In the company’s latest wave of layoffs, Nigerian genomics startup 54gene has laid off about 100 staff, per TechCrunch.
54gene made headlines in August when it laid off its first batch of employees—95 in total. When this happened, some employees tied the layoffs to a bigger issue of financial impropriety against the founder and CEO, Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, and some executives. But these allegations were not proven at the time, so they slowly faded away
A month later, co-founder and VP of engineering, Ogochukwu Francis Osifo, left the company, citing only a desire to “pursue other interests”.
Weeks after Osifo left, CEO Ene-Obong stepped down from his position to be replaced by 54gene’s general counsel, Teresia L. Bost. This announcement came with the promise to lay off more staff as the company plans to restructure its business. A promise they followed through on, bringing the total dismissals to about 195 staff in less than 3 months.
Zoom Out: While what is happening inside 54gene remains unclear, many pointers connect the company’s troubles with 7RL, its eight-month-old subsidiary company that deals with molecular diagnostics. TechCabal reports that the expense of running a world-class lab in an infrastructural-deficit country like Nigeria, coupled with some expansion moves that have resulted in more losses than gains, contributed to the company’s current situation.
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Backstory: Last week, Kenyan drivers of ride-hailing apps like Bolt and Uber embarked on a strike in protest of the slow implementation of a new regulation.
The regulation—the Digital Taxi Hailing Regulation—caps all commissions of ride-hailing companies in Kenya at 18%. This means that companies like Bolt and Uber have to bring down their commission rates from 20% and 25% respectively to 18%.
Even though the legislation was enacted in August, as at last week—almost 90 days after its enactment—it was yet to be enforced in Kenya. The drivers took to the streets and accused the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), the country’s transport regulator, of slowing the implementation process of the regulation.
Uber fights back
After the law was enacted, Uber challenged the decision at the supreme court. The company asked the court to nullify the legislation stating that the regulation was unconstitutional and “discouraging to foreign investment”.
The pushback isn’t surprising as the company was forced to exit Tanzania earlier this year after a similar legislation was enacted.
What changed? This time, it looks like Uber chose to listen to its drivers and stay instead of driving away. Imran Manji, head of East Africa for Uber said, “We are committed to Kenya and will continue to find workable solutions that benefit both riders and drivers using the platform as well as the business.”
Now Kenyan drivers await similar changes from Bolt and other ride-hailing apps in the country.
Meanwhile, the NTSA yesterday announced that only four ride-hailing companies—Uber, Bolt, Little and Yego Mobility—had been licensed to operate in Kenya. In line with its mandate, the regulator asked companies to submit documents for licensing earlier in October. While the six companies submitted applications, only the aforementioned four have been approved at this time.
The problem: According to Meta, monies from advertisers on its platform are recovered after 30 days—many times after the ad campaigns have run their course. Unfortunately, some advertisers refuse to pay after the ads have run.
Meta’s solution: Starting January 2023, Meta will start relying on credit reference bureaus (CRB) to build profiles of traders’ advertising on its platforms. These checks will help the company divide advertisers into two: invoiced advertisers who don’t have to pay for ads upfront and non-invoiced advertisers who have to pay upfront.
Section 4(c) of its Self-serve ad terms state: “By placing an Order, you authorise us to obtain your personal and/or business credit report from a credit bureau, either when you place an order or at any time thereafter.”
The new terms also let Meta charge a 1% per month interest on any outstanding payments from advertisers.
“If your payment method fails or your account is past due, we may take additional steps to collect past due amounts. You will pay all expenses associated with such collection, including reasonable legal fees. Past due amounts will accrue interest at one percent per month or the lawful maximum, whichever is less,” the terms further state in Section 4(g).
Big picture: For Kenya, these new terms come at a conflicting time for countries like Kenya where a new regime by recently-elected president, William Ruto, has promised to quash the blacklisting of defaulters on CRBs.
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Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk finally completed his Twitter buyout, and promptly fired three of Twitter’s executives, including ex-CEO Parag Agrawal.
Since then, all hell has broken loose on the front and backend of Twitter with racial slurs increasing by 500% since the takeover—a tribute to Musk’s cry for free speech—and supposed layoffs at Twitter.
According to a report by The NewYork Times, Musk ordered that company-wide layoffs should be effected at Twitter before November 1, the same day employees were scheduled to receive stock grants as part of their compensation plans.
While Musk responded to a snippet from an article published by the New York Times with “false”, it is not clear if he meant the entire article or just the part about denying them stock grants.
Verified users will have to pay $20 per month to keep their cute blue ticks, or risk ticking Musk off. Last Friday, the also new CEO gave the directive to change the company’s homepage. While unregistered users who visited the homepage were previously directed to a sign-up form, they will now be redirected to the Explore page where they can see all trending news and hashtags.
EVENT: AFRICA FINTECH SUMMIT
The 8th edition of the Africa Fintech Summit is set to hold from November 2–4, 2022, in Cape Town, South Africa, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
Focused on driving exponential growth in fintech adoption, Africa Fintech Summit brings together Africa’s fintech innovators, business leaders, tech experts, policymakers, and investors at the forefront of Africa’s fintech transformation. Speakers include TeamApt CEO Tosin Eniolorunda, Paystack CEO Shola Akinlade, and Omosalewa Adeyemi, Global Head of Expansion and Partnership, Flutterwave.
The Mindcapital Startup Bootcamp is open to early-stage tech startups who want to go from idea to problem–solution fit in one weekend. Selected startups will get a free three-day remote workshop where they will design value propositions and business models, and test business ideas. Apply now.
The Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme and the Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique of Nairobi are offering a three-month long fellowship in France for postdoc researchers from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Eastern Congo (Kivu) who have presented their thesis from 2017. Laureates will receive a monthly stipend of €1,600 at the start of each month. Apply by December 9.
If your startup or innovation is focused on climate-smart agriculture practices, apply to the THRIVE|Shell Climate-Smart Agriculture Challenge for a chance to win $100,000, a spot in a prestigious accelerator, publicity and more. Apply by December 11.
Telecel Group’s African Startup Initiative Program is now open for applications. The 10 selected startups will receive €15,000 in cash each and benefits valued at more than €500,000, including credits from AWS, Google Cloud Services, Hubspot, and more. Apply by November 11.
Applications are now open for Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp. The immersive virtual camp will give founders and developers from underrepresented communities mentorship, technical support and access to the alumni network. Apply by December 5.
If you have a business in the agricultural sector, apply to the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch competition—a 2-week virtual program—-to get business mentorship and win access to a grant pool of $140,000. Apply by November 4th.
Applications are open for the Association of Commonwealth Universities Emerging Career Conference Grants. There are about 25-40 grants available to emerging researchers and university teachers who need funding to attend virtual or physical conferences. Apply by November 28.
African Research Leaders 2023 is calling for funding applications from African medical researchers who have completed a PhD and need the support of £750,000 over the course of five years. Apply by December 1st.