Kobo360 Logistics Platforms Raises US$30 Million Funding

The Nigerian digital technology freight logistics startup, Kobo360 has raised a total sum of $30 million funding; part debt funding and part venture funding. It raised a $20 million Series A equity round led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from Asia Africa Investment and Consulting Pte, and existing investors including the International Finance Corporation, Y Combination and TLcom Capital.

The company also announced that it raised an additional $10 million in local currency working capital from Nigerian commercial banks. This new funding round follows a $6 million seed investment last year led by the International Finance Corporation which enabled the company to expand to Togo, Ghana and Kenya.

In a statement on Wednesday, 14th of August, the company said it plans to broaden its reach in Africa significantly by entering ten new countries beyond its current operating markets of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya by the end of 2020. According to the CEO, Obi Ozor, the final decisions on the 10 new countries will be made by the first quarter 2020.

With the funding, the team said it will “continue to scale the organisation, develop the technology offering, and accelerate supply growth.”

Kobo360 is also “planning to add 25,000 drivers to the platform in the coming months to power the recent Africa Trade Continental Agreement, expected to catalyse intra-African trade.

Speaking on this, Obi Ozor, Co-founder and CEO of Kobo360 said, “Our Series A allows us to invest in growing our talented team that is working hard on the ground to systematically address the inefficiencies within the African logistics sector, and strengthen our already extensive network of clients and truck owners across the continent.

We are also focusing on developing the partnership with drivers, ensuring that they are trained to use mobile-enabled technology, so they can convey goods seamlessly and earn more money. We are already seeing drivers running trips on the Kobo360 platform increase their monthly earnings by 40%, as we work together to mobilise logistics across Africa.

As a cross-border freight service, the company intends to maximise this funding to benefit from the Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) which was signed this year by all the 54 countries in Africa to reduce friction and barriers on Pan-African commercial activity.

The startup expects to have a voice in the final implementation of AFCTA, in addition to lower costs for its country-to-country freight movement. On this, Ozor said, “We’re going to do some policy work through the IFC so we can help shape AFCTA. The key to the deal is really logistics, so if the logistics component doesn’t work out the deal isn’t going to work”.

The company’s plan is to use a part of this new funding to build out its Global Logistics Operating System. GLOS (shortened form) is a blockchain-enabled platform that will help the company to transition to more supply-chain services.

Launched in 2017 by two Nigerian entrepreneurs – Obi Ozor and Ife Oyedele II, this latest funding has made Kobo360 the second top-funded transport and logistics startup in Africa with investors betting on the company’s ability to meet a rise in demand for cargo deliveries while riding on the back of the AFCFTA.

Facebook Partners with Africa Check as it Expands its Fact-Checking Coverage to Yoruba and Other Local African Languages

Yesterday, on August 14 2019, Facebook – the popular social media platform announced its partnership with Africa Check – an independent fact-checking organisation to add several local languages including Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Sotho, Afrikaans as part of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme.

In essence, the focus of this partnership is top combat the spread of fake news in local languages, and to ensure that Africans assess accurate news on Facebook.  The social media giant announced in January this year that it will be investing $300 million in local news globally, an investment with the aim of fighting against the spread of misinformation.

Speaking on this, the Facebook Head of Public Policy, Kojo Boakye said, “We continue to make significant investments in our efforts to fight the spread of false news on our platform, whilst building supportive, safe, informed and inclusive communities. Our third-party fact-checking programme is just one of many ways we are doing this, and with the expansion of local language coverage, this will help in further improving the quality of information people see on Facebook. We know there is still more to do, and we’re committed to this.”

Fake news will be tackled in Nigeria using major languages such as Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa; in South Africa, Afrikaans, isiZulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele; Swahili in Kenya and Wolof in Senegal.

The Executive Director of Africa Check, Noko Makgato commented saying, “We’re thrilled to be expanding the arsenal of the languages we cover in our work on Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme. In countries as linguistically diverse as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Senegal, fact-checking in local languages is vital. Not only does it let us fact-check more content on Facebook, it also means we’ll be reaching more people across Africa with verified, credible information.”

The Facebook Fact-Checking Programme was first launched in Kenya in 2018. With this programme, stories that are identified as fake are moved down the news feed and tagged with warnings that prevent users from reposting or sharing to reduce the dissemination of false news.

MTN Group Reaches 240 Million Subscribers as it Records a 7.7 Million Subscriber Growth

Yesterday, on the 8th of August, MTN Group announced an impressive set of results for the first quarter of the year, which ended on June 30, 2019, with mobile data subscribers reaching 240 million across 20 African countries, while group revenue increased by 10.2%. This follows the addition of 7.7 million new subscribers in the first six months of the year.

The Nigeria and Ghana markets led this MTN Group earnings in the first half of 2019. MTN Nigeria led the market share with 12.2% growth, MTN Ghana contributed 18.7% to the overall service revenue at $4.48 billion.

On the other hand, the MTN South Africa market posts a meagre 3.3% growth, as impacted by a decline in consumer prepaid revenue as a result of new regulation.  The telecom operator witnessed a growth of 12% in adjusted headline earnings per share, and this is the first time that it has seen growth in this measure in recent years.

The number of active MTN data users grew by 3.5 million to 82 million, and its 30-day active Mobile Money users grew by 2.4 million to 30 million. The continued focus of MTN Group on providing excellent customer experience has seen it record brand NPS leadership across more than 50 percent of the portfolio, with twelve markets now leading.

MTN Group president and CEO, Rob Shuter, speaking on these results, said, “We had a good first half, reporting solid financial results, good commercial momentum and encouraging strategic progress. Our holding company leverage remains stable at 2.3x, well within our guidance range of 2 to 2.5x. And, as we grew revenue and carefully managed our investment programme, we saw capex intensity drop further, to 16.9 per cent.

“During the period we had some landmark events. We successfully completed the listing of MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and our e-commerce joint venture Jumia listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Within three months of announcing our asset realisation programme, which is targeting at least R15 billion over the next few years, we delivered R2.1 billion in proceeds.

Our advanced instant messaging platform, Ayoba, is now live in three of our West African markets and has more than 300, 000 active monthly users. We are very pleased with the formal approval of our super-agent licence in Nigeria, which clears the way for the launch of phase 1 of our Nigeria fintech business while we await a banking licence.

“In Nigeria, economic activity was economic activity was muted in the time of presidential elections and prior to the formation of the cabinet. Notwithstanding this environment, in constant currency terms, service revenue grew by 9.7 per cent to R67.9 billion and EBITDA expanded by 10.2 per cent to R31.2 billion.”

The holding company net debt to EBITDA ratio remained stable at 2.3x, which is well within the Group’s guidance range of 2.0 to 2.5x, and capex intensity dropped further to 16.9 per cent, indicating greater efficiency in deploying assets.

Looking ahead, Shuter said, “MTN is well positioned to grow by leveraging our scale and enhancing our competitive position. In Nigeria, we will focus on the further rollout of 4G coverage, the launch of Ayoba and Music Time! as well as accelerating our fintech ambitions by fully leveraging our extensive distribution network to offer a range of transfer and payment services to our GSM customer base.

Across the rest of the portfolio we have six focus areas. These are: the continued turnaround of our operations in the West and Central Africa region; the resolution of some of the more complicated regulatory situations; the rollout of MusicTime! and Ayoba across the group; the asset realisation programme; launch of our pan-African MTN 4 Good campaign and delivering on our medium-term targets.”

 

 

 

OPPO Launches Two New Smartphones after the F11 Pro

Oppo is seriously staking its claim in the Nigerian smartphone market as it launches two new smartphones four months after it entered the market official with the F11 Pro.

Global smartphone firm, OPPO Mobile officially announced its presence in Nigeria with the launch of its flagship devices, the OPPO F11 Pro and the OPPO F11 Pro Avengers limited edition. This event held at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos on Friday 26th April 2019. The F11 device, after being described as “that device that shoots portrait pictures just like a DSLR camera”, recorded a roaring success in Nigeria.”

Capitalising on the success of this flagship device, the Oppo brand recently released two new smartphones – the Oppo A55 and Oppo A1K in Nigeria. Globally, these two smartphones were released originally in April 2019 and May 2019 respectively.

Oppo claims that the two new smartphones are more budget-friendly that the popular F11 Pro. The Oppo A1k is said to feature a 4,000 mAh battery, a waterdrop screen, and is sold at NGN 44,900.On the other hand, the Oppo A5s is sold at NGN53,900 for a 3GB + 32GB variant, while its 4GB + 64GB counterpart is for NGN69,900. The Oppo A5s has a 4,230 mAh battery, and a waterdrop 6.2 inch screen.

Joseph Adeola, the Public Relations Manager for Oppo Nigeria, said these two devices have been optimised for functionality and price. Speaking on this, he said, “A lot of people want to use the Oppo brand, but we are not able to afford it. So, we did some market research and affordably packaged it in what we call practical technology

Just like other major brands such as Samsung, Infinix and Tecno, the OPPO brand has a ranking system which the release of these two A-series devices flouts. In the conventional system, the Reno and Find Series come first followed by the R-series, F-series, K-series, and then the A-series.

So, Nigerian users are left to wonder why Oppo skipped a line in the introduction of the A-series smartphones into the Nigerian market after the F-series.

To satisfy this curiosity, Akinola said, “Based on our global strategy, some devices perform well in new markets than others. Research went into this decision to serve products that meets the needs and expectations of Nigerians. With time, the others will come”.

As Oppo is a new player in the Nigerian smartphone market, users have expressed concern over the after-sales service. Regarding this, Akinola promised that the company is working towards establishing more outlets across Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cowrywise Travel Stole Its Idea from WeMove Rally. Is This True?

       

In a recent Twitter thread, WeMove Rally accused Cowrywise of getting the inspiration for the newly announced Cowrywise Travel from Wemove. Could this be true?

Cowrywise is a secure Nigerian savings and investment platform. Founded in 2017, it is a digital wealth platform for African millennials that helps users to plan, save and invest securely to meet financial goals. The platform allows Nigerians to access mutual funds that invest in companies like Dangote Cement, Total Nigeria, GTBank, Nestle and other high-quality fixed income securities with just NGN100.

Recently, Cowrywise announced the Cowrywise Travel platform which allows users to pay for trips within the Cowrywise app. Users are only required to save daily, monthly or weekly by joining the Cowrywise trip cycle.

The company partnered with high-flying experience creators to launch the “first of its kind” which ensures that users can have their dream vacation. According to a company statement on Twitter on the 5th of August, “the launch of cowrywise.com/travel is in line with a core commitment – to help you invest with a goal in mind. Don’t just invest for investing sake, invest for something beautiful.”

However, on the same day Cowrywise Travel was announced, WeMove Rally tweeted saying that that it inspired the development of Cowrywise Travel. “I’m glad we were able to give them inspiration, but we dey come, we dey pursue money. Make the money land”, said  Celestocalculus, a software craftsman at rally.wemove.co

WeMove Technologies is a transport technology development company with a focus on product design to ease transportation in Africa. It currently runs an online vehicle hire portal, www.wemove.co, where users can find and hire any vehicle they require in Nigeria.

The platform supports vehicle owners listing of their commercially viable vehicles to gain access to a wider niche of customers. The company services include truck hire, van hire, moving, removal, document translation, preview tour, orientation tour, car hire, bus hire and cab services.

In reply, a certain Black Jaguar, speaking for Cowrywise, explained how the plans for Cowrywise Travel has been in works since 2017.

I am quite impressed by the work you do. Given your past experiences, I can understand why you think you inspired this. Now, let me show how this idea evolved. 2017-Early 2018 We realized that a lot of people saved just for the purpose of saving. No solid goals. We decided to help them go further – save for goals. This was the reason we launched Life Goals. Vacation has always been a Life Goal plan on Cowrywise” he said.

He went on to explain the foundation of the travel page in 2017, attached a screenshot, and also explained how they got it to launch in 2019.

Speaking about WeMove Rally, he said that the operations are different from that of Cowrywise Travel.

He further proposed the possibility of a partnership with WeMove, saying, “Honestly, what we should be discussing is a partnership. We have a system that makes payment simpler at no cost to the operators. The more paying clients, the more bus operators need”.

Then, he refuted the claim of WeMove Rally as unsubstantial, and attached a link to a post that indicates that other people can also have a similar idea.

Yesterday, WeMove in reply, explained how it had initiated discussions with CowryWise and how a meeting was held early last year. “And we reached a gentleman’s agreement on what WeMove needed to do, to feed Cowrywise the tours which would be on the app”. He went on to say that he didn’t send an email because of his former relationships with the “bosses” at Cowrywise”.

He concluded by saying, “But I’ve told my people that we won’t make this mistake next time, no matter the relationship.”

A front-end developer, Ibukunoluwa Salau, in a comment on this Twitter thread, mentioned ontripp.com as performing the same operations as  WeMove Rally and Cowrywise Travel.

FCMB Invites Nigerian Agritech Startups to Apply for the FCMB-Wennovation Agritech Incubation Program 2019

The FCMB Agri-Tech Incubation Programme run by Wenovation Hub now has its applications open to Nigerian early-stage agric-tech startups.

The Wennovation Hub Programme is, in partnership with the banking firm, FCMB, targeting innovators across Nigeria who are developing tech-based solutions that can ensure food security in the country. The goal is to help them test and validate their ideas, and also gather their first set of customers. This will be achieved through a combination of financial support, guidance and training.

The applications for this year’s program should focus on four problem areas, namely Production, Input, Processing and Storage, and Marketing and Sales. The Hub is looking for MVP-stage startups with some form of market validation.

The goal of this year’s program is to reveal the root of the pre-defined problem statement to ten teams across Nigeria, by merging an in-depth problem definition strategy with an immersion process.

The program will also support these teams with a demonstrable Minimum Viable Product to build a sustainable business model by taking them through a design thinking workshop, and a 3 weeks incubation program subsequently.

Even more, the program is to support at least two of the top selected Agri-tech startups with seed investments and grants, and offer access to experienced mentors and a cohort structure that encourages peer learning and support. Of course, the attending Agri-tech startups will have several opportunities to connect with potential investors and customers.

In fact, the programme commences with a one-week immersion component where the startups will have the opportunity to interact with community members through Wennovation Hub immersion partners. Startups who complete the immersion programme and other required reporting commitments successfully will be invited to a two-week bootcamp in Lagos.

The program will come to an end in September with a pitching competition at the demo day where two Agri-tech startups win a total sum of N3million in grants. All the successful startups are to be taken into a six-month post-bootcamp aftercare programme.

Click here to apply.

NCC Slams 9mobile and Airtel with a Combined Fine of N136M

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has fined Airtel and 9mobile once again with a total sum of N136M for the violation of some regulations

NCC, the telecoms regulator, in the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Report for the first quarter in 2019 said that both telecom operators have failed to operate by some of the industry regulations. The violation of regulations such as the automatic renewal of Internet subscription, the unilateral disconnection of an interconnect carrier and the Do-Not-Directives, has attracted this fine.

Last year, NCC issued a directive to all network providers to cease from carrying out unwarranted or automatic renewal of their data package without the consent of subscribers, as well as their practice of subscribing consumers to value-added services (VAS) forcefully.

Moreover, as far back as 2016, the telecoms regulator introduced the 2442 Do-Not short-code activation to allow subscribers opt-out of received unwanted text messages, and consumers were provided with a toll-free line to report whenever their activation regulated was flouted.

As stated by NCC in the report, Airtel has been contravening the Quality of Service regulation with the disconnection of an Interconnect carrier – Exchange Telecommunications limited – without first receiving the necessary approval. This alone warranted a N121 million fine.

On the other hand, the report stated that 9mobile breached the rule against the automatic renewal of Internet subscription. It further disclosed that the default was as a result of an isolated failure on its Internet subscription platform which was previously undetected.

Both telecom operators – 9mobile and Airtel – were found guilty of going against the NCC Do-Not-Disturb Directive which protects data subscribers from Value-added-Services (VAS), and they were both fined N5 million each for this violation.

This fine follows in the wake of other fines imposed on Nigerian telecoms giants. In fact, MTN just completed payment for the fine slammed on them by the NCC in 2015.

Glo Outperforms Other Nigerian Networks in Internet Subscription

Globacom, the digital transformation leader, has topped the charts in the latest Internet subscribers’ statistics released recently by the Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC) for the month of June.

The month of June was generally a difficult one in the Nigerian telecommunications industry. The total number of Internet subscribers dropped by a high 332, 338, from the 122, 624, 417 recorded in May to 122, 292, 079 in June. The buffer against a total free fall came from Globacom and Airtel who recorded subscriber gains, even as the other operators recorded a loss.

MTN lost 178,103 subscribers, dropping from 52,433,020 subscribers in May to 52,254,917 in June, 9Mobile, the fourth largest telecommunications operator in Nigeria, lost 310,924 data subscribers, dropping from 9,350,477 in May to 9,039,553 in June.

On the other hand, Globacom gained a total of 198,816 subscribers, moving from 28,825,533 data subscribers in May to 29,022,349 in June. Airtel also gained a total of 42,510 Internet subscribers in this period.

This is not in total unsurprising as Globacom has proven to be a favourite among Internet subscribers over the years on account of its budget-friendly, customer-friendly data packages and the recent improvement in its internet connectivity.

Globacom is the first telecoms operator to launch a nationwide 4G in 2016, and since then, the millions of GLO subscribers have been able to enjoy efficient, instant broadband internet connectivity.

Cowrywise and PiggyVest Scale up to Become Virtually Digital Banks

On July 30, this year, users of the Nigerian Fintech, online savings and investment platform, PiggyVest, received emails introducing them to the “NUBAN Account Numbers for PiggyVest”

The new PiggyVest NUBAN feature allows users to transfer funds to their PiggyVest wallet via multiple sources. Users can fund their accounts with Internet banking directly, USSD and other bank transfer channels, without needing a debit card.

PiggyVest users can now fund their PiggyFlex accounts through a dedicated bank account number from Providus Bank. Launched in June 2018, the PiggyFlex Account is a sub-account of PiggyVest where all interests earned on the platform are paid to users. Even more, users can now receive transfers from their friends and family, as well as payments for services rendered, straight into their PiggyFlex accounts to be accessed at anytime with no charge.

Around the same time NUBAN launched, Cowrywise, another Nigerian fintech online savings and investment platform, announced Stash, a new feature which was launched last week Friday. Much like the PiggyVest NUBAN, Stash allows users to fund their Cowrywise accounts through all transfer channels from any Nigerian bank. According to the co-founder and CEO of Cowrywise, Rasaq Ahmed, “What we have done with Stash is to plug Cowrywise into the instant payment getaway, just like any other bank account, and what it does is you can move money from any bank account in Nigeria and transfer it to your Cowrywise Stash”

He further explained how Stash, like PiggyFlex Account, has a dedicated virtual number for each user powered by Providus Bank. Speaking on this, he said, “We worked through Team Apt to get it done. Providus Bank is the available bank at the moment. But in the coming weeks, more banks will join the race and begin serving virtual account numbers that anyone can create on the back of any fintech platform. You’ll get to see GTBank, Zenith Bank, Sterling Bank, and Wema Bank account numbers in the next few weeks”.

Unlike the PiggyVest platform, transferring funds from the Stash account to a third-party account number attracts a transfer charge of N25. However, this is still far lesser than the regular N52.50 charged by Nigerian banks for inter-bank transfers.

According to both Cowrywise and PiggyVest, these new features will aid users in funding their investment and savings plans, while keeping emergency

Carbon Introduces a 1% Transfer Transaction Fee

Formerly known as Paylater, the Nigerian Fintech startup, Carbon, has introduced a 1 per cent transaction fee for each time a user transfers funds to their Wallet on the app. This became effective from yesterday, the 5th of August, 2019.

The Carbon mobile app was launched three years ago with a goal to empower users with the financial access needed to pursue a life of prosperity and dignity. To sharpen this focus, Carbon launched its current best feature – the Wallet, in December 2018. This Wallet feature allows Carbon users to store value in the app, and benefit from the cheapest financial transactions in Nigeria.

Prior to the launch of the Digital Wallet feature, performing transactions on the Carbon mobile app required users to employ their bank debit card, or transfer money from a separate bank account to lock in an investment or make a loan repayment. Since its launch in December, the funding for the Wallet was free and wallet top ups attracted no fees.

On the reason for this recent change, the company explained that the no-funding Wallet service came at a significant cost as the company had to pay fees to the debit card issuer and payment processors for each card that a user top-up using Carbon. The company further said that its fast-growing customer base has made managing the cost incurred from the service “unsustainable”, hence the “reluctant” decision of making a little change by passing the cost to customers.

Nonetheless, users still won’t be charged for SMS fees, maintenance fees, and other charges common with the traditional banks. According to the company in a statement, “this change will allow us to redirect resources into faster innovation and make Carbon the perfect financial partner”.

Meanwhile, the company further disclosed that it will be releasing new features, including allowing users to fund their wallet directly from their bank account through either bank transfers or USSD, without the need for card top-ups.