Mmabatho Mokiti, Founding Director at Redshift
Have you ever wondered why all technologies seem to launch in the more centralized urban areas particularly in Johannesburg? Why, although the township economy keeps thriving and the technological advancements seem to ignore this economy. These were the questions Mmabatho Mokiti, John McDonald and Douglas Hoseck who founded Redshift had.
“I woke up and found myself in a lockdown, amidst a pandemic with soldiers on the streets and worry about just getting basic groceries. I worried about my neighbors and how they would protect themselves. The entrepreneurs in my neighborhood, who would have to shut down for safety reasons even though they formed part of essential services. It seemed to me, that there was a unique dilemma we faced and this insight was the reason we built the Redshift Store Connector.” Says Mokiti
According to a recent report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which measures the size of South Africa’s small business sector, of South Africa’s estimated 5.78 million MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), only 14% are formalised. Of the 817 000 formal MSMEs, 686 000 are classified as small, very small and micro. In contrast, there exists over 2 million informal MSMEs and 2,89 million survivalist businesses. Most micro and very small businesses exist to create self-employment.
Retail accounts for the majority of MSMEs with most of them operating in domestic trade (wholesale and retail). The current lockdown has seen a boom for large food retailers and established chain stores, which have benefited from panic buying. But presents a serious blow to the prospects of small independent retailers in township environments.
“We decided to do something to help South Africa during her time of need. Given Redshift is an agile, easy to use website builder with phenomenal turnaround times, we built our Local Store Connector in a matter of hours with a solution oriented mentality in mind. Here’s the perfect tool to help connect consumers to small business owners while solving several problems at once. Social distancing, food security, safety and convenience are some of the immediate benefits that a customer will gain from using the Local Store Connector. The benefits for small business owners include getting a free online presence to help make an already under-pressure customer base aware that they are open for trade during lockdown and facilitating customer orders,” says McDonald.
While the lockdown regulations allow food retailers to continue trading, they must formally apply for a license to do so. There is lack of clarity as to whether independent retailers such as spaza shops are allowed to trade from their premises, and social distancing protocols have discouraged shoppers from utilising their services. This has resulted in most shoppers flocking to large chain stores as evidenced by the long lines seen at shopping malls and large outlets.
In support of small businesses in South Africa, Redshift supported by FinMark Trust will focus on using digital means to connect township food retailers to their customer base. The Redshift platform provides small businesses the opportunity to list themselves and accept orders from shoppers. These orders can then be pre-packed and readied for collection by the customer or for home delivery. As part of the on-boarding process, the platform facilitates MSME’s formally registering as essential businesses, which then allows them to continue to trade during the lockdown.
Subsequent phases will include introduction of digital payments and digital generation of management accounts that will assist in securing funding for working capital and expansion.
Redshift’s Online Store Connector functions in two ways:
- It allows retail MSMEs to register their stores in order to access the local marketat no cost; and
- It allows customers to shop from their local stores by simply submitting their grocery list and collecting their them after receiving confirmation, again at no cost. Thus, avoiding long queuesand the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus, while enabling food security for households.
African Guarantee Fund and Clean Cooking Alliance challenge Africa’s Banking Industry to invest in Carbon Markets
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.”
“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.
VC4A selects 12 growth stage startups for its 2023 Venture Showcase Africa
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:
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.
Goodwell invests in SOUK Farms to scale sustainable agricultural production across Rwanda
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.
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.