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Ozow launches payment platform that enables financial and digital inclusion for all South Africans

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Ozow a digital payment company, today launched the Ozow Revolution. According to the company, the Ozow Revolution is a visionary effort to make digital payments available to everyone and create greater opportunity to participate in the digital economy- especially for historically excluded communities that rely on costly and unsecure cash payments.

Thomas Pays, CEO and co-founder of Ozow, says far too many consumers and businesses have been excluded from the benefits of the digital economy. “As an impact-driven and market-led company, Ozow is at the forefront of developing breakthrough payments products that enable greater financial and digital inclusion.

While more than 80% of South Africans hold a bank account, only one out of every eight have a credit card. This locks the vast majority of consumers out of digital payments and excludes them from a huge range of services. By simplifying payments for consumers and merchants alike and supporting them with helpful innovations such as zero-rated data costs, we can enable greater participation in the digital economy for all consumers and businesses.”

As the first step of its Ozow Revolution, the company has introduced two new online payments solutions to its platform for the South African market, Ozapp and Ozow PIN.

Ozapp is a progressive web application (PWA) that enables any customer with a bank account or eWallet to transact without a card through a QR-code enabled payment. Pays says it is designed to ease adoption by doing away with the need for a dedicated native application. 

“Despite smartphone penetration standing at more than 90%, many South Africans still rely on lower-cost models that lack the storage space needed for many mobile apps,” says Pays. “In a further effort at enabling greater digital inclusion, the data needed to use Ozapp is zero-rated, meaning consumers  have zero data cost to make use of the progressive web app and can make payments anytime at any Ozow-enabled point-of-sale or pretty much anywhere, including the comfort of their home.”

To further ease the customer experience and drive greater adoption, Pays also introduced Ozow PIN, which radically simplifies EFT payments through an easy four-step payment process that can be completed in seconds. The speed and convenience of Ozow PIN makes a compelling value proposition for more South Africans to engage in e-commerce at a time when physical retail is experiencing unprecedented disruption.

Also Read: Ava Airways CEO Olivier Arrindell On Envisioning An Airline Of The Future And Connecting Africa With The Caribbean

“With the launch of Ozow PIN, we are revolutionising the payment experience with a new patent-pending simplified payment innovation that delivers a seamless customer experience without compromising on safety,” says Pays. “And in keeping with our commitment to greater digital and financial inclusion, Ozow PIN will be developed into all eleven official languages by the end of the year.”

Pays says Ozow PIN is particularly beneficial to merchants and e-commerce sites with large numbers of returning customers that make regular purchases. “By reducing the time needed to make EFT payments and removing friction in the transaction process, Ozow PIN can help grow transaction volumes while attracting new customers. It’s a win-win for consumers and merchants.” 

In addition, individuals and sole proprietors can now make use of Ozow as a payment provider too free of charge for the first 12 months or up to R1-million free processing per month. Previously, Ozow’s payments innovations were only available to enterprise and SME merchants, but due to demand, the company has expanded its services to sole proprietors and individuals.

The Ozow Revolution is driven by a healthy pipeline of new payment products that will be launched over the coming months. “We’re only just getting started with developing new innovations that enable more South Africans to enjoy the benefits of digital payments. As a business, we will continue to find ways to drive digital inclusion until every person on the African continent can make or receive safe, convenient digital payments.”

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African Guarantee Fund and Clean Cooking Alliance challenge Africa’s Banking Industry to invest in Carbon Markets

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The African Guarantee Fund (AGF) and the Clean Cooking Alliance, in partnership with the U.N. Capital Development Fund, have joined forces to empower Africa’s banking industry with knowledge and insights necessary to navigate carbon markets effectively.

Under the Partnership Platform for Clean Cooking Finance, the three institutions hosted over 100 Senior Bankers in Kenya for a “Banking on Carbon Markets” workshop that focused on financing clean cooking projects. Carbon finance business models, the intricacies of financing clean cooking projects and their associated risk-return profiles, were some of the topics discussed. Industry leaders and investors shared global evidence and practical experiences in underwriting risks related to lending to clean cooking carbon projects.

The workshop comes close on the heels of the Africa Climate Summit that brought together global key players in Nairobi. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, told the conference. “Africa is home to 60 per cent of the world’s best solar resources — but only two per cent of global investments in renewable energy over the last two decades. Now is the time to bring together African countries with developed countries, financial institutions and technology companies to create a true African Renewable Energy Alliance.”

The spotlight on green and sustainable finance primarily centers on mitigating climate risk, but the untapped potential for banks to maximize opportunities through climate action is often underestimated. In the face of mounting pressure from customers, shareholders, investors, and regulators, banks are compelled to align their corporate strategies and lending criteria with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards.

Speaking at the workshop, Mr Patrick Lumumba, AGF Group Director of Capacity Development, emphasized that “Carbon projects have become instrumental in channeling funds across various sectors of the economy, expediting transitions towards a sustainable future. However, banks frequently lack comprehensive data to assess the risks and returns associated with carbon projects. They also lack information about effective market entry strategies, growth-oriented business models, risk management, and prudent portfolio construction practices.”

“Today’s workshop is a clear example of AGF’s capacity development efforts in action to enable the banking sector venture into carbon markets by way of increasing financing of clean cooking projects. Prioritizing this sector directly impacts on several SDGs such as gender equality, good health and wellbeing and indeed climate action.”

Mr. Feisal Hussain, CCA Senior Director of Innovative Finance, noted that “Banks are essential to realizing the full potential of the carbon markets by helping to fill the financing gap needed to initiate and scale up carbon projects. This is crucial to accelerating the clean energy transition and transforming the lives of people who currently do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies.”

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“The new Partnership Platform for Clean Cooking Finance is key to this endeavor as it brings together several distinctive capabilities: CCA’s convening ability and technical expertise on clean cooking; African Guarantee Fund focus on Africa and de-risking investments, with a commitment to green finance; and UNCDF’s capital mandate for emerging markets,” he added.

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VC4A selects 12 growth stage startups for its 2023 Venture Showcase Africa

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VC4A, the leading startup platform in emerging markets, is proud to announce the 12 African startups that have been selected to participate in the 2023 VC4A Venture Showcase Africa. This annual flagship program brings together the best and brightest startups from across the continent, giving them the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors and industry experts with the objective of raising their Seed or Series A funding rounds.

The 12 startups selected for the 2023 Venture Showcase Africa are:

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Three ventures from Egypt, which are Rology, an AI-assisted tele-radiology platform that helps deliver accurate radiology reports on time; FreshSource, a B2B agri-supply chain platform that uses data and technology to connect producers to businesses, guarantee fair prices, and minimize food loss; and Pharmacy Marts, a B2B marketplace for pharmacies that provides a one-stop shop for products, financing, and logistics.

Four startups from Nigeria namely; Vendy, which helps businesses accept payments from customers without internet access; Treepz, a car-sharing platform for Africa that aims to reduce CO2 emissions; Winich Farms, an application that connects food producers to informal food processors and retailers in Africa; and OmniRetail, a B2B e-commerce platform offering supplier & retail software, to connect the informal retail ecosystem across Africa.

Three startups from Kenya; Duhqa, a digital supply chain platform that uses AI and automation to help SMEs and manufacturers grow their businesses; MPost, which is a digital platform that turns mobile phone numbers into formal postal addresses, and SympliFi, a blockchain-powered credit-as-a-service platform that provides affordable credit to MSMEs in Africa.

To close the top 12 list, one startup each from Uganda and Senegal; Emata is a digital lending platform on a mission to provide loans to millions of farmers in East Africa and Maad, is an e-commerce marketplace connecting manufacturers and retailers in Francophone Africa.

These high-growth ventures were chosen from a pool of hundreds of applicants, and represent a diverse range of industries and sectors in the Seed and Series A tracks. Each startup will receive mentorship, technical assistance and will have the opportunity to showcase their companies to an audience of investors and industry leaders in the VC4A Deal Room.

“We are thrilled to unveil these exceptional startups for our upcoming VC4A Venture Showcase Africa 2023 program. Each is a beacon of innovation and entrepreneurship. These visionary teams have demonstrated remarkable potential and we eagerly anticipate the transformative journey ahead as we accelerate their growth and shape the future together,” said an excited Abu Cassim, Lead of the Acceleration Team at VC4A.

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Goodwell invests in SOUK Farms to scale sustainable agricultural production across Rwanda

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Goodwell Investments, an impact investing firm fostering inclusive growth in emerging markets is pleased to announce their investment in SOUK Farms, a leading grower and exporter of fresh horticultural produce from Rwanda. The funding comes through uMunthu II, the impact investor’s 150 EUR million fund focused on scalable, early-growth stage businesses in Africa. The investment provides SOUK Farms with a solid foundation for scaling their sustainable agricultural business in Rwanda, enabling them to create resilient systems and value chains that benefit local farmers and the surrounding community. 

Founded in 2019, SOUK Farms has already carved out a significant niche in Rwanda’s agricultural landscape, building its own farming operations as well as working with a wide network of outgrowers to cultivate and export high-quality exotic horticultural produce while also serving consumers in the Rwanda market. They have achieved this with a unique blend of innovation and a steadfast commitment to strengthening the resilience of local farms against climate change and disruptive rainfall patterns. 

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Partnering with Goodwell gives SOUK Farms the necessary capital to pursue these ambitions at a wider scale. “The opportunities to create sustainable agricultural practices and improve existing ones in Rwanda are great. Our partnership with Goodwell will drive a huge impact not only for the growth of SOUK Farms but also for the farmers and the communities we work as we continue to offer solutions that improve incomes and create employment while also implementing education and outreach programs for youth and women,” said Seun Rasheed, Founder and CEO at SOUK Farms. 

SOUK Farms has been a key player in Rwanda’s socioeconomic transformation, and their ability to create a positive impact in the local agricultural supply chain is well established. Working closely with over 1,200 farmers across Rwanda, they have greatly improved livelihoods, enabling farmers to earn upwards of 300% more than they did prior to being outgrowers for SOUK Farms. Currently, 71% of the company’s workforce are women, aligning with the Rwandan government’s national Agriculture policy which promotes gender equality at all levels of the agricultural value chain. 

Their impact efforts and solid business model are an ideal fit for Goodwell’s agricultural investment strategy, which strives to improve value chains, reduce post-harvest losses, and create better livelihoods for smallholder farmers.  

“Under the experienced leadership of Seun Rasheed, SOUK Farms has a clear vision for expanding their impact and productivity in a sector with ever-increasing demand. We are proud to support the company in this exciting stage of their business growth, and look forward to seeing how they continue to innovate in the agricultural space. With this investment, we are also pleased to mark our entry into the Rwandan market, further expanding Goodwell’s presence in East Africa,” said Judith Ngonyo, Investment Manager at Goodwell Investments. 

This investment comes at a crucial time, enabling SOUK Farms to build on its success, scale operations, and increase the productivity of Rwandan farmers. It also reinforces Goodwell’s commitment to supporting companies that improve livelihoods and deliver affordable, accessible, high-quality goods and services to underserved populations. 

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