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VENCO secures $670,000 pre-seed funding

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VENCO, a technology company that provides solutions to enhance living experiences in residential and commercial communities in Africa, has secured $670,000 in an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round to scale its all-in-one technology platform that manages collections, service charge administration, utilities vending, visitor access and other services associated with multi-unit property developments across Africa.

The pre-seed funding round was led by Zrosk Investment Management, with participation from other strategic investors including Voltron Capital, Decimal Point Ventures, Fast Forward Fund, Tayo Oviosu (CEO of Paga), Odun Eweniyi (COO of Piggyvest), Oo Nwoye, Desigan Chinniah, Dakar Network Angels and Viktoria Business Angel Network. Starting with Nigeria and Kenya, the new funding will support VENCO to build out its credit delivery infrastructure for rent and household spend, as well as its expansion into other cities and countries on the continent. 

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With growing urbanisation across Africa, multi-property developments have emerged as the preferred mode of delivering residential and commercial real estate. Of the 2.5 million households in Nigeria that earn more than $1,000 per month, 80 percent live in multi-property communities. 25 percent of their income is spent on rent and 50 percent is spent on other household needs, including consumables, utilities, internet data, cable TV and other services. This market for household spend represents a $22.5 billion opportunity in Nigeria, and $100 billion across Africa.

However, with the process of managing various aspects of life in these communal developments being largely manual and paper-based, there are many inefficiencies that negatively impact residents’ experience and profitability for property owners. For example, the default-rate on service charge collection for multi-property developments in Africa can be as high as 60 percent, which means that property managers are either out of pocket or forced to operate on insufficient funds. Even when payments are collected, the manual process means reconciliation is error-prone and theft is common.

Co-founded by Chude Osiegbu (CEO), Reagan Mbitiru (CTO) and Uzochukwu Alor (COO), VENCO automates collection and reconciliation of all dues and payments in communities resulting in improved receipts and better margins for property owners. For residents, self-service tools provided by VENCO make processes such as visitor control, issue and emergency management as well as utilities-vending more seamless. With residents able to build an economic profile based on their financial transactions on the VENCO platform, they can now access a range of embedded financial services, including insurance, credit facilitation for rent, service charges and household spend along with many other services.

VENCO has recorded over 200 percent growth over the last 9 months and is currently in 6 cities and more than 12,000 property units across Nigeria and Kenya. Since January 2022, it has processed more than $10 million in transaction value via its platform. The company is also partnering with ecommerce platforms to enable easier access to merchants within and around the community, energy companies to ensure reliable energy metering and collections, and other service providers to improve the overall experience in these communities.

According to Chude Osiegbu, CEO and co-founder of VENCO, “the manual nature of many processes associated with life in residential and commercial communities in Africa presents many issues that we believe technology can fix. Beyond this, we also want to leverage technology to deliver new services and experiences that will transform how people live in Africa’s growing cities and create better value for everyone across the board. Our goal is to deliver technology solutions that will enhance living experiences across the continent, and we are excited to have raised these funds to support that mission”

Samson Esemuede, Managing Director, and Chief Investment Officer at Zrosk Investment Management said The team at VENCO are building a platform that allows for the validation of the GDP of the African household. Not only does a platform like VENCO allow for significant improvement in the experience of African residents, facility managers and property owners, it could potentially unlock at scale the sort of financial services the African consumer really needs. We view VENCO as both a SAAS and a financial inclusion play with a potential for strong multiplicative impact across the continent. We are excited to support the VENCO team in achieving their vision”.

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Press Release

Ghana Fintech Awards 2022: DPO Pay Fintech Discovery of the Year

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Leading African digital payments company DPO Pay wins the Fintech Discovery of the year award in the 2022 Ghana Fintech awards. As an initiative of Arkel Limited – a Fintech research and management consulting firm – that is supported by the Ghana Fintech and Payments Association, the awards acknowledge the fintech products and services, technologies, fintech firms and dynamic doers in the fintech ecosystem.

DPO Pay’s Country Manager of Ghana, Frank Anwelle, said: “We are very proud and humbled to receive the Fintech Discovery of the Year Award. Our Team at DPO Pay extends their appreciation to the Ghana Fintech & Payments Association for recognising the hard work and commitment we hold to growing African businesses on a local and global scale. Our innovative approach to simplifying payment processing across Africa continues to drive the core objective of DPO Pay as a merchant-focused solution.”

The award judged international fintech companies operating in the Ghanaian Fintech space on providing best-in-class infrastructure for the deployment of fintech solutions and the ease of integration with third parties to offer financial and non-financial services. The Fintech Discovery of the Year Award recognizes international fintech companies, working within the local Ghanaian ecosystem to provide multiple choices to the industry and clients, ranging from payments infrastructure, credit and debit cards, mobile money, merchant acquisitions, and other payment methods, leading to an integrated financial sector.

Throughout 2022, DPO focused on bringing payment solutions closer to local businesses in Ghana. As part of its efforts, the company has partnered with Mastercard to enable thousands of businesses in Ghana to offer their customers greater choice and convenience by pivoting online and accepting digital payments. It has enabled enable merchants to safely, seamlessly and securely accept a wide range of digital payment methods including mobile money and via e-wallets – both locally and from abroad – in the currency of their choice.

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In addition, at the end of 2022 DPO released a new version of their payments app, DPO Pay Mobile. With several new features, DPO listened to merchant feedback to redesign and redevelop DumaPay. The app, previously DumaPay, now offers a variety of new features to allow for easier, more convenient transactions no matter where in Africa their businesses are. The new mobile payments application allows businesses to securely transact in multiple currencies across Africa.

Founded in 2006, DPO has developed integrated payments technology to support businesses of all sizes in over 20 countries and accepts payments securely and swiftly in all currencies and through many payment methods, including virtual cards, mobile money, and e-wallets.

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Heifer International Selects ThriveAgric, DigiCow and Brastorne as Winners of the 2022 AYuTe Africa Challenge

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Heifer International announced today the 2022 winners of the AYuTe Africa Challenge that supports agritech innovators: ThriveAgric of Nigeria, Kenya’s DigicCow and Botwana-based Brastorne Enterprises. ThriveAgric is a fast-growing start-up boosting farmer incomes and production with its breakthrough “agriculture operating system.” DigiCow is an agritech firm using digital tools to modernize production on small-scale dairy farms, while the digital technology for feature phones developed by Brastorne Enterprises is narrowing Africa’s rural digital divide.

“At a time when Africa is facing unprecedented food-related challenges, it is incredibly inspiring to see these young African champions firmly focused on an agriculture-led future that provides farmers with the innovations they need to succeed,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president of Africa Programs, Heifer International. “We launched this competition in 2021, challenging African youths to bring us innovations poised to provide the positive disruption our farmers urgently need. ThriveAgric, DigiCow and Brastorne are more than ready to meet the moment,” she noted.

As winners of the 2022 AYuTe Africa Challenge, the three companies will receive a sizeable monetary investment: a total of USD 1.5 million in grants, along with ongoing support from a team of expert advisers accomplished business veterans to help them translate their funding into an aggressive expansion strategy. This is part of Heifer International’s commitment to support young entrepreneurs developing affordable tech innovations as they work to scale their businesses. Doing so makes new services and technologies available to African farmers to overcome long-standing challenges while attracting a new generation to unlock the huge potential of agriculture on the continent.

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All three of the 2022 winners are helping African farmers by providing a novel solution to everyday obstacles:

ThriveAgric addresses a key challenge for small-scale farmers in Africa—a lack of access to finance, technical advice, business skills and market opportunities. It does so by using a proprietary Agriculture Operating System to help a team of 2,000 field agents support some 500,000 farmers across 22 Nigerian states with insights to improve their production and profits.

“We’ve developed the technologies, strategies and partnerships we believe can build the largest network of productive, profitable farmers Africa has ever seen,” said Uka Eje, Thrive Agric’s co-founder and CEO. “ThriveAgric’s 500,000 farmers are already producing and earning much more than the average Nigerian farmer. Investors are responding to our potential and this prestigious award from Heifer International will accelerate our plans to expand across the continent.”

DigiCow is helping small-scale African dairy operations increase productivity with technology that provides free access to livestock management experts and links farmers to skilled and qualified veterinarians, artificial insemination providers and feed supply services—all from their mobile phones.

“I grew up watching my mom struggle to get our cows to produce enough milk, and I’ve spent 15 years working with small-scale dairy farmers, so I know the challenges farmers face,” said Peninah Wanja, co-founder of Nairobi-based DigiCow. “That’s why it’s been so exciting to see 60,000 farmers—many of them women—now using our DigiCow apps to become more profitable and productive. With this new support from Heifer International, I’m confident we can expand our reach to help small-scale dairy farmers across the continent.”

Brastorne‘s apps, such as mAgri, give farmers access to farming information, markets and short-term finance using the capabilities of any feature phone, such as SMS and interactive voice technology. The Brastorne mobile service Mpotsa (“Ask me”) provides rural unconnected mobile users with localized information, and Vuka harnesses USSD technology to allow users on any phone to create profiles, add friends, create chat groups, and more.   These technologies have helped farmers realize a 250% increase in yields and achieve 85% savings in communication and information access. The company also boasts 100% youth employment.

“About 80% of Africans cannot afford smartphones or expensive data — but they do have feature phones, and Brastorne is ensuring those phones connect farmers, youth and women to the resources they need,” said Martin Stimela, co-founder and CEO of Brastorne. “We look forward to working with Heifer International to connect the rural poor with equitable access to markets, information and community.”

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SAMANU, Ethiopia’s largest FMCG platform raises $21 million

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SAMANU factory (Press Release: Norfund)

Norfund and a consortium of private investors managed by 54 Capital announce $21 million growth capital investment into Ethiopia’s largest FMCG platform SAMANU. Increased local production of edible oil will create jobs, increase food security, and provide income for up to 200,000 smallholder farmers.

SAMANU is a platform company with well-established brands operating in Ethiopia’s main FMCG sub-sectors (Tena Edible Oils, 555 and Aura Soap & Detergents, and Chef Luca wheat products). The investment by Norfund will fund the construction of a new solvent extraction plant to produce edible oils based on locally sourced sesame, sunflower and soya beans in its refineries. By reducing the dependency on imported raw materials, the investment aims to create jobs in value-addition and increase Ethiopia’s food security. The completion of a vertical integration project will also allow for increased export opportunities within the sectors the company already operates.

To ensure enough volume of locally produced oilseeds for its refineries, the company intends to develop large oilseeds clusters in Ethiopia over the next six years, providing livelihoods for 200,000 smallholder farmers. In the first six months post investment, the objective is to identify 642 clusters and sign contracts with around 5-7,000 smallholder farmers. Norfund, through its Business Support Facility, plans to use grant funding to assist contracted smallholder farmers with inputs like high quality seeds, fertilizers, training and capacity building, as well as agricultural technology to boost productivity.

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Andreas Davidsen, Norfund’s VP of Scalable Enterprises Agribusiness & Manufacturing, said: “We are excited to partner with SAMANU and support the execution of their vertical integration strategy, creating jobs and increasing food security. We strongly believe in the opportunities of local food production in Ethiopia and Norfund looks forward to working closely with the SAMANU management team and 54 Capital to help implement best in class practises and solutions”.

SAMANU is already home to some of Ethiopia’s leading FMCG brands and has ambitious plans to expand its product offering to meet rising demand for high quality locally produced brands. The investment, Norfund’s first in manufacturing in Ethiopia, signals strong institutional backing for the platform.

Saad Aouad, 54 Capital PE Advisors’ Chief Investment Officer, said: “It is a fantastic achievement for our investments in Ethiopia and our local management team to receive further institutional backing. It stands as testament to what we have been able to achieve in terms of nurturing high-quality popular brands and achieving scale through capacity expansion and how we intend to develop the next stage of the business. This investment demonstrates the robustness of this strategy for further enhancing the value chain within Ethiopia. Which will undoubtedly benefit from Norfund’s extensive experience across the continent”.

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