a great company culture. That pushed Appetito the past 12 months to grow significantly more than 10X in terms of number of orders and revenue. Quick commerce/fast grocery delivery business model has been gaining ground regionally and globally. And I look forward for Appetito’s next phase as they expand to cover more areas in Egypt and start planning for regional growth.”Sherif Nessim, General Partner at Jedar Capital

“As the global trend toward contactless, instant, and personalized consumer goods continues to accelerate. Appetito is providing the Egyptian market with a differentiated grocery e-commerce service. Shehab and team are the first digital grocery service to utilize the “dark” store model for hyper-local delivery directly to consumer doorsteps. Golden Palm is thrilled to support Appetito’s innovative approach to owning the supply chain and guaranteeing item availability for consumers.”AJ Okereke, Partner at Golden Palm

 

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