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Press Release

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

Emil Ekiyor Named In “Indiana 250” Most Influential List

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Emil Ekiyor, Founder at InnoPower (Image: Supplied).

IBJ Media has named Emil Ekiyor, one of Africans in the Diaspora leading accomplished community leader and entrepreneur, in the 2024 Indiana 250, the annual list of the 250 most influential leaders in Indiana. The Indiana 250 Most Influential List, now in its third year, recognises the state’s most influential and impactful business and community leaders, representing public and private companies, law firms, universities, not-for-profit, government and community organizations. Mr Ekiyor, is recognised for his accomplishment as a community leader and entrepreneur dedicated to empowering African and African American communities. The list is available at Indiana250.com.  

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Born in Nigeria, Emil embarked on an educational journey to the United States at age 15. He excelled academically and athletically in high school, earning a full scholarship to the University of Central Florida. As a college football team captain, Emil demonstrated stellar leadership and strategic skills. He went on to have a six-year professional football career with the Tampa Bay Bucs, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders. Upon retiring from the NFL, Emil transitioned into entrepreneurship and community leadership roles.

Emil currently serves as CEO of InnoPower Indy Inc., driving innovative community empowerment programs. He has also served as President of the Indianapolis Black Expo Indy chapter and Indy Youth Sports, while serving on nonprofit boards like Friends of Education, Teach for America Indy and the Boys Scouts of America.

With a commitment to advancing black talent and closing wealth gaps, Emil brings collaboration, innovation and courage to his community leadership. He continues to create sustainable change as a beacon of hope for African and African American communities.

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Press Release

The Nigeria Office for Philanthropy to Showcase I-PHILANTHROPY Platform at 2024 IMBW @ RALLY

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Nigeria Office for Philanthropy (NPO) Chairperson, Thelma Ekiyor Solanke (Image: Supplied).

The Nigeria Office for Philanthropy (NPO) is set to introduce its groundbreaking I-PHILANTHROPY platform at a high-profile roundtable discussion during the 2024 innoPower Minority Business Week @ RALLY, taking place on August 27-28 in Indianapolis. This landmark event, hosted by NPO Chairperson Honorable Thelma Ekiyor Solanke, will explore innovative solutions for creating access to capital in disenfranchised communities.

I-PHILANTHROPY is a cutting-edge digital solution that leverages technology to support Nigerian small business owners and create unprecedented access to capital for micro-enterprises. The platform’s success in Nigeria offers a promising model for addressing similar challenges faced by underserved communities in the United States.

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“I-PHILANTHROPY represents a paradigm shift in financial inclusion and support for micro-enterprises,” said Honorable Thelma Ekiyor Solanke. “We’re excited to share our experiences at innoPower Minority Business Week @ RALLY and explore how this model can be adapted to empower disenfranchised communities in the USA.”

The roundtable will discuss:

– I-PHILANTHROPY’s impact on capital access for Nigerian micro-businesses.

– Potential applications of the model in US minority communities.

– Strategies for engaging diaspora and global participants in local economic development.

– Opportunities for international collaboration in supporting grassroots entrepreneurship.

This showcase is a highlight of innoPower Minority Business Week @ RALLY, a premier event that combines innoPower’s focus on empowering minority-owned businesses with RALLY’s emphasis on innovative solutions to global challenges. The conference brings together entrepreneurs, investors, community leaders, and innovators to share knowledge, build networks, and drive economic empowerment.

“The I-PHILANTHROPY platform aligns perfectly with our mission to foster growth and success among minority-owned businesses,” said Emil Ekiyor, Founder at innoPower. “This roundtable offers a unique opportunity to learn from international best practices and explore new strategies for addressing capital access challenges in our communities.”

Erica Schweyer, Executioner at RALLY, added, “By bringing together diverse voices from technology, business, and philanthropy, we aim to catalyze transformative ideas that can have real-world impact on disenfranchised communities both in the US and globally.”

 

Sign up for the Roundtable and receive a 88% discount https://innopower.formstack.com/forms/imbwdiscount

 

About Nigeria Office for Philanthropy (NPO):

NPO is at the forefront of leveraging technology for social good in Nigeria. Their I-PHILANTHROPY platform is revolutionizing how global participants can support Nigerian micro-enterprises and contribute to local economic development.

About innoPower Minority Business Week @ RALLY:

This collaborative event combines innoPower’s focus on fostering growth and success among minority-owned businesses with RALLY’s emphasis on innovation and transformative ideas. It brings together entrepreneurs, investors, community leaders, and innovators to share knowledge, build networks, and drive economic empowerment.

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Press Release

Swedfund invests USD 30 million in Access Bank to fund underserved MSMEs in Nigeria

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Swedfund invests USD 30 million in Access Bank Nigeria Plc to reach underserved MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) at scale. By providing long-term capital and capacity building to unbanked and under-banked companies in Nigeria, the investment is expected to support sustainable private sector development and inclusive growth.

Nigeria, with a population of 230 million, has an unemployment rate at a staggering 33%. Additionally, over half of the rapidly growing population is below the age of 30, which further exacerbates the need for job creation and workforce development. As Nigeria also copes with a multitude of crises, including insecurity, food shortages and inflation, the resilience and power of MSMEs is critical to driving sustainable development and reducing poverty.

Swedfund’s investment aids in advancing sustainable private sector development, encouraging inclusive growth, and expanding access to finance. Access Bank, known for its strong market presence and with a committed MSME strategy, serves as an effective partner to reach MSMEs in need of financing in Nigeria, says Kitanha Toure, Regional Director of West Africa at Swedfund.

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Access Bank is systemically important and well-positioned to reach a significant number of MSMEs in Nigeria. Swedfund’s investment will contribute to direct and indirect job creation and other tax-generating activities as well as improved access to finance for rural and underserved groups, female- and youth-owned companies.

Access Bank is eligible to meet the 2X Criteria, a global baseline standard for gender finance, and recognised as the best SME bank for women entrepreneurs in Africa.

The loan is part of a syndicate led by the Dutch development finance institution, FMO, with a total value of USD 295 million. The syndicate consists of other Nordic and European development finance institutions such as BII, BIO, Finnfund and Norfund.

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