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South Africa’s on-demand cleaners raise R50m

SweepSouth, the online platform providing on-demand and regular home cleaning services, has announced its intention to grow its market share in South Africa.

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SweepSouth, the online platform providing on-demand and regular home cleaning services, has announced its intention to grow its market share in South Africa and launch additional services following the closure of a successful funding round that has seen the company raise more than R50 million in new investment.

The final deal signed in the funding round was with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which has invested USD1 million (R14,5 million) into the company. This investment follows the June announcement of a R30 million investment by Naspers Foundry, a start-up fund aimed at boosting the South African technology sector.

In addition to Naspers Foundry and the Dell Foundation, who both came on board as new investors, existing investors Smollan, Vumela, CRE VC (previously Africa Angels Network), and musician and venture capitalist Black Coffee have also reinvested into SweepSouth bringing the total investment raised by SweepSouth in this round to more than R50 million. The latest round places SweepSouth into a small international group of tech startups run by black women who have raised more than USD5 million in total.

Since its launch in 2014, SweepSouth recorded exceptional growth. Since the closure of the previous funding round in 2017, SweepSouth has expanded its operations and now operates in seven South African cities. The company has also grown 26% since the announcement in June 2019 of the investment by Naspers Foundry. In a partnership with insurtech start-up Simply, it has also been able to provide accidental death and disability cover at no cost to domestic cleaners who find work through SweepSouth. The company also partnered with Caveat Legal for their launch of The Warrior Project to domestic workers, providing legal help and advice, a support line, and access to police services for victims of domestic abuse and gender-based violence. Since their last funding round, SweepSouth has also seen its customer base, bookings and revenue triple, which were marked by the company winning the Best Small Company category at the inaugural Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association awards in November of 2018. 

The businesses growth has afforded SweepSouth the opportunity to create more almost 15 000 employment opportunities for previously unemployed and underemployed domestic workers. According to Fairwork, a collaboration between the universities of Cape Town, the Western Cape, Manchester, and Oxford that ranks working conditions and standards in the gig economy, SweepSouth is noted for the fair treatment of people finding work through its platform. In addition to receiving points for fair pay, management and contracts, Fairwork has also noted SweepSouth actively improved working conditions by providing work-related insurance, as well as the facilitation of worker voice mechanisms on the platform.

According to Aisha Pandor, CEO and cofounder of SweepSouth, this worker-centric approach will also be a primary consideration as it expands into new markets and offering services beyond domestic services.

“The funding received during this round will be instrumental in achieving SweepSouth’s strategic goals going forward. In addition to expanding the markets we operate in, in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent, we are also looking forward to a formal announcement regarding our new platform, SweepSouth Connect, which offers services like handymen, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, carpet cleaners, and nannies, as well as the growth of our online SweepSouth Shop which sells a range of home products.”

“The approach we’ve always taken with investors goes beyond merely money. For us it’s also about the experience and support they will provide us with when it comes to scaling the business, and a shared vision of the positive impacts on employment and digital and financial inclusivity that we can create through the platform. As such, our investors take a significant but minority stake, but most importantly will also add broader value to the business,” Pandor says

Pandor also extends her thanks to Vinny Lingham and Llew Claasen’s Newtown Partners, which has exited SweepSouth in this round of funding with a more than 10x return on their original investment since coming on board. “Newtown Partners was our very first investor and as a fund founded by entrepreneurs themselves, lent a lot of insight that helped us to achieve the growth we have and avoid a lot of mistakes common to first time founders. Not only did Newtown Partners open up their network of contacts to us, helping us to secure additional seed funding, they have been key advisors particularly in our earlier days as we built SweepSouth and worked to find product market fit.”  

“The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has made more than 40 impact investments to date, many of which are companies that provide economic stability for families living in urban poverty,” says Thashlin Govender, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation program director. “Our new collaboration with SweepSouth falls within that category by providing jobs for South Africans who need employment. SweepSouth removes friction by connecting those who want to work with jobs and wages for their hours worked, and creates a fully vetted, credible service available for those interested in procuring cleaning services. SweepStars have taken the first step to access employment and will hopefully feel empowered to go further – resulting in better education and futures for their children.”

Vinny Lingham, General Partner at Newtown Partners says, “At Newtown Partners we pride ourselves on investing in emerging, disruptive technology startup businesses, and nurturing them from ideation to market-leading businesses. Looking at the success SweepSouth has enjoyed during the time we have been involved in the company, has more than fulfilled what we were looking to achieve when we joined them. We look forward to watching SweepSouth’s continued growth going forward.” 

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Small SA town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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Facebook fact-checking goes to 10 more African countries

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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