Afridigest Week in Review: Agent networks for renewable energy

+Energy deals +Auto acquisitions +Demographics are destiny +Bringing offline retail online +African neobanking landscape +Emerging market SAMs/TAMs +Disciplined pursuit of less

The Afridigest Week in Review is a must-read weekly recap for Africa-focused founders, executives, and investors, as well as interested observers.
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Week 38 2021

📰 Deal of the week

Infibranches, a Nigerian renewable-energy-focused payments platform and agent network, raised a $2M pre-seed round from All On, an impact investment firm backed by oil major, Shell.

Infibranches agents don’t just provide financial services, but also act as sales and supply channels for renewable energy products.

💡 Why it’s the deal of the week: While the round is not the largest this week, it dovetails with one trend we’re particularly keen on at Afridigest: the rise of agent networks beyond mobile money.

We’ve said in past weeks that agent networks may end up a very important vector for value creation at scale across Africa, and this seems to be another data point in that vein.

And, apparently, Infinibranches has “more active agents than all Nigerian bank branches.”

P.S. — if you know anyone building anything interesting around agent networks on the continent, please reach out.

🔦 Other deals
  • Cartona, an Egyptian B2B marketplace connecting retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, and manufacturers, raised a $4.5M pre-Series A led by Global Ventures, with Kepple Africa, T5 Capital, and others participating — Cartona has over 30,000 retailers on its platform who have processed over 400K orders worth ~$64M

  • Brimore, an Egyptian social-commerce & agent distribution platform, announced that Fawry, the publicly-traded Egyptian payments giant, invested ~$1M in its upcoming Series A — Brimore is rumored to be targeting a $15-20M round, including up to $5M from the IFC; it raised a $3.5M Pre-Series A round led by Algebra Ventures in May 2020

  • gnuGrid, a Ugandan provider of data-driven fintech & clean-tech solutions, raised a $612.5K seed round at a pre-money valuation of US$6.25Mthe startup which began in 2019 as data and payments intermediary for solar companies, is now a Bank of Uganda-licensed credit reference bureau that helps lenders offer credit to low-income and rural Ugandans

  • HelloChoice, a South African B2B agri-fintech marketplace, raised an undisclosed amount from South Africa’s Standard Bank in exchange for a 25% equity stake — this comes after a November 2020 the partnership between Standard Bank and HelloChoice; during its first 30 months of operation, HelloChoice has had over 2 000 users join and traded over ~$6.8 million

  • HelloHR, a South African cloud-based payroll software platform, raised an undisclosed amount from pan-African financial services group Finclusion — Finclusion raised $20M in debt financing from Lendable last week and it suggests that it received a “significant” minority stake in return for its investment in HelloHR

  • Shiphaly, an Egyptian marketplace connecting buyers and travelers, raised an undisclosed six-figure round, led by active angel investor Faisal Abdulsalam — Shiphaly allowing travelers to make extra cash from their unused luggage space by buying and deliver products from abroad to local Shiphaly buyers; the startup disclosed that it processed over 15,000 posted orders worth over $2M since the start of 2021.

  • Pravica, an Egyptian blockchain-based B2B communication startup raised an undisclosed amount from Crypto Valley Venture Capital — founded in 2019, Pravica aims to utilize blockchain technology to empower user privacy and security in the communication industry, specifically messaging apps

  • ConDigital, an Ethiopian construction-tech startup, raised an undisclosed pre-seed funding round from angel investors across the US, East Africa, Europe, and Asia — The startup offers a vertical-focused SaaS platform that digitizes the construction management process for owners, contractors, and consultants

  • Zola Electric, a distributed renewable energy provider operational in Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire, raised $45M in equity and $45 in debt. TotalEnergies Ventures, DBL Partners, Helios Investment Partners, Vulcan Capital, Electron Capital Partners, and SolarCity co-founders Lyndon and Pete Rive led the equity portion while the debt financing came from FMO and SunFunder — this comes after Zola Electric’s $55M Series D in 2018

  • Baobab+, a Pan-African solar energy & digital solutions provider operating in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, and Madagascar, raised ~$11.7M from Norfund the Norwegian government’s investment fund for developing countries — in addition to pay-as-you-go solar kits, the company distributes smartphones using flexible payment models; it has equipped more than 90K households with digital solutions and the funds raised will be used, in part, to expand operations to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Nithio FI, an AI-powered energy financing platform operational in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, announced that it raised $10M in debt financing from the US Development Finance Corporation — the funding is part of Nithio FI’s $23M round first announced in June; FSD Africa Investments (FSDAi), the investment arm of FSD Africa, and EDFI ElectriFI also participated in the round

  • Renewvia Energy, an American developer of standalone mini-grid and commercial solar solutions operational in Kenya and Nigeria, raised $10M from Claritas Capital — the funds will be used to expand Renewvia’s business in the US and Africa

  • WeBuyCars, South Africa’s largest online second-hand car platform, agreed to sell the remaining 25.1% stake it owns for an undisclosed amount to JSE-listed investment company Transaction Capital over a five-year period — Transaction Capital currently owns 74.9% of WeBuyCars and its previous stake increase in May valued the company at ~8.9x estimated 2021-21 earnings

  •, an Egyptian automotive marketplace, acquired Sa3ar Technology Solutions, a car valuation & auction platform, for an undisclosed amount — “This is just the first step in a series of investments which will be announced in due course,” according to Contact Financial CEO Saeed Zater

📚 Read of the Week

The African continent is moving into the driver’s seat of global demography and the urbanization megatrend, while perhaps underappreciated, has strong implications for innovators, policymakers, and various other actors.

“The explosive growth of African cities has the potential to alter the economic course of entire nations and subregions of the continent. … Despite the crucial importance of this topic to our global future, African urbanization attracts surprisingly little attention outside of the continent itself. … Currently, about 600 million people, or 50 percent of Africa, are urban residents, and that number will triple in the next 30 years, to 1.8 billion out of 2.5 billion Africans by 2050. … To be a front-row observer of such change is amazing.”

🥇 “African urbanization is a matter of global importance” by Howard French (interview of George Kankou Denkey)

📢 Afridigest is the industry newsletter for Africa’s startup ecosystem.

Share it with a colleague who’d find it valuable:


📚 Quick Hits
  • What you learn at a startup that grows from $0 to $7.75 Billion in 2 yearsHopin’s head of marketing shares the pandemic darling’s 19-step hypergrowth playbook and lessons on hyperscaling, management, hiring, being strategic, being lucky, and more

  • How behavioral science can boost your conversion ratesFour stories of conversion wins across a handful of companies and the behavioral science principles behind them, plus five behavioral design strategies one can immediately apply

  • The ultimate guide to running executive meetings — 25 Tips from top startup leadersDecide what’s the purpose of the meeting. Who is the audience? What do you want to get out of the meeting? Are you making decisions? Ensuring you’re all on the same page with priorities? Whatever the goals are, how do you design the experience to lead to those desired outcomes?

  • Tactical tips for startup financial modelingFinancial models help investors understand market size, how quickly the company can scale, and the assumptions around levers for growth, profitability, and financing; they are crucial tools for investors to build investment cases as they provide insight into core financial levers

  • Scaling to $100 Millionthe industry’s definitive benchmarking report on how cloud companies scale to $100M in ARR and beyond based on Bessemer’s over 200 cloud investments

  • Bad pattern recognitionQED’s Frank Rotman pens a Twitter thread on VC pattern recognition: The key is to know when to trust previous patterns and when to ignore them. Sometimes art needs to override science and intuition needs to override history


🙈 Visual of the week

“Africa holds over 20% of the Earth’s land area, more than China, Canada, and the US combined, and is home to about 16% of the world’s population. A majority of the African population is still unbanked and underbanked, presenting a breeding ground for neobanks to emerge and flourish.”

Source: African Neobanking: A Stellar And Steady Rise

🕵️‍♀️ In case you missed it
  • The Afrobility podcast discussed how 54Gene’s platform is building diverse datasets to improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes across Africa

  • The Nigerian fintech boom, by the numbers (Rest of World)

  • The unicorn founder roadmap: insights into African startup founders and the ecosystem (Antler blog)

  • Investors from Silicon Valley to China catch the African fintech bug (African Business)

  • A day in the life of an Ethiopian ride-hailing driver (Rest of World)

  • The gig economy’s next frontier: Africa (Mondato blog)

  • Fintech can become a force for renewable energy adoption (Quartz)

  • Quartz Africa Innovators 2021: Female innovators lead the way (Quartz)

  • Meet the Investor: Fabian Whate, Naspers Foundry (Disrupt Africa)

  • Meet the Investor: Maya Horgan Famodu, Ingressive Capital (Nairametrics)

🗣️ A final word

“Success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the undisciplined pursuit of more … [The] simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less.


Thanks for reading. And if you found this newsletter valuable, share it with a colleague. 🙌 

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