Nigeria-based online travel agency Wakanow has just raised USD 40 Mn from Global alternative asset manager Carlyle Group, and this development so far is the biggest single round led by a non-e-commerce internet business in Nigeria.
Wakanow.com, with its mainland of operations being Nigeria, focuses on West and East Africa and operates a network of traditional brick-and-mortar travel centres in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, the UAE, and the United Kingdom to complement its online offering.
This equity investment was produced from Carlyle’s Sub-Saharan Africa fund, and it will see to the startup’s waxing in market systems while it accelerates innovation and deepens its systems alongside processes to truly make the vision of becoming an African top-drawer travel agency a reality.
Wakanow was founded in 2009, and is today one of the continent’s largest full-service online travel companies, affording its customers a one-stop online booking portal for flights, hotels, holiday packages, other travel services, and ancillaries. The travel agency boasts of a strong brand identity and scales its advantages in its local markets.
This recent funding round yet adds to Carlyle’s portfolio in the online travel sector, as it has invested in companies such as C-trip – a major online travel agency that operates across China. The group also had deals with the Latin American travel and tour operator CVC Brasil and Vasco Turismo – one of the largest travel operations groups in Peru. The CSSAFund was contrived in 2012 and has so far invested more than USD 550 Mn across a variety of African industries.
So far in Nigeria’s single rounds records, e-commerce has always been at the echelon, with Jumia blowing everyone else out of the water with investment worth USD 150 Mn which developed in a Series C from Rocket Internet. Closely following is its market competitor Konga, who clinched a Series C of USD 41 Mn in 2015. Now, for the non-e-commerce table, Wakanow ties with Andela as it concerns the highest single funding rounds in Nigeria.
Wakanow, which was founded by Obinna Ekezie, doesn’t catalogue this recent investment as its first, as the travel agency had in 2014 raised institutional funding in what was deemed to be a behind-closed-doors round led by African Capital Alliance. The amount of the financing remains undisclosed, but it was sufficient financial efficacy to procure online bus ticketing startup Oya.com.ng which cost USD 2.5 Mn. The company was recognized as one of the fastest growing online companies in Nigeria by the Tony Elumelu Foundation in collaboration with the All-world Networks based in the United Kingdom. Its founder was named the Travel man of the year at the 2016 ATQ Travel Personality Awards.
The new USD 40 Mn comes in the wake of rumours that the travel agency is on the wrong side of staff salary payment, which is a drawback alleged to have lasted 4 months. Earlier this year, Wakanow was in the thick of a grapevine which exclusively informed that it faced financial challenges stemming from the economic recession that bottle-necked the aviation sector. Should any of these scuttlebutts and back-fence reservations hold any factuality, then the capital injection from Carlyle Group couldn’t have arrived at a timelier juncture.
Still speaking of circulations, sources believe that the recent investor has bought the round from African Capital Alliance, who had previously invested a storied USD 2O Mn in Wakanow. Carlyle Group, in 2014, invested USD 147 Mn in tier-two lender Diamond Bank Plc., and from the recent reports, the funding had done poorly. Although the funding was expected to be used by the financial institution to strengthen its balance sheet, support its continued growth plans, develop its IT infrastructure and expand branch refurbishment, Diamond finds itself merged with Access Bank Plc., to seemingly save the situation.
Image Courtesy: BBC