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Ghana startup wins global award

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AgroCenta, a startup that is tackling food access and stock flow issues across Ghana communities, won up to $500 000 in equity investment and growth opportunities at the Seedstars Summit 2018 last week.

Seedstars World, the biggest startup competition focused only on emerging markets, closed its fifth edition with the Seedstars Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland, with more than 65 local startup winners.

Startups participated in a two-day bootcamp; a private Investor Forum where they had the chance to pitch to be considered one of the 12 finalists to compete on the main stage, and attended more than 700 one-on-one sessions with investors. On the Summit Day, the finalist startups pitched on the main stage in front of more than 1 000 participants, investors, startup enthusiasts and prominent names of tech and entrepreneurship in emerging markets. The jury, an international panel which included Benjamin Benaïm, from Seedstars, Nikunj Jinsi and Theta Capital Group decided that this year’s investment will go to Agrocenta from Ghana.

The AgroCenta team celebrates its win at Seedstars Summit

The AgroCenta team celebrates its win at Seedstars Summit

“Winning at the Seedstars Summit will have an enormous impact in my company’s growth and success for the next years,” said AgroCenta founder Francis Obirikorang. “In emerging economies, we lack not only the infrastructure, but also access to some fundamental tools like networking and mentoring. Seedstars team is spreading the word about our talent and ideas to their international network.”

Obirikorang says he founded AgroCenta to create an online sales platform that could connect smallholder farmers directly to an online market with wider geographic reach to sell their commodities. 

According to Pierre-Alain Masson, co-founder at Seedstars, “AgroCenta won this prize because of the disruption they are creating in the farming industry. It’s very important that investors know that talent is everywhere and that the way startups and tech entrepreneurs in emerging markets are addressing the underlying social challenges in their home countries, be it agriculture or access to finance, basic education, healthcare or energy supply is a tremendous business trend and opportunity.”

On top of the $500,000 investment prize for the Seedstars Global Winner, Seedstars and its partners awarded 7 additional prizes:

  • EDVES, from Nigeria, was awarded the Transforming Education Prize, by TRECC (Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities) and School of Management Fribourg (HEG Fribourg), winning access to the Seedstars Growth Program worth  $50,000.
  • Finchat Technologies, from Singapore, won the BBVA Open Innovation Prize, receiving an opportunity to participate at their annual BBVA Open Summit in Madrid and network with the most relevant players from their international fintech network
  • Solar Freeze, from Kenya, was the winner of the Africa Energy Prize by Enel X, which rewards the startup for its innovative solution to provide solar-powered cold storage units to smallholder farmers with no need for grid connection in Sub-Saharan Africa. Solar Freeze won access to  a three-month programme worth $50,000 in acceleration services.
  • EMGuidance, from South Africa, was awarded the Health Tech prize by Merck. The prize combines joining Merck Accelerator with financial support of up to €50,000 and office space at the Merck Innovation Center, mentoring, and coaching.
  • TAG Heuer, Seedstars World official time keeper, decided to partner with Seedstars Summit to highlight the role of women entrepreneurs in their own ecosystems and awarded Medsaf, from Nigeria, the Best Woman Entrepreneur prize. 
  • Alquilando, from Argentina, won the Time Saviour Prize, by TAG Heuer, for their solution to simplify rental process, minimize risk and guarantee rent payments on time, considered to be the one which allows users to save more time of their lives.
  • Innovation Prize, also by TAG Heuer, was awarded to CMED, from Bangladesh.
  • Public Prize: one of the highlights of the day is when the public gets to vote for its favourite startup. This year, the Office for Economic Affairs (SPECo) has decided to power it by bestowing the winner, Junkbot Robotics, with a premium gift from Veuve Clicquot, a company from Switzerland and all the support from Canton de Vaud in the future.

The 12 finalist startups were:

  • CMED, finalist startup from Bangladesh 
  • Celcoin, finalist startup from Brazil
  • Agrocenta, finalist startup from Ghana
  • Junkbot Robotics, finalist startup from United Arab Emirates
  • Redcapital, finalist startup from Chile
  • Payit, finalist startup from Mexico
  • Eve.calls, finalist startup from Ukraine
  • GiftedMom, finalist startup from Cameroon
  • KarGo, finalist startup from Myanmar
  • Medsaf, finalist startup from Nigeria
  • SayurBox, finalist startup from Indonesia
  • EMGuidance, finalist startup from South Africa

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Africa News

Africa phones go flat

Africa’s mobile phone market declined 2.1% quarter on quarter in Q3 2018 according to the latest figures from IDC.

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The global technology research and consulting firm newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows overall shipments for the quarter totalled 52.6 million units, with feature phone shipments falling 2.7% QoQ and smartphone shipments declining 1.3% over the same period.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Itel) led the feature phone space in Q3 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.2%. Nokia was next in line with 11.7% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.9%, 21.7%, and 10.2%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone market with 37.2% share, followed by Transsion (21.0%) and Huawei (13.0%).

There were differing fortunes in the region’s three major markets, with Nigeria suffering a heavy 11.6% QoQ decline in mobile phone shipments, while South Africa and Kenya saw respective QoQ growth of 8.5% and 7.9% in Q3 2018.

“The decline in Nigeria stemmed from a slowdown in government spending, ongoing warfare in the country’s northern states, and market uncertainty in the lead up to elections,” says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. “In South Africa, the market’s growth was spurred by the penetration of low-end devices from brands such as Mobicel, Mint, and Nokia, while the launch of entry-level smartphones helped drive growth in Kenya despite increases in taxes and fuel prices placing a significant burden on disposable income in the country.”

While feature phones remain steadfastly popular across Africa, particularly in more rural areas, consumers are increasingly being attracted by smartphone offerings from Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei, which are actively targeting feature-oriented customers at more economical price points.

“There is a new wave of Chinese brands aggressively pursuing growth opportunities in the region, while the more-established Huawei is also accelerating its marketing efforts and expanding its distribution budget,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “These brands have quickly progressed along the learning curve and evolved their offerings to perfectly reflect the realities of the region by addressing the diverse pricing and feature needs of the consumer base.”

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to reach 58 million units in Q4 2018, spurred by the festive season and online consumer events such as Black Friday. The introduction of more affordable smartphones in the African market will help drive progress in this space over the coming quarters, while the share of feature phones will decline steadily as the transition to smartphones gathers momentum.

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Mobile money to cross borders

Orange and MTN launch pan-African mobile money interoperability to scale up mobile financial services across Africa.

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Two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group, today announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost.

Mowali will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets. Mowali is ready to enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.

Mowali is a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.

The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants.  Mowali enables money to circulate freely between mobile money accounts from any operators in all countries.  From the customer’s point of view, this means “I can pay or receive money anywhere from my mobile account regardless of my operator”. The system will unlock further innovation in the digital financial space within the continent. 

For Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, “by providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa. Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange’s ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services. “

“One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial services in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective. Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is therefore an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond. Thus giving our customers access to a bright, digital future.” said Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN.

The GSMA supports the Mowali initiative as interoperability at this scale is a key accelerator for both financial inclusion and Mobile Money usability across Africa.  “Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities. The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region. It demonstrates the mobile industry’s continued leadership and commitment to driving financial inclusion and economic empowerment through industry collaboration. The GSMA is proud to support its development,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.

“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome, in support of financial inclusion. With Mowali, Orange and MTN deliver a solution that will enable them, and other companies, to scale digital financial services across Africa, faster, to everyone—including the poor,” said Kosta Peric, deputy director of Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming. We’re pleased to see an implementation of Mojaloop—an open source payment platform available to operators across the sector—help achieve that.”

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