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Another internet shutdown is happening in Nigeria but this time, it may be for the right reason: tackling insecurity. 

This week, Nigeria’s National Communications Commission (NCC), under directives from the federal government, instructed all mobile network operators in Zamfara to shut down all mobile networks for two weeks

Zamfara, situated in the northwestern region of the country, is presently a hotbed overrun with armed bandits. At least one hundred deaths have occurred in the state this year in various raids by bandits. Kidnappings have also risen in the state, with 279 schoolgirls abducted in February, and another 73 schoolchildren in September. 

According to the government, the two-week shutdown will help the military disrupt communication lines the insurgents employ. 

While the shutdown will also affect the 2.1 million mobile network users in the area, the government is confident that it will help deal a deafening blow to insurgency in the state.

In today’s edition:

  • MNT-Halan raises $120 million to expand globally.
  • Can Facebook read your WhatsApp messages?
  • The billionaires funding anti-aging biotech.
  • Events: The Future of Commerce.


Egyptian startups are having a really good year. 

In the first quarter of the year, 34 startups succeeded in raising $22 million – twice the amount raised in the last quarter of 2020. Months later, in Q3, the startups have surpassed the $190 million raised last year, accounting for at least 26% of the $1.2 billion funding received from the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region. 

Some of the biggest deals include Paymob’s $18m Series A, Trella’s $42 million Series A funding, and MaxAB’s $55 million Series A

Now, MNT-Halan has surpassed them all with its recent $120 million raise, the largest raise by an Egyptian tech startup. MNT-Halan is a Cairo-based fintech startup digitizing traditional banking and cash-based markets.

A mix of fintech and e-hailing

MNT-Halan is a bit unique.

It was founded in 2017 as a two-and three-wheeler ride-hailing app, Halan. It then transformed into a super app and offered a wider range of services to its users. By 2018 it added a fintech product — now MNT-Halan — to offer banking services for the unbanked in Egypt and neighboring countries. 

Presently, the startup’s technology connects customers, vendors, and micro-enterprises through its consumer-facing app, merchant app, distributed lending and payment processing software, and payment solutions. It also offers ride-hailing and logistics services.

It serves more than four million customers in Egypt. With around a million monthly active users, the company has disbursed more than US$1.7 billion in loans. 

Damilare Dosunmu has more about the raise in Egyptian Fintech MNT-Halan secures $120m for global expansion


A few weeks ago on TechCabal we had a pretty interesting conversation centred around how safe WhatsApp messages are. At the time, the Nigerian government had just invested quite a bit of money, about $4 million, in digital solutions which would enable them intercept WhatsApp messages and calls. 

We brought in an expert who helped us make a concrete conclusion: no one can intercept messages sent from one WhatsApp user to another WhatsApp user because of End-to-End Encryption (E2EE). However, it’s not foolproof and there are ways to bypass it but the E2EE protects messages that have been sent, no exceptions. 

Our conclusion is the one many other tech experts have also come to. 

A recent report by ProPublica also confirms this. According to the report, Facebook will review WhatsApp content that has been flagged as inappropriate or abusive but it does not break E2EE. 

Are your messages safe then?

Unless you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, then yes, you’re fine. 

Facebook has said that the only way it reads WhatsApp messages is through the threads that are forwarded to them by people who report abuse. 

The process is still imperfect but it ensures their users’ privacy.

On the sidelines: There are nuances in ProPublica’s report that seem to suggest that WhatsApp E2EE can and has been broken [by Facebook] before. For one, the company isn’t as forthcoming with its privacy policies on WhatsApp as it is on other platforms like Instagram. 

It seems that E2EE is adequately securing users’ privacy but I’m curious, do you think Facebook can read your WhatsApp messages?


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The billionaires funding anti-aging biotech

In many ways, e-commerce tycoon, Jeff Bezos, has conquered this age and time. He founded one of the most successful companies, Amazon, and he’s been to space (even if it’s just for a few minutes). 

Now, he just might be looking for a way to conquer the next age too as he’s investing in a startup that wants to prolong life. 

Tell me about it

Altos Labs is a silicon valley startup that’s exploring reprogramming tech, a process that can be used to rejuvenate cells and potentially treat effects related to aging like vision loss, or bone degradation. 

Bezos isn’t the only billionaire backing Altos Labs. Yuri Milner, the Israeli-Russian tech billionaire and founder of the $3 million Breakthrough Prizes for scientific advancements, is also supporting Altos’ search for a technological fountain of youth. 

What’s with billionaires and living forever?

It’s not just billionaires who want to live forever. 

I too want to be around for a while, at least until we discover extraterrestrial life forms or till when George R.R Martin finally releases the last two books for the Game of Thrones series. 

For Bezos, this isn’t the first time he’s looking for a fountain of youth. In 2018, he also invested in Unity Biotechnology, a startup that focused on designing drugs and treatments that reduce or eliminate the effects of aging. 

While investing in this type of tech promises the potential of having much more time on earth, there’s also, more likely, the potential for payday, and that’s the more likely reason billionaires are investing. 

The market for drugs that relieve age-related diseases is growing. Osteoarthritis, a painful inflammation of the joints which causes them to stiffen up, will have a $2.6 billion market by 2026, and this disease is the first on Unity Biotechnology’s list. So far, Unity has raised a whopping $210.6m to help fund this avenue.

The total market for anti-aging medicine is valued to hit $124 million by the end of 2023 and the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will keep growing as more options are explored.

Zoom out: Anti-aging drugs have a bad rep and it’s for good reason. Over the years, many people have been duped by brands who prey on our fears of growing old. Even though there have been successful experiments

to help extend the lifespans of small organisms, replicating that success for human beings or primates is proving difficult so far. 

Eventually, there might just be a breakthrough through biotech but it could take a long time and time is definitely something we don’t have. What do you think?


KB4-CON EMEA is a free, highly engaging, cybersecurity-focused virtual event designed for CISOs, security awareness, and cybersecurity professionals in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The event will be on Thursday, September 23rd and features keynotes from two of the most well-known figures in cybersecurity. Mikko Hyppönen will cover how our global networks are being threatened by surveillance and crime, and how we can fix our technical, and human, problems. Kevin Mitnick will reveal social engineering tradecraft and insights and wow you with a live hacking demonstration. You can register here


On the 24th of September, you’ll not only be listening to business leaders and top executives globally, but you could also get a chance to, wait for it…. pitch at one of our breakout sessions! 

What are these pitch sessions and why should you care?

The pitch sessions are a chance for startups building innovative products in e-commerce, payments, logistics, and SaaS sectors to pitch to investors (investment pitch session) and corporate partners (partnership pitch session).

Why should you register for the partnership pitch session?

Startups that participate in the partnership pitch session will get a chance to:

  • Potentially secure partnerships from some of the biggest companies on and off the continent. 
  • Meet with potential partners that they can connect with in the future to advance their operations.
  • Learn about some of the pitfalls to avoid when pitching partnerships to large companies

Want to be a part of this session? Register here for a chance to participate. To attend as a corporate organization, click here.

If you haven’t registered for the Future of Commerce yet, you’d better book a slot now.

The Future of Commerce is brought to you in partnership with DAI Magister and Paystack and is sponsored by Doroki, Chipper Cash, Klasha, VerifyMe, and GIG Logistics.


Meet intrepid entrepreneurs from Africa and South Asia, hear their stories of trial & triumph, and learn from business experts how to transform today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities. Listen to Grit & Growth wherever you get your podcasts.


Ever heard of Chams?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you do?

In case you haven’t heard, Chams is a technology-driven company creating human possibilities through its products. Although Chams is well known for having championed identity management and other major initiatives in Nigeria, including BVN and INEC projects over the years, Chams Plc has migrated into delivering fintech and other innovative digital solutions.

Find out more about Chams here and take this short survey to help refresh the brand to serve you better!

What else we’re reading

  • Decagon has raised $26.5 million to help address the underrepresentation of black people in tech, and it’s boosting Nigerian developers first.
  • Akiddie is scaling and they want to help African children learn more about their cultures and history through storytelling. 
  • In the past month, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has disrupted a lot of lives and businesses. Even MTN is thinking about selling its business there
  • The United Arab Emirates kidnapped, abused, and deported 700 African workers. Here’s the how and why.


Written by – Timi Odueso

Edited by – Daniel Adeyemi


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