Afridigest Week in Review: Wakanda forever, but for education
+Reward efford, not outcomes +Future of informal retail in Africa +Today's hype cycle +Short not long tail +The future of mobile money agents in Africa +MTN's women CEOs +Raising a VC fund +More
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 26 2022: June 26 - July 2
📰 Deal of the Week
EDUCATION + ENTERTAINMENT = EDUTAINMENT
Kukua, a Kenyan kids-focused ‘edutainment’ & media platform, raised a $6M Series A co-led by Tencent and Italy’s Alchimia Investments, with participation from EchoVC, firstminute Capital, Auxxo Female Catalyst, and others. EchoVC led the firm’s $2.5M seed round in 2018. 😊
About Kukua: Founded in 2015, Kukua is, strictly speaking, an edtech platform that empowers African children with basic literacy and numeracy skills. More than that though, it’s an entertainment- & fun-first education platform, underpinned by ‘Super Sema’ — its original, character-driven African animated superhero(ine) franchise.
Its goal is to take full advantage of its IP to build an interactive, learning-focused, Disney-like universe that will include a suite of licensing, merchandising, and publishing offerings and perhaps even a foray into the metaverse. See, for example, its three Sema-related gaming apps.
In the Founders’ words: “When I started this, we saw there were no African characters and very few that were just Black. So, we thought this was a much-needed space, not only for kids in Africa but globally. […] It’s for kids to feel represented and…to understand different cultures and themes. We’ve always seen our target audience as global. We [want] this to be a mega success in Africa and the rest of the world. [Our goal is] to be the Disney of learning and leverage all the latest media and technologies to create engaging experiences for our users.” — Lucrezia Bisignani
The Wakanda effect: In Kukua’s early days, investors were apparently unconvinced of the market potential and global appeal of Africa-centric franchises. That is, until the February 2018 release of Black Panther — the film was a runaway success, grossing ~$1.4B worldwide. (Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever is coming this November by the way — get your popcorn ready 🍿)
Traction: After the undeniable widespread appeal of Black Panther, Youtube acquired Super Sema’s distribution rights and launched the first season of the series — executive produced by Lupita Nyong’o — in March 2021. The show’s second season was also greenlit by YouTube Originals and is currently running.
Since 2021, the Super Sema YouTube channel has garnered over 40 million views and the show received an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Animated Series.
While the vast majority of the show’s Youtube viewers are based in the US, the UK, and Kenya (60% in the US alone), the Super Sema show also airs on Citizen TV in Kenya and SABC in South Africa — with efforts to air the show on more TV stations across the continent underway.
Super Sema licensing deals for toys (with Just Play), publishing (with Penguin Random House and Bendon), and apparel (with Bentex) have also been announced in recent times. (And, for what it’s worth, Lupita Nyong’o is also a Kukua shareholder.)
Lucrezia ‘Lulu’ Bisignani, Kukua Founder & CEO
Vanessa Ford, Kukua COO
Claudia Lloyd, Kukua Producer & Creative Director (4x BAFTA winner)
Paolo Barletta, Partner at Alchimia Investments
Marcello Tedeschi, Head of Strategy and Business Development at Alchimia Investments & Kukua Board Member
In the investor’s words: “Kukua is one of those companies in the world that everyone wants to see succeed. We’ve been part of their growth journey from the first day and are thrilled to continue to support their world-class team, inspired by the positive impact we can have on an entire generation of kids.” — Paolo Barletta
Dive deeper: Watch the March 2016 early field testing of learning game Sema in Nairobi here and watch the 2021 Super Sema holiday special (now at over 1.8M views) below:
🔦 Other deals
OTHER FUNDRAISES ACROSS THE CONTINENT
🇿🇦 Sava, a South African spend management platform for SMEs, raised a $2M pre-seed from Quona Capital, Breega, CRE Ventures, Ingressive Capital, RaliCap, Unicorn Growth Capital and Sherpa Ventures
🇸🇳 Afrikamart, a Senegalese agritech platform digitizing the fresh food value chain, raised an $850K seed round from BLOC Smart Africa (managed by Bamboo Capital Partners), Orange Digital Ventures, Launch Africa and Teranga Capital
🇲🇱 OKO, a Malian crop insurance platform, raised a $500K seed extension round from the Katapult accelerator and others
🇳🇬 Seso Global, a Nigerian blockchain-based platform for real estate transactions, raised an undisclosed amount from EMURGO Africa, Adaverse, Columbus Angel Network, Moabi Group, Rising Tide, Kepple Africa Ventures, and others
🇳🇬 Touch and Pay, a Nigerian NFC-enabled payments platform, raised an undisclosed amount from Tekedia Capital
Nigerian 'mobility fintech' platform Moove raised $20M in debt from British DFI British International Investment (formerly the CDC Group)
Egyptian fintech-led super app MNT-Halan announced that its wholly-owned microfinance subsidiary Tasaheel securitized ~$150M of its loan book with Commercial International Bank (CIB), Egypt’s largest private sector bank
Okra Solar, an Australian provider of off-grid renewable energy solutions in the Philippines, Haiti, Cambodia, and Nigeria, raised $3M from Singapore’s SDGx, Schneider Electric Energy Access, Autodesk Foundation, Explorer Investments, and Didendum — Okra Solar CEO Afnan Hannan said the funding “will be used to scale up commercial operations and product development in Nigeria” and Haiti
FirstCheck Africa, a gender-lens, early-stage VC firm, added a $2M commitment from TLcom Capital to its $10M debut fund
Futuregrowth, a South African fixed-income money manager with ~$12 billion in total AUM, announced its intention to launch the Futuregrowth High Growth Development Equity Fund (HGDEF), a fund targeting early-stage tech companies “with a strong developmental impact” — Via other funds, Futuregrowth’s portfolio currently includes Yoco, Ozow, Mobiz, hearX, and Lifecheq
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📚 Quick hits
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE
Sundar Pichai: Reward effort, not outcomes — A full transcript of the discussion between the Google/Alphabet CEO and a Stanford GSB MBA student: “One of the counterintuitive things is companies become more conservative as they grow. You have a lot more cash. You have a lot more resources. But [you] tend to become more conservative in [your] decision-making…. So a lot of scaling is about making sure you preserve the good things you had in the early days. And that gets harder as the company becomes bigger.”
The future of traditional retail in Africa — BCG partners share the results of a study of 4,500 small retailers in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa: "Despite the advance of supermarkets, convenience stores, and other modern formats, African consumers on average continue to buy more than 70% of their food, beverages, and personal care products from the continent’s more than 2.5 million small, independent shops... Traditional retailers not only are the cornerstones of African economies today but will also constitute the core of the region’s future commercial landscape."
Hype is a weaponized form of optimism— “Earlier waves of hype, such as the one that accompanied the dot-com boom of the 1990s, were grounded in fundamental technological advances. The current moment is different: New technologies simply aren’t making our lives much more efficient or making our economy that much better. We appear to be living in an unproductive bubble…One way to cut through the hype is to look at market sizes, a measure of total revenue generated by sales in a given industry.…Today’s much-hyped technologies do not compare favorably at all.”
Where did the ‘long tail’ go? — “The Long Tail was sold to us as an economic law… But it never happened. More to the point, it was never going to happen because the story was a fairy tale… We live in a Short Tail society. And it’s getting shorter all the time.”
Africa’s mobile money agents face an uncertain future — The Economist writes that mobile money agents across Africa are at risk as 1) rising competition leads to lower earnings per agent and 2) fewer cash-outs mean “the role of agents diminishes.” But the article ignores the growing opportunity for agents beyond mobile money.
Pair with last year’s Afridigest piece: How offline agent networks are driving Africa's digital development
In defense of Pay-As-You-Go — a16z’s Justin Kahl and Alex Immerman on usage/consumption/transaction-based pricing in fintech
Where does AI go next? — Greylock’s Asheem Chandna on the future of artificial intelligence
The 1-day strategy sprint: framework, process, and tools — useful framework from Insight Partners
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🕵️♀️ In case you missed it
NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
ESSAYS & REPORTS
Mercy Corps Ventures’ Scott Onder writes ‘Fintech, crypto, and financial inclusion in Africa’
Terragon’s Elo Umeh and his coauthors write ‘Disrupting the future of marketing in Africa’
Adam Molai, founder of TRT Investments, writes ‘While Africa does have many entrepreneurs, are they the right kind?’
The Duplo team published the report, ‘The state of B2B payments in Africa’
The AI Media Group South Africa team published the report, ‘The State of AI in Africa’
15 years of M‑Pesa’s evolution: An interview with Sitoyo Lopokoiyit (McKinsey)
How to pump red blood into Africa’s blockchain veins (Disruption Banking)
A look into British DFI BII’s plan to invest in African economies, venture funds, and tech startups (TechCrunch)
OTHER MEDIA: PODCASTS & VIDEO
Aruwa Capital’s Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes discussed whether African start-ups sustain trends in VC funding on CNBC Africa’s Closing Bell [Video]
Femi Kuti, Reliance Health CEO, discusses gaps in Africa's healthcare industry on FFA’s African Pre-Seed podcast
Craig Newborn, CEO of PayJustNow, discusses BNPL in South Africa on the BusinessDay Spotlight podcast
🐤 Tweets of the Week
This week we highlight tweets from outside the African startup/tech ecosystem.
Here, Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster shares a relevant thread (in light of recent Kune discussions)
And Untapped Capital’s Yohei Nakajima provides an inside look at raising a VC fund in this thread
And the CEO of Remote.com shares tips on asynchronous and remote management
🗣️ Community Corner, Opportunities, & Suggestions
⭐ Afridigest has thousands of driven and intellectually curious readers like you across the world — and furthering our mission means connecting you to each other, you can help by completing this quick survey
Femi Kuti and the Reliance Health team are looking for a Chief of Staff focused on investor relations and special projects — MBAs & strategy consultants welcome
A portfolio company of Kola Aina’s Ventures Platform is looking for a Head of Investment / Chief Investment Officer
Chris Maclay and the Jobtech Alliance are hiring Venture Building Managers and other roles in Lagos and Nairobi
Congrats to the PiggyVest founding team on their selection as Endeavor Entrepreneurs
Yinka Adegoke and the Rest of World team are holding a live event in Nairobi on July 14 — register here
Jessica Hope and the Wimbart team are hosting the 4th edition of Wimbart office hours, a free PR mentorship and business support program for early-stage startups — apply here
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