These Ten Ugandan Startups Have Been Selected To Pitch At This Year’s Seedstars Kampala

These Young Entrepreneurs Are Revolutionizing Ghana’s Financials ‘Unscathed’

Andrew Christian September 20

A few years ago, two young minds met in the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School (PRESEC) in Ghana, where they were classmates and buddies sometime after. Amidst books and classroom lectures, the duo soon found that they had their minds set on a set of similar things. In what was the beginning of a memorable run for both youngsters, Kofi Genfi and Nii Osae Osae Dade began a foray down the path of technology and business. Kofi studied the sciences, but always was drawn by seemingly spelled ties to business. Nii, on the other hand, had a knack for gizmos and pretty much everything that was made from tech. Finding interest in the dreams of each other, Kofi and Nii became partners at a very early stage, but soon went their separate ways to study at the university. Nii attended the University of Ghana to study Computer Science, while Kofi read Business Administration in Ashesi University – a switch he said was inspired by his interest in business.

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From left to right – Kofi Genfi, Nii Osae Osae and David 

During senior high school, the pair while collaborating with David – a classmate of theirs, launched an operating system that would make phones more useful in Ghana, which eventually turned out to be unsuccessful. I guess every entrepreneur has his or her failure stories. Buttressing the long emphasized habit of not giving up, they came up with another idea, which has now turned into a full-fledged business that makes it possible and easy to send cash to people across all networks.

Kofi and Nii are the co-founders of Mazzuma, a mobile payments system that allows developers to send and receive money from all across the world. Starting from what is described as a narrowing of concentration, Kofi and Nii, alongside David built something Ghanaians seemed to be eagerly have been waiting for – the payment system that will introduce interoperability among telecommunication companies – Creative Young Smart Technologies (CYST). Out of CYST, Mazzuma was born as the first product, which has now become a flagship project that offers unique services which the founders say their competitors do not. This platform allows users to transfer money from one network to another, with zero charges applied. Mazzuma is also tailored to make it possible for customers to purchase airtime and pay bills, using the application which can be installed and downloaded on both IOS and Android. In an interview with Weetracker, Kofi Genfi disclosed that the company has since inception processed payments worth USD 3 Mn. But, the company snags its cash from selling the software to other companies.

CYST is an AI-first software innovation company that is committed to challenging conventions, aiming to bring about viable solutions to everyday problems with the use of technology. CYST’s operations are value-centered and geared towards the redefinition of the African stereotype. The team behind this strongly holds on to the simple philosophy that it needs to be the best at what it does – building technology that is relevant to local markets while complying with international standards. In what was described by the founders as a relentless drive and passion, the platform has been able to enable people to empower change through technology. The brainchild of Kofi and Nii with efforts from the rest of the team, through CYST, is Mazzuma a platform that is tailored to assist in the achievement of financial inclusion that successive governments have all included in their development agenda. With a view of making Mazzuma become the preferred payment platform in future, the two Ghanaian gentlemen are working on projects to make the platform even more encompassing.

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Nii, who is in his early 20s and the central IT brain behind the company, told Weetracker that the Mazzuma platform had been simplified to an easy three-step process through which one can send money to another person on a completely different network. Kofi, who is spoken-word and public enthusiast, also informed that the company has recently added cryptocurrency to the platform, as a result of international customer demands – a move he says had been well received by people from all over the world. Nii, an Artificial Intelligence researcher, and Software Engineer, is the one who integrates APIs to the Telcos, ensuring that each idea the Mazzuma team comes up with is very well implemented into the system. This crypto inclusion is called the Mazzuma Token, will be the crucial payment medium in the platform’s ecosystem. Offering services that are free of transaction fees and with light-speed transactions, Mazzuma is being used by Kofi and Nii to revolutionize the payment industry with instant cross-border payments.

The Team 

A team of seven young Ghanaians runs Mazzuma. Kofi Genfi, the co-founder (of CYST) and Director of Strategy, who is in his 20s, and he seeks to deepen his affection for innovative business strategies. His contribution to his filed has garnered several recognitions, including Forbes 30 Under 30 Technology category. At as 2015-held International Speaking Competition which took place in London, Kofi was the only competitor from Ghana to make it through to the finals. Kofi, who is an aspiring free-runner, is also a member of the Thiel Fellowship Network which was founded by the technology billionaire Peter Thiel. Then there’s Nii Osae Dade, Co-founder and the Director of Software Engineer of the company CYST. Nii won the IBM/Airtel Mini Mobile Innovation Competition that was held to develop smart innovations using telecommunication. He is a devoted reader, violinist, chess player and a mental athlete who has interests in astrophysics and cosmology while being a member of the Astronomical Society of Ghana.

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The team which has young energy in all spheres of its operations; has the 17-year-old prodigy in the crypto world, Elisha Owusu Akyaw, as the Cryptocurrency Marketing Advisor of Mazzuma. According to a story earlier published by Weetracker, Elisha is also the CEO of BlockXAfrica – a platform that helps companies that accept crypto as their form of payment in marketing. The reports say that this kid has helped startups raise USD 40 Mn in Initial Coin Offering (ICO).

Challenges
For these young entrepreneurs in Ghana, there are a lot of obstacles in the way of using Mazzuma to change the financials of the world. Chief amongst them is what appears to be a banning spree on cryptocurrencies by different countries. Upon been asked what these developments in places such as Zimbabwe means for Mazzuma, Kofi Genfi told Weetracker that: “These governments place bans of crypto as a result of fear, uncertainty and lack of real information. They do not know what digital coins hold in store, and as such come to hasty conclusions to remove it from their countries’ systems. According to him, these are more of trends because we have seen some back and forth movements in this regard. “Some of these countries ban crypto, then come back to say they are going to look into it and provide guidelines to facilitate the use process. Mazzuma is not afraid of these bans, because we believe at the end of the day, because crypto is being reconsidered for its employment creation, this tech is a digital asset/token that has come to stay”.

Speaking at length, Kofi said that “The claim ‘crypto is a scam’ shows lack of understanding, naivety, and unwillingness to learn. It is true that some people have been victims of this “scam,” but most of them fell prey to it because they didn’t follow the small rules to protect their wallet IDs and passwords. More often than not, just like leaving your checkbook signed and lying around, most of these mishaps that occur in the crypto space are the fault of users. If people stick with the basic rules of the technology, these accidents will cease to happen and crypto will continue to bring value to the world in ways we have never imagined. Crypto marks the first time that value is so easily transferable through a digital medium, and simple economic principles around it are applied. There are scam projects, yes, but at the same time some of them, such as social engineering tactics can be curbed by proper cryptocurrency education. So, crypto is not a scam, so we should just give it time to flourish”.

The CEO of the company also disclosed that another of the issues faced in the business is adoption. “Customer acquisition costs are quite high, especially for new products, so adoption is a bit of a problem. But we have out good marketing tactics that we put in place, and we execute them more as time goes on, and it will get better”. The CEO expressed hopes that the space is friendlier than it used to be in the past, especially in Ghana where the Ministry of Finance is trying to open up a more robust digital economy, partnering with fintech companies to make the idea a reality. “So there is so much good than bad, and we are excited about it.” Also, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ghana is not a quick and seamless as it is in the West, and this is a micro-economic factor that doesn’t allow processes to be much faster and easier in our operations. “But generally, things have never been better, and we are on the lookout for more improvement,” said Kofi.

Turning Points

Mazzuma and its flagship company have had various turning points, and the most prominent of them was the launch of the Mazzuma platform. The Vice President of Ghana attended the occasion, and he congratulated the team about the development. Another huge for the team came by when the company got good feedback from their advertising campaigns. People started signing in to Mazzuma, and it was really looking promising. “At some point, our transaction volumes began to skyrocket, and we became one of the most promising companies in the Ghana region,” Kofi remarked.

As for CYST, in particular, the company has gained prominence in the Ghanaian region, as it is now competing with the space’s best and being recognized by the government of Ghana. “We were recently invited by the Ministry of Finance to discuss the path forward with regards to how fintech companies can contribute to the development of Ghana’s digital economy. This was an exciting one for us, as it showed that our company meant a lot in the country”.

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Another huge turning point for the company was when it was listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 technology category. “The accolades were given to the company, and with it, we received a pat on the back as we have come a very long way from where we started, and it was a monumental achievement for us,” said Kofi.

The Way Forward
“It is quite ambitious to plan five years ahead for a tech company because things seem too fast.” But Mazzuma has an in-the-pipeline three-year target that dwells heavily on the blockchain. The team is looking to use this technology to develop more applications atop the Mazzuma ecosystem and improve and input more AI into the platform to make it stronger and robust. “We also want to take our products to other parts of the world and use them to testify about how much blockchain has come to enable us.”

Nigerian Startup Thank U Cash Ropes In Investment From Ventures Platform

Andrew Christian October 19

Nigerian rewards platform Thank U Cash has secured funding from Lagos-based venture capital firm Ventures Platform.

While the amount of the investment remains undisclosed, the founding partner of Ventures Platform, Kola Aina announced the development via a medium post. According to him, the firm saw the huge but fragmented and significantly unstructured retail economy in African countries, as growing businesses do not have the needed resources or expertise to build robust loyalty programs or data analytics. Ventures Platform saw the loophole as an opportunity and decided to fund Thank U Cash to pioneer a solution.

This is Thank U Cash’s second funding this year, as a Weetracker report disclosed in August that the startup received investment from Nigerian VC Microtraction. The VC firm ordinarily invests USD 65 K in two stages, with an initial amount of about USD 15 K. Crunchbase, a business information platform, estimates that Thank U Cash has raised USD 12 K in funding over three rounds.

Thank U Cash is also part of the second cohort of Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa, which kicked off earlier in August.

The startup was founded this year by Madonna Ononobi, the company’s CEO, CTO Surak Supekar and COO Simeon Ononobi. Thank U Cash enabled consumers to save and earn loyalty points that can then be swapped for cash, and merchants benefit from the extra spend.

 

Team Cash Flow, 2 Others Hold the Centerstage At First Bank Fintech Summit 2.0

Andrew Christian October 19


Team Cash Flow led a handful of victorious players at the just concluded First Bank Fintech Summit. The event, which converged more than 700 fintech fevers, stakeholders and tech enthusiasts, was held at the Oriental Hotels in Lekki, Lagos State on Wednesday.

The Fintech Summit 2.0 metamorphosed into a three-day event that was themed The Future of Banking – The Role of AI and Big Data. The initiative was generally designed to be an avenue for Nigerian fintechs to showcase their original innovations that would fast become solutions in the financial sector of the country’s economy. The summit also provides a platform for networking and partnership opportunities between the Bank and the fintech community.

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The event featured a two-day fintech hackathon with limelight in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data for voice banking, mobile check validation and other methods of financial fraud prevention which could be implemented by First Bank. Finalists totaling 10 were selected from the competition to showcase their technological and AI solutions during the summit.

After the many presentations, three teams who showcased innovations deemed to be the most impressive and helpful in combating challenges facing the financial industry through AI and Big Data leveraging were selected as winners. The teams that held the centerstage include Team Cash Flow, who emerged first position, Team Ace as the first runner-up and Team CyberSmart in third place. The teams bagged home cash prizes of NGN 3 Mn, NGN 2.5 Mn, and NGN 750 K respectively.

First Bank Fintech Summit 2.0 was graced by key stakeholders in the Nigerian fintech sector, names such as Khadija Abu, Product Partnerships Lead, Paystack; Akin Banuso, Country General Manager, Microsoft; Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Pan African University and Adia Sowho, Managing Director, Mines Nigeria. These guests formed the panel for the event, speaking on the theme aforementioned.

5 Facebook Ads Tips for E-commerce Stores

As an E-commerce business owner, you need to master your digital marketing in order to make more sales and reach more people within your target audience group.

One of the important types of Ads are sponsored Ads. With Facebook Ads, you get the opportunity of specifying who and who sees your ads, their location, interests, etc.

Facebook Ads don’t just get your products in front of a wider audience, they also get it in front of the right audience for your brand. As an e-commerce business owner, you need high relevant traffic to your e-commerce website, more loyal customers, leads, and so on.

Credit: Giphy.com

 

Here are 5 Facebook Ad Tips for E-commerce Stores:

  1. Have a goal in mind: Don’t create any advert without first identifying your goals for the advert. Sometimes your goal may be to get more traffic to your website, build your email list, get more profile visits, get more sales, etc.
  2. Boost an existing popular post: Take a look at some of your existing posts and look at the ones that have the most engagements. This would give you an indication of what your audience loves and what they want more of, and most importantly, you know that the post works already. And so, boosting that kind of posts will get the posts seen by more people beyond your current reach. These kinds of posts would get more engagements.
  3. Use videos: Videos are much more interactive than pictures or texts. Invest in creating quality videos that would show the personality of your brand, sell your brand story, show your product in action, generate leads, and eventually lead people to purchase. Videos are also shareable and even promoting them via Facebook Ads can have a lot of huge impacts.
  4. Create an offer: We all love interesting and irresistible offers. You can create an offer around Facebook Ads so as to get more people to engage with the Ads. For instance, you can create a free E-book for people and what they would probably do to get the E-book is by subscribing to your email list or signing up for the offer.
  5. Leverage retargeting: Facebook now gives you the opportunity to target those who have once visited your website. It is a wise move because this shows that they are actually interested in what you have to offer.

Do you have more Facebook Ads tips for us? Do drop your comments below.

The African E-commerce Saga: Chapter Nigeria

Andrew Christian October 19

The advent of internet technology globally has brought about a rapid improvement in virtually of spheres of existence. In economic, social and cultural areas among others, the internet never stops having its impact on different nations of the world, communities, institutions and even the individual. As of today, we are in the constant embrace of leveled-up ideas such as e-governance, e-learning, e-hailing, e-banking and quite suitably, e-commerce.

The web is bringing with it time and again new, exciting opportunities particularly in the aspect of the industrial innovation. Electronic commerce is one of such real-time opportunities that are changing the way people buy and sell, everywhere. While the channel has proven to be a vibrant reservoir of economic upheaval in first world countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas since the turn of the 21st century, e-commerce is as well witnessing some quick-as-a-wink growth in Nigeria and some other African countries such as South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya.

E-commerce has very well had its impact on Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) towards the fronts of job creation and wealth generation. With the fact that a robust legal frame of reference is vital to the right-on-track running of any vibrant and secure e-commerce system, policymakers in Nigeria are being compelled to harness relevant information to grow the nations’ economy. Millennials and hopefuls believe that with hard work and consistency, the country would be put on the world map of e-commerce revolution in a matter of five years or less.

The e-market space is a major part of the today Nigeria economy. As MSMEs are an engine of economic growth and development, making markets more competitive and resilient, they are directly and indirectly impacted on by e-commerce. Countries such as U.S, Japan, India, Brazil and China, small businesses have been a source of jobs for the teeming population. The success stories have not only been the spirit entrepreneurship but the support of technology inclusively. With the immense value information technology is creating, the economic potentials of Nigerian MSMEs can be tremendous. E-payment solution companies such as MasterCard, Visa, Interswitch, Verve, and significant others springing up in Nigeria, e-business has been so great a boost. These payment solutions are vamping up their services in a bid to meet up with the ever-growing demand of ease, safety, and speed as it concerns buying and selling online. As a result, small businesses can experience seamless transaction with each other and other bigger businesses in the space, ultimately leading to their growth and equally to the betterment of the Nigerian economy.

As of 2014, e-commerce in Africa was growing at a rate of 25.8 percent. In a headlock against the rest of the world’s 16.8 percent, the then growth rate was enough reason to make the continent the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the world; not to talk of now that the stakes are higher. Emerging e-commerce has brought about restyling to the traditional method of shopping, as buying and selling goods and services can now be done online anywhere and anytime. Goods are being delivered with either in-house or partner courier services providers, but virtual products such as eBooks, videos, audios, and templates are being delivered electronically – at affordable and competitive prices compares to offline deals.

In a 2014 report by Business Day, it was revealed that the current market opportunity for e-commerce in Nigeria was over USD 151 Mn annually, with a rapid growth percentage of 25 each year. But it has not also been so good because just a decade ago, an e-commerce-based model of a business plan would so quickly have been laughed off and given the heave-ho, as it would have come off as a bad investment. But times have changed, and they never stop doing so – e-commerce in Nigeria is fast becoming the next big thing. More and more Nigerians are subsuming the medium as their preferred platform for purchase and selling – 60 million Nigerians enjoy internet access (2014) and nearly 100 million as of now – thanks to the rapid growth of telecommunications, and with that figure, nothing is stopping the e-market from becoming larger. The country has a predominantly youthful population to add, along with the near 100 million connected Nigerians representing more than 40 percent of Nigeria’s 197 million people. Facts have it that way over 300,000 online orders are made every 24 hours in the country – a promising figure to say the least and an indication that e-platforms are on the rise with business, tech, and leisure.

E-commerce has also contributed to Nigeria’s economic growth and development. Firstly, the medium is creating jobs for the country’s more than 30 million unemployed youths, in line with a report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – irrespective of the fact that the actual jobs availed from 2012 to 2014 are just over 12,000. The ICT industry contributed to a 10.44 percent part of the 2013 Nigeria GDP, as well as significant strides in other sectors. Should more and more Nigerians have access to the internet, it would bring about a massive impact on the e-market. The Minister for Communications Technology, observing the USD 12 Bn generated from e-sales about three years ago, online consumption could be worth USD 154 Bn by 2025. It was to no one ’s surprise when the same Minister recently said that e-commerce market in Nigeria has a potential worth of USD 10 Bn since the sector has already attracted about USD 200 Mn in foreign investments.

Also, critical players in Nigerian e-commerce such as Jumia, Konga, and Payporte are now selling goods on a large scale, SMEs no longer have to go overseas to purchase merchandise for business. This brings about a steady and easier-than-usual flow of market stock, as well as an increase in the country’s GDP. What is needed at this point is that the laws need to be tailored to form a robust and legal framework for a vibrant and secure e-commerce system. More proactive provisions need to be put in place for e-entrepreneurs to have a fighting chance, scale up and even internationalize. Cybercrimes need to be checked, shoppers’ privacy needs to be legally protected, and more gateways need to be flung open to accommodate as many e-commerce enterprises as possible.

According to a report by Jumia, Nigeria’s e-commerce could be worth USD 13 Bn this year. Nigeria’s most recent figure of the subscribing population is 162 million – that is 84 percent of the country’s populace. The statistics are impressive, as it drives a huge chunk of e-commerce transactions, and it seems investors are falling over each other to get a slice of the cake. Bright lights are coming up on the horizons as Konga and Yudala have merged, making analysts hopeful that Nigerian e-commerce is not going back on becoming a gamechanger. The world is no doubt swinging in the direction of tech-enabled serviceability and order-from-a-distance transactions. Nigeria will go with the wind, even if not as fast, but at its own checkered pace.

Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics Wins USD 15 K In SUN- Pitch Nutrition Competition

Kevin Gachiri October 19

Ope Olanrewaju of Kenni-O Cold Chain Logistics from Nigeria won the  USD 15 K grand prize of The SUN Business Challenge at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum in Nairobi showcasing entrepreneurial opportunities in Africa in the Agribusiness and Food sector. The Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition saw 21 finalists compete after having been shortlisted from a pool of  450 entries from different African countries. The Global Alliance organised this forum – the first of its kind – that links up investors with nutrition-focused SMEs for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Royal DSM , The Sun Business Network and African Magazine. At the sidelines of the same two-day event, Nutrition Dealrooms comprising part of GAIN’s pipeline of companies improving access to nutritious food attracted the interest of investors taking part in 130 deal room discussions involving 20 investors and more than 20 companies with $82m worth of investment being contested for various opportunities in the sector.

While opening the forum Fokko Wientjes, Vice-President of Nutrition in Emerging Markets, Royal DSM observed that  “The panelists had an extremely challenging afternoon choosing from 21 extremely good candidates from different parts of Africa. What we have seen is the critical role of innovation and scaling for SMEs in the food industry which proves that this conference is necessary and meeting a need.” According to its website, Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics provides value-added services that include cold storage and distribution, provision of Reefer equipment, party services as well as the provision of Intermodal and State transportation. The company was founded in 2014 and was selected based on nutrition impact, commercial viability, scalability and the use of innovation.

Other reported winners were August Secrets from Nigeria who won the Graca Machel Award, Healthy Maishaa from Tanzania who took the BoP Inc Award, Kulamawe Poultry Industries from Kenya who took the GrowthAfrica award and Miruku Agro Industria from Mozambique who took the DSM Innovation Award.

 

This development first appeared on cnbcafrica.com

Feature image source: African Business Magazine

 

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