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Releaf secures $3.3 million funding, unveils new technologies

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Releaf co-founders – Uzoma Ayogu (CTO) and Ikenna Nzewi (CEO)

Releaf, a technology company that makes it easier for consumer goods manufacturers in Africa to access high-quality ingredients for their factories, has raised $3.3 million in an oversubscribed Pre-Series A funding round. The new funding will support the launch of two new technologies: Kraken II – a portable version of its award-winning palm nut de-sheller and SITE – a geospatial mapping application that informs the most profitable positioning of food processing assets.

The funding round was led by Samurai Incubate Africa, who re-invested after leading Releaf’s seed round, with participation from Consonance Investment Managers. Stephen Pagliuca (Chairman of Bain Capital) and Jeff Ubben (Board member at World Wildlife Fund and Founder of Inclusive Capital Partners) also invested.

SITE was developed in collaboration with Stanford University’s Professor David Lobell, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, whose team led the refinement of the age identification process for oil palm trees in Nigeria. This analysis provided foundational yield data for the first layer of SITE. The application leverages cutting-edge geospatial mapping tools to determine how much oil palm is planted in an area and their annual yields, alongside Releaf’s proprietary data on soil type, rainfall, farmer productivity and 3rd-party data from organizations like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to deliver a dynamic view of farming activity.

Releaf will use this dynamic data set to train Reinforcement Learning Models in SITE that identify the most optimal positioning of supply chain infrastructure for consumer goods manufacturers, creating an effective link with Africa’s decentralized farming system.

Kraken II is a portable, lower-cost version of Releaf’s Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller. It is just as efficient as its static predecessor, costs half as much and can attain 3x profitability because it can be transported to high density farming areas, eliminating more than 80 percent of margin-eroding logistics costs. The combination of Kraken II’s portability and SITE’s placement and route planning capabilities enables Releaf to target the best opportunities across Nigeria’s oil palm belt rather than being limited to sourcing crops within 100 kilometers of a fixed processing site like existing food processors.

According to Uzoma Ayogu, CTO and co-founder of Releaf, “SITE and Kraken II are the next steps in our plan to fundamentally transform the efficiency of agricultural supply chains in Africa and we are excited to have partnered with an exceptional cohort of investors and collaborators to roll out these technologies. To make food supply chains profitable, we must maximize extraction yields with leading processing technology and minimize logistics costs by bringing processing capacity closer to farmers. Before Releaf, stakeholders had to choose between one or the other – large factories had great technology but were far away, leaving most farmers with rudimentary technology to process their crops. We’re now able to maximize both.”

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Africa will represent 40% of the human population by the end of the 21st century and the fast-moving consumer goods market will emerge as its first globally relevant industrial sector. Releaf’s technology is designed to accelerate this industrialization while ensuring inclusive success for the planet, farmers, food factories, and consumers in one of the greatest economic opportunities globally.

Since launching in 2021, Releaf has used its supply chain technology to process more than 10 million kilograms of palm nuts and grown its monthly revenue 7X year on year. The company has also secured more than $100 million in supply contracts from leading consumer goods manufacturers, including Presco, PZ Cussons, and more. The company’s valuation has tripled since its seed round a year ago.

Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner at Samurai Incubate Africa, contributed, “Releaf’s success with its pilot Kraken validates its thesis, and we are excited to continue supporting their ambitious vision to create efficient supply chains within Africa’s agricultural market. They have added key members to their management team and continue to impress us with their rapid commercial growth and technological development. We look forward to more of the same success as the team rolls out Kraken II and SITE.”

Professor David Lobell from Stanford University said, “I enjoyed working with Releaf and using our tree height algorithm to establish the correlation between oil palm age and height to help farmers to get a better understanding of their future yields and make better data-driven decisions on sustainable replanting. There is a great opportunity to unlock Africa’s unique agricultural potential by leveraging remote sensing solutions, and I believe this partnership will be a catalyst.”

Press Release

Dream VC Launches Its 2024 Venture Capital Fellowship Program

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Dream VC, Africa’s foremost venture capital institute and investor accelerator announces the commencement of applications for the 2024 cohorts of their flagship African-focused Venture Capital training programs. Founded in 2021, Dream VC has trained more than 170 African and Africa-focused investment professionals across 3x successive cohorts and 5x programs, many of whom are currently leading and operating in different investment roles across over 65x African investment firms.

The annual remote venture capital fellowship programs provide the ideal launchpad for all aspiring and current investors to break into the African venture space, with an extensive curriculum, practical training, and direct exposure to world-class investors provided to both junior and more venture enthusiasts.

Dream VC’s tailored educational investor training programs are dedicated to creating the necessary pipeline of talent, the next generation of African-focused investors. Investor Acceleratorand Launch into VC are Dream VC’s remotely delivered flagship venture capital fellowship programs, both run entirely virtually. The two concurrently running programs provide an ideal launchpad for all aspiring and current investors to learn, practice, and sharpen the skills needed to successfully find, invest in, and grow African technology businesses.

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“The Dream VC fellowship was a big part of my journey into Venture Capital, it allows you to work alongside enthusiastic venture capitalists in the African VC ecosystem, gain hands-on experience in due diligence and deal sourcing, and build a strong network in the industry,” said Cinderella Alinaitwe, now an Investment Analyst at Pearl Capital Partners, a Dream VC alumni (2021 cohort).

“Dream VC is what I wished I had access to when I started my VC journey. The barrier to entry is high for anyone looking to break into the African VC industry, and going through Dream VC equips individuals with the necessary skills set needed to land that entry-level role at an African VC firm. With more African funds springing up every year, there is a huge opportunity to fill positions and get the best talent. The current gaps in the market for talent are huge, and Dream VC is plugging into a critical pain point. With Dream VC, you are sure of the best talents to hire from.” echoes Dayo Koleowo, General Partner at Microtraction and a past speaker at Dream VC’s venture capital training programs.

This year, Dream VC is back in full force with an expanded team and a success rate evidenced by the many funds that count Dream VC alumni on their teams. In 2024, the investor accelerator will accept applications for their now-familiar venture capital training programs from today, the 27th of February 2024. The two programs running for this year are:

Dream VC’s focus on accessibility continues, and Dream VC is proud to share that they have once again secured a round of commitments from their partners and alumni to enable the Dream VC Access Foundation (Dream VC’s scholarship arm) to provide much-needed support and financial assistance to any aspiring investor-in-training, who makes it through the application process but cannot cover a portion of the program costs.

“Our commitment at Dream VC extends far beyond merely churning out a set number of investors within a specific timeframe. We’re dedicated teachers and builders, meticulously identifying and bridging gaps within the investor ecosystem across Africa. We firmly believe in the immense potential of African talent. Through our programs, we’re shaping future leaders poised to enter various roles within the venture capital landscape, from joining VCs and launching funds of their own to becoming angels, venture builders, and ecosystem enablers at ESOs,” remarked Mark Kleyner, Co-Founder of Dream VC, highlighting Dream VC’s pivotal role and continued success rate in nurturing and empowering investors, funds, and corporate entities to actively participate in Africa’s burgeoning startup scene.

Applications for the 2024 cohort for “Launch into VC (LIVC)’’ and “Investor Accelerator” programs open on Tuesday, February 27th, and will close at 23:59 GMT on the 14th of April 2024.

Both programs will run concurrently from summer to autumn. Launch into VC runs for 4 months from June to Late September. The Investor Accelerator program commences in June and runs until October for a total of 5 months.

Interested applicants can apply for the 2024 cohort of Dream VC’s programs here before 23:59 GMT on April 14th, 2024: https://forms.gle/DJuY7QHsMMYxBEBZ9

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Press Release

Amila Africa Launches Amila Insights

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Amila Africa Founder, Lethabo Sithole 

Amila Africa is thrilled to announce the launch of Amila Insights, a revolutionary division that is committed to providing advanced analytics, research and comprehensive solutions for businesses, governments, and international organisations looking to achieve success in African markets. The company offers a range of services, including syndicated market intelligence reports, customized research solutions, high-level market access events, content development, and value communication. 

As a budding pan-African and women-led advisory firm specialising in policy, enterprise and infrastructure development within the trade, investment and energy sectors, Amila Africa brings unparalleled expertise to the forefront with the launch of Amila Insights. 

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“With a focus on demystifying development trends and delivering data-driven analyses of opportunities across Africa, Amila Insights serves as the strategic partner organisations need to thrive in the region” said Lethabo Sithole, Managing Director of Amila Africa. “Our suite of services is meticulously designed to empower clients with the tools and knowledge necessary to drive growth and achieve sustainable success.” 

With a steadfast commitment to collaboration and partnership, Amila Insights collaborates closely with clients to develop tailored solutions aligned with their specific goals and priorities. “By leveraging its extensive network and deep understanding of local dynamics, Amila Insights assists clients in identifying new opportunities, enhancing competitiveness, and optimising business strategies,” said Noluthando Mthonti-Mlambo, Executive Director at Amila Insights. 

Amila Insights strives to be more than just a provider of information and data to clients. It aims to challenge the existing narratives on Africa, African businesses, countries, and multilateral organizations and become a trusted source of inspiration and change. 

For businesses, governments, and international organisations seeking to unlock the vast potential of African markets, Amila Insights represents a compelling opportunity to gain useful insights into the complex, evolving and growing African market. With a focus on excellence and a dedication to delivering tangible results, Amila Insights stands ready to be the trusted partner organisation to rely on to navigate the dynamic landscape of African business.

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Press Release

Africa Finance Corporation Appoints Emeka Emuwa as Chairman of Board

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Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), the continent’s leading instrumental infrastructure solutions provider, today announces the appointment of Mr. Emeka Emuwa as Chairman of its Board of Directors. Mr. Emuwa brings a wealth of experience spread over three decades leading and transforming banking institutions across Africa. After completing a sterling 25-year career with Citibank where he left as the Country Officer and Managing Director of Citibank in Nigeria, he went on to serve as the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank of Nigeria. 

In this role, he led the bank’s transformation and worked successfully with the new shareholders to transform and restore one of Nigeria’s oldest institutions back to its rightful position as a credible and strong provider of financial services. Mr. Emuwa’s extensive experience and unwavering dedication to the advancement of Africa make him a valuable asset to AFC at a time when the Corporation is rapidly expanding its operations across the continent and building partnerships through international collaborations.

He has been a part of AFC’s Board since 2015, previously serving as the Chairman of the Board Risk and Investment Committee, and as a member of the Board Nominations and Governance Committee. He is also the Chairman of Tangerine Financial (U.K.), the holding company for a financial services group providing insurance and pensions solutions across the continent. Mr Emuwa is thus well positioned to oversee and guide AFC on its future strategy and growth aspirations. The Corporation’s mission to accelerate development impact, foster industrialisation, and enhance value capture and retention across the continent through the provision of critical infrastructure, is crucial for African development and prosperity.

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Speaking on the appointment, Samaila Zubairu, President & CEO of AFC, said: “Mr. Emuwa’s considerable experience, insightful perspectives and immense dedication to Africa’s development seamlessly align with our mission. We are confident that under his continued guidance, AFC will continue to make significant strides in transforming the continent. He brings a deep understanding of Africa’s financial landscape within a global context, and has a clear vision for enabling AFC to further amplify its impact.”

Mr. Emuwa commented on his appointment, saying: “I am deeply honoured to be appointed Chairman of Africa Finance Corporation, an institution that has, over the past 16 years, evolved into the leading infrastructure investor in Africa, delivering transformational projects across pivotal sectors of the economy. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the board, management, and all stakeholders to advance AFC’s mission and strengthen its role as a driving force for economic growth and infrastructure development on the African continent.”

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