Safaricom has established two new subsidiaries to invest in tech startups in Kenya. The subsidiaries will focus on seed-stage and growth-stage startups – and they have not replaced Spark Fund, launched eight years ago. 

Safaricom disclosed a plan to enter the venture capital space a few days ago. The Kenyan telco hinted at establishing two new subsidiaries to identify and invest in tech startups in Kenya. It revealed plans to inject capital into startups as a significant part of its next growth frontier. These subsidiaries have officially been created following a consensus at Safaricom’s 15th shareholders’ annual general meeting held today. 

In a statement, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said, “We are committed to empowering the tech ecosystem in Kenya and beyond, and this strategic move will enable us to broaden our investments, embracing both seed-stage and growth-stage start-ups. Incorporating these subsidiaries is pivotal to realising Safaricom’s purpose to become a purpose-led technology company.”

Seed-stage investment subsidiary 

Safaricom has set up a company limited by guarantee to invest in seed-stage startups. This complements the existing Spark Fund, an investment entity governed by a board of trustees, which empowers and nurtures start-ups in Kenya. The new entity is expected to streamline administrative processes and enhance governance, further supporting young entrepreneurs.

At first, Safaricom didn’t mention what would happen to Spark Fund. Launched in 2014, the fund has backed numerous startups, such as Sendy, iProcure, Eneza Education, and Ajua, while receiving applications from over 200 other startups. Spark Fund fosters the successful development and expansion of promising mobile tech startups in Kenya and offers investment, business development support, and technical assistance to local and up-and-coming startups. With the launch of the new subsidiary, it is clear that it will work hand in hand with Spark Fund to identify and finance promising seed-stage startups. 

“We will be looking to invest in and support early-stage companies, especially in emerging technologies such as analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things. We will be launching the call for applications in the coming weeks,” said Ndegwa. 

Growth-stage investment subsidiary 

This new subsidiary will have a clear mandate: to invest in well-established startups that will be key to accelerating Safaricom’s journey toward becoming a ‘purpose-led tech company by 2025,’ as per the telco’s CEO. Not only that, but this entity will also serve as the primary investment platform for all strategic investments carried out by Safaricom. 

Adil Khawaja, Chairman of the Board, said, “We thank our shareholders for their unwavering support in establishing the new subsidiaries. By investing in tech entrepreneurs and initiatives aligning with our strategic mission, we aim to continue transforming lives by connecting people, opportunities, and information while driving innovation, creating value, and leaving a lasting impact on society.”

Dividend payout 

Finally, Safaricom shareholders have approved a final dividend of KES 0.62 per ordinary share, bringing the total dividend for the year to KES 1.20 per share. The interim dividend of KES 0.58 per share, approved in February 2023, amounted to KES 23.24 billion ($163.4 million). The final dividend of KES 0.62 per share will amount to KES 24.84 billion ($174.6 million), bringing the total dividend payout for the year to KES 48.08 billion ($338 million).

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