7 JULY, 2022

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Happy pre-Friday 🎊

The new Minions movie has only been out for a week but it’s already grossed over $200 million at the box office. 

While a large part of its success is due to the animation’s captivating storyline and score, some kudos should also go to social media where TikTok is driving people to the cinema in droves. 

The #minions hashtag has garnered 8.5 billion—yes, billion—views on TikTok, and videos featuring minions are being uploaded in the hundreds. 

On Instagram, there are 7.4 million posts with the #minions, and it’s all pushing more people to watch the movie. 

The crazy marketing campaign which failed for Marvel’s Morbius is apparently working for Minions. 

In other entertainment news, people have spent over 1.15 billion hours watching the 4th season of Netflix’s Stranger Things. It’s the second-most watched Netflix season ever, after Squid Game. 

In today’s edition

  • Flutterwave accused of money laundering in Kenya
  • Autochek acquires CoinAfrique
  • Bolt opens first African headquater in Kenya
  • Sudan achieves COVID vaccination milestone
  • Kenya’s new special economic zone
  • Opportunities

FLUTTERWAVE ACCUSED OF MONEY LAUNDERING IN KENYA

Months after an exposé that alleged insider trading and abuse at Africa’s biggest unicorn, Flutterwave, the startup is once again embroiled in news that calls into question the legitimacy of its operations. 

What’s happening now?

Yesterday, Kenya’s Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) got a court order to freeze 56 bank accounts which 7 companies had used to launder Ksh7 billion (~ $59.2 million). 

The companies include Boxtrip Travel and Tours Limited, Bagtrip Travel Limited, Elivalat Fintech Limited, Adguru Technology Limited, Hupesi Solutions, Cruz Ride Auto Limited, Simon Ngige (an individual), and Flutterwave. 

According to The Star, the ARA received court orders in April, days before the initial exposé was published, to search and inspect Flutterwave’s 52 Kenyan bank accounts—29 with Guaranty Trust Bank, 17 with Equity Bank, and 6 with Ecobank, all holding about Ksh 7 billion.

Months later, its results showed that there were suspicious funding transactions within the accounts. “Investigations established that the bank accounts operations had suspicious activities where funds could be received from specific foreign entities which raised suspicion. The funds were then transferred to related accounts as opposed to settlement to merchants,” said the Agency. 

No evidence of merchant services

A more damning claim by the ARA is that Flutterwave is operating a payment service platform without authorisation from the central bank of Kenya (CBK). The Agency also claims there’s little to no record of transactions from customers paying for goods and services. 

“If indeed the Flutterwave was providing merchant services, there was no evidence of retail transactions from customers paying for goods and services. Further, there is no evidence of settlements to the alleged merchants,” said Isaac Nakitare, an investigator with the ARA. 

Apparently, most of the monies received in Flutterwave’s Kenyan accounts include “suspicious deposits that indicate smurfing activities hoping to evade detection”.

Boxtrip Travels, Bagtrip Travels, Elivalat Ltd—all with Nigerian nationals as directors—all received millions of dollars from Flutterwave, amounts sent within short periods of time. 

“No explanation nor supporting documents were provided to justify the transactions therefore reasonable grounds to believe that the accounts were used as conduits for money laundering,” said the ARA. 

Zoom out: The ARA’s court order allows the Agency to freeze the bank accounts for 90 days while its case against Flutterwave will be mentioned in court later in November. This news comes weeks after Flutterwave made 2 significant changes to its C-Suite, hiring ex-Goldman Sachs managing director as its CTO, and former American Express VP Oneal Bhambani as its CFO.


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AUTOCHEK ACQUIRES COINAFRIQUE

A month after expanding into North Africa by acquiring Morocco’s KIFAL autos, Autochek, the Nigerian pan-African automotive technology company, has acquired CoinAfrique

According to Autochek, checking in CoinAfrique will help it accelerate penetration of its auto financing services in the region, especially in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. 

More about CoinAfrique: CoinAfrique was initially founded in Benin in 2016 by Matthias Papet and Eric Genetre, and it quickly grew into other francophone African countries. The company now has a presence in 10 countries in the region including its 2 biggest economies—Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Its app has been downloaded more than 2 million times, with 800,000 monthly active users and 60,000 new product listings per month. The CoinAfrique website, on the other hand, receives more than 1.5 million visits per month. 

From funding to acquisition

CoinAfrique recently raised about $3.1 million in funding, and was in the market for either funding or a merger and acquisition (M&A) deal. 

Eventually it went for the M&A. According to Papet, the decision was based on the “conviction this is the deal we need to take the company to the next level”. 

With this acquisition, Autochek will leverage CoinAfrique’s extensive database across francophone Africa to facilitate auto financing for consumers and SMEs across this region to purchase their desired vehicles. It said it will also support further integration of the Pan-African automotive industry to drive shared value for consumers, manufacturers, financial institutions, and other stakeholders.


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BOLT OPENS FIRST REGIONAL OFFICE IN KENYA

Bolt isn’t bolting from Kenya anytime soon. 

The e-taxi app has opened its first African regional hub in Kenya’s capital—Nairobi. This is the Estonia-born company’s first hub in Africa, and a move that literally cements a remarkably fruity relationship with Kenya.

A fruity relationship?

Besting ride-hailing rivals Uber and Little, Bolt has touched Kenya in places that no other e-hailing app has. Uber and Little operate in 9 and 6 Kenya towns respectively but Bolt is present in 16 towns.

This is shows that Kenya is giving Bolt the space to be itself and grow unlike fellow East African country Tanzania where Bolt might close shop due to tedious regulations.

Where is the regional hub? 

The office was opened in Riverside Drive, Nairobi. From there, Bolt will coordinate its operations in a manner that integrates the local offices in its 7 African markets. It will also facilitate their expansion to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

But Bolt is not Kenya’s first 

This is all good news but it’s not new news. Bolt is not the first global firm to set up its first African headquarters in Kenya. In the same country, Visa launched its first African innovation hub , Google opened its first African Product Development Centre, and Microsoft opened its first Africa Development Centre.


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SUDAN ACHIEVES COVID VACCINATION MILESTONE

Today, we’re talking about Sudan, and no, the internet was not shut down again. This time, we’re actually happy for Sudan! Thanks to Gavi, an organisation that is committing itself to worldwide vaccine availability, Sudan is no longer part of the 34 countries with less than 10% vaccinated citizens

Sudan has finally paid its dues

Since 2020, when COVID hit the world, global bodies like WHO have been punching above their weight to make sure the whole world gets vaccinated. Despite their efforts, some countries like Sudan somehow did not get on the vaccination train.

Per this research, the weak infrastructure, under-resourced health system, widespread illiteracy, and poor social practices in Sudan negatively influenced the spread of COVID-19 and response towards its prevention.

However, Gavi—the vaccine-supplying body—have continued to pump in free doses of the vaccine into Sudan, against all odds. 

How did Sudan achieve this?

With campaigns. Sudan made sure the take-your-covid-vaccine campaign was wide and consistent. Every month, it held a week-long awareness campaign to push for COVID vaccination. Well, it makes sense that people will eventually do what is right when you drum it into their ears long enough. 

Zoom out: COVID vaccines came pretty late to the African party. For a long time, African countries topped the list of countries with less than 10% vaccinated citizens. But thanks to programmes like Covax, only about 10 African countries are left in that bracket. 


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NIFC LAUNCHES SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE IN KENYA

If Kenya were a fictional character, it would be Oliver Twist because it keeps wanting more—more regional headquarters of global firms, more foreign investments, more and more. 

The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) has been launched to ease investment and financial service delivery in the country. It offers a more encouraging, predictable and cost-efficient business environment for foreign and domestic businesses. Think of the NIFC as a special economic zone.

Special economic zone?

Yes. This zone offers privileges and exemptions that are otherwise unavailable to foreign businesses in Kenya. Such benefits include fast-tracked work permit issuance and immigration services, tax administration services, business registration services, etc.

It also offers exemptions from laws that can undermine the rights that foreigners have over their investments and businesses in Kenya. For example, there are Kenyan laws that insist that foreign businesses in Kenya must be partly owned by Kenyans or Kenyan residents.

These laws were put in place to protect the interest of Kenyan citizens but they make investors shy away. 

With the NIFC , foreign business owners and investors in Kenya can operate without the requirement of having a Kenyan citizen as co-owner.

What is the goal?

The goal is to boost economic growth and encourage environmental friendliness in the financial service and manufacturing sectors of Kenya. According to NIFC Board Chair Vincent Rague, NIFC has 3 priorities: fintech, green finance, and attracting large pools of capital and multinational company headquarters.

So far, the NIFC has developed a diagnostic report on Kenya’s fintech regulatory environment and funding mechanisms. It has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) to increase financing and investment in the sector.

It also has a technical partnership with the UK which supports the business case development and investor proposition of the NIFC and poses to facilitate new mutually beneficial opportunities.

The NIFC in collaboration with the National Stock Exchange (NSE) has been in discussions with Singapore-based global carbon exchange, AirCarbon Exchange (ACX) to incentivise climate finance in Kenya.

The NIFC general regulations have been enacted and an initial set of tax incentive proposals have been passed.


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CRYPTO MARKET

* Data as of 01:20 AM WAT, July 7, 2022.


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IN OTHER NEWS FROM TECHCABAL

Here’s how Kingsley Ibe and Lionel Orishane plan to reduce non-performing loans in Africa with CreditChek.

In June 2021, Anselme Mucunguzi and Theophile Nsengimana founded Vanoma, an integrated e-commerce solution centred around a last-mile delivery service to enable local businesses and independent sellers to sell online. 

Nigerian logistics company, Gokada, has appointed former EchoVC partner, Oluwatosin Oni, as its new CEO

Here are the top 10 smartphone apps in Africa

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Snapchat’s Snap 523 Accelerator Programme is now open to applications from black content creators. Twenty-five selected creators will receive $10,000 per month for 12 months and a Google Pixel 7 Pro. Apply by August 12.
  • Applications are now open for the Decentralised Umoja Algorand Bounty Hack II, by Algorand and Reach. The hackathon is a great opportunity for African developers to learn and build blockchain projects and win up to $3,000 in prizes. Apply by July 15
  • If you are an aspiring data professional, Bluechip Technology is launching a free, fully remote six-month training in data analysis, data engineering, data visualisation, and data science. Apply by August 1.

What else we’re reading

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Written by – Timi Odueso, Ngozi Chukwu & Caleb Nnamani

Edited by – Kelechi Njoku

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