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Google isn’t done with its layoffs.
After last week’s round, hundreds of Google employees across ad sales woke up unemployed today, as the company’s ongoing layoffs continue. Google is reportedly laying off 1,000 people in this week’s round.
So far, the company has laid off at least 13,000 employees since 2023, and per some sources, it’s unfortunately not done yet.
TymeBank achieves $215 million in annual revenue
GIF Source: GIPHY
TymeBank has made history.
The South African digital-only bank is the first to turn a profit in the country within five years. In December 2023, it reached over $215 million in annualised revenue. The digital bank also achieved a 30% growth in its SME lending portfolio in 2023.
This achievement comes after TymeBank announced it had reached eight million customers in October 2023.
There’s more: Tyme’s Philippines operation, GoTyme Bank, a joint venture with the Gokongwei Group, is not far behind. In 14 months, it reached 2.3 million customers, surpassing Tyme’s South African operation.
What’s their success strategy? TymeBank’s digital banking channels are supported by in-store kiosks in partnership with local retailers to deliver the most affordable banking, at 10% of what the big banks charge. Tyme also attributes its success to consistent innovation in technology, product offerings, and customer experience.
In the past two years, the global digital banking sector has seen significant growth. If you think this isn’t big news, less than 5% of the world’s 400 neobanks are reportedly profitable. This places TymeBank in the top 5% of digital banks globally.
Another neobank also made the news yesterday. Nigerian neobank Kuda secured $20 million in funding last year. However, unlike typical fundraising situations where a new round leads to a higher valuation, Kuda’s valuation remained unchanged at $500 million, matching its 2021 Series B round of $55 million. This isn’t bad news, but the flat valuation does point to the tech ecosystem’s funding winter. Per TechCrunch’s report, the company also reached 7 million customers and has 5x-ed its Nigerian user base. Kuda has set ambitious targets: profitability in five years and 50 million customers across four continents. However, with its operations currently limited to Nigeria, South Africa and the UK, achieving these goals will require considerable expansion into new markets which means it needs more money.
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General Atlantic acquires Actis
Big news in the clean-tech world: General Atlantic (GA), the New York-based growth equity giant, is swallowing up London’s Actis, a leading investor in African energy infrastructure, in a move that signals GA’s serious commitment to sustainable plays.
Here’s the deal: The $12.5 billion Actis acquisition creates a $96 billion powerhouse with a diversified portfolio spanning sustainable infrastructure, real estate, growth equity, and credit.
With investments in 17 African countries and projects like Accra Mall and Azura Energy, Actis knows the African infrastructure landscape like the back of its hand. This gives GA a crucial entry point to a continent ripe with renewable energy potential.
Both firms talk a big game about “combined expertise” and “enhanced offerings.” Translation? GA gets Actis’s Africa intel and on-the-ground network, while Actis benefits from GA’s global reach and fundraising muscle. Win-win.
Infrastructure is hot: Investors are pouring money into energy transition projects and data centres, and GA is positioning itself at the forefront of this megatrend.
Last week, Black Rock acquired Bayo Ogunlesi’s Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in another $12 billion deal. This Actis deal shows that GA is also playing hardball in the infrastructure game. Both acquisitions are a major signal that sustainable infrastructure is no longer a niche play, but a core investment strategy for the world’s biggest players.
This deal shines a light on Africa’s growing importance in the global infrastructure picture. With its abundant sunshine and young population, the continent is a prime target for renewable energy investment. This deal could mean major investments in clean energy projects across Africa, bringing much-needed electricity and economic opportunities to millions
Vodafone and Microsoft forge $1.5 billion partnership
Vodafone Group CEO Margherita Della Valle and Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella. Source: Vodafone Group
In more AI news, Vodafone has partnered with Microsoft to invest $1.5 billion over the next 10 years in AI and cloud services developed with Microsoft. Microsoft will also invest in Vodafone’s standalone IoT platform, which will become a separate business by April 2024.
Their collaboration focus: Both companies have identified five key areas to focus on including generative AI, scaling IoT, Africa digital acceleration, enterprise growth, and cloud transformation, to foster economic growth, financial inclusion, and improved public services.
The partnership will also see M-Pesa—the mobile money service Vodafone owns via its Kenyan partner Safaricom—expand into other African countries. Microsoft will host M-Pesa on its Azure cloud platform and see to the launch of new cloud-based apps.
Boasting over 50 million users across East Africa, M-Pesa’s journey westward might not be a simple stroll through familiar territory. West Africa presents a distinct landscape, where other mobile money platforms like MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money reign supreme, with over 60 and 50 million users respectively.
AI in Africa: While Vodafone and Microsoft might be announcing major AI moves, African governments are still a bit behind. Across the continent, only a handful of governments are developing AI policies, with Rwanda leading the way with its National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. While other countries like Nigeria do not have a standalone AI policy and framework, the country has recently taken a more proactive approach by setting up a National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR,) and is actively working on an AI policy framework.
Vodacom and Microsoft join other major players like Google and IBM whose AI for Startups Accelerator and ongoing research collaborations contribute to building the African AI ecosystem. African companies like InstaDeep and Hello Tractor are also making waves in AI applications like healthcare and agriculture.
Sun King secures $7 million in debt financing
Image Source: Zikoko Memes
Sun King, an African solar power provider, has secured $7 million in debt financing from Lendable, which finances fintech companies in emerging markets.
Lendable’s investment will enable Sun King to purchase more solar home system inventory to spread more solar energy to homes off the grid in Africa and Asia, especially for folks on a tight budget, thanks to Sun King’s pay-as-you-go financing model.
Africa’s electricity struggle: In Africa, power supply is quite poor. South Africa, for example, experienced severe load shedding that saw 12-hour blackouts for 100 days. Sun King, active across nine African countries, delivers sustainable energy via solar systems. The company says its systems outperform both kerosene and unreliable power lines, and have saved customers a staggering $5.6 billion to date. Sun King also says it has powered over 19 million homes, and its pay-as-you-go model which has a starting price of $0.15 makes its larger solar power system accessible to more people.
A growing flare: In April 2023, Sun King acquired PayGo Energy, an innovator in pay-as-you-go clean cooking tech. Following the acquisition, Sun King partnered with Citi, an investment bank on a “bank-led securitisation deal” in May 2023, that involved raising $130 million in Kenyan Shillings. This means that future customer payments on solar products will be used to raise funds for growth, allowing Sun King to access further capital for its off-grid solar energy operations in Kenya.
The company also closed 2022 with $70 million in equity investment led by LeapFrog Investments, in an extension of its Series D round of $260 million in April 2022.
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- Gen F, an initiative facilitated by Founders Factory, is set to invest in startups from Africa through its Entrepreneur in Residence programme. Selected startups will receive a $250,000 seed funding injection upon successful pitching. Apply here.
- The Federal Government of Nigeria has opened applications for companies that could serve as hosts to its Code Clubs initiative in 16 states of the federation. Launched in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Code Clubs will enable Nigerians aged 7 to 17 years to learn a broad spectrum of coding and technology-related subjects. Apply here.
- Deji Alli ARM Young Talent Award (DAAYTA) 2024 for Innovative Nigerian startups (₦12,000,000 in funding) is open for applications. DAAYTA is an ARM initiative, in partnership with TechnoVision’s TVC Labs, that aims at providing young Nigerians with an opportunity to develop innovative startup ventures that add economic value to Nigeria. Apply by January 16.
- Applications are open for the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Research fellowship 2024 (up to $15,000). The Social Science Research Council offers fellowships to support the completion of doctoral degrees and to promote next-generation social science research in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The fellowships support dissertation research on peace, security, and development topics. Apply by February 11, 2024.
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