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The Rise Fund Leads $47.5m Series C for Cellulant

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The Rise Fund, a global impact investing fund managed by growth equity platform TPG Growth, has announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire a stake in Cellulant, a leading digital payments provider that reaches 40 million people across 11 African countries.

 

The Rise Fund is investing alongside Endeavor Catalyst and Satya Capital.

 

The deal is the largest of its kind dedicated solely to Africa’s fintech and payments space, competitively positioning Cellulant in a fast-growing sector where it already enjoys an early mover advantage.

 

“Across Africa, expanding easy-to-use and low cost mobile banking offers immense potential for impact, and Cellulant is at the leading edge of that work,” said Bill McGlashan, CEO and co-founder of The Rise Fund.

 

“We’re excited to invest in African entrepreneurs like Ken and Bolaji to help them grow their businesses and expand their impact on society. Cellulant is a perfect partner for The Rise Fund’s first investment in Africa.”

 

Cellulant’s digital payments platform delivers connected, flexible payment options for consumers and businesses, and works with financial institutions, governments and mobile network operators to increase transparency and expand their reach in Africa.

 

Building on a business model that first debuted in Kenya and Nigeria in 2004, the company has since expanded its services across 11 African markets, including: Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, and Liberia.

 

“Cellulant occupies a unique position in the fintech ecosystem in Africa, with the potential to offer increased access, savings, and income to tens of millions of users across the continent,” said Yemi Lalude, Managing Partner for TPG in Africa.

 

“As more and more smartphones come online across Africa, Cellulant makes it easy for customers to increase their incomes.”

 

Cellulant offers the opportunity to create transformational growth for African economies by expanding financial inclusion on a continent where nearly two-thirds of the population do not have a bank account.

 

This includes easy-to-access digital payment solutions, interoperable financial services, and mobile banking solutions that can help the unbanked open accounts, cut fees, and save for the future, as well as helping farmers and small and medium sized business owners expand their reach through improved financial services. More than 94% of Cellulant’s customer base was previously unbanked before they signed up.

 

“Payments in Africa are not a novelty. With two thirds of Africans unable to access a bank account, we believe that building a connected payments infrastructure is the foundation of solving real challenges and accelerating Africa’s growth and development. This investment from TPG Growth’s The Rise Fund will enable us to build a world class payments team that can unlock our next phase of growth. This involves not only entering new geographies across the continent, but also consolidating our presence in existing markets,” said Ken Njoroge, Cellulant co-founder and Group CEO.

 

“With this new capital and as part of our scaling up strategy, we are leveraging on the growing mobile penetration trend in Africa to broaden our reach and extend our payments ecosystem across the continent. We are scaling up our existing payments products in the agriculture sector, digital banking and internet payments; as well as introducing consumer-focused products to complement the enterprise products we already have. This will allow us to increase access to payments for the millions of Africans who are still unbanked, despite the financial inclusion revolution,” added Bolaji Akinboro, Cellulant co-founder and CEO of Cellulant Nigeria.

 

“We’re thrilled to have Endeavor Catalyst joining this round for Cellulant,” said Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor. “With Cellulant, Ken, Bolaji and team are building a great example of something we hope to see much more of in the years ahead: true ‘scale-ups’ in Africa!”

 

The Rise Fund, Satya Capital and Endeavor Catalyst join Cellulant’s existing shareholders Velocity Capital Private Equity, Progression Capital Africa Limited and TBL Mirror Fund. Representatives from The Rise Fund will also join Cellulant’s Board of Directors, leveraging the firm’s experience, deep sector knowledge, operational resources, and global experience to drive increased value creation for the business and its mission.

 

This investment will also help scale existing Cellulant products, like Agrikore. Agrikore is a mobile blockchain-based platform that has served more than 7 million farmers across the continent, better connecting them to the market and helping them sell their goods to a diverse range of buyers more easily. It also expands access to government subsidy programs to help reduce costs for farmers, increase their yields, and raise incomes

 

Magister Advisors served as transaction advisors to Cellulant, and Orrick and KPMG provided diligence and review to The Rise Fund.

 

 

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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E-Business

Opera in Race to Acquire Nigeria’s Telnet

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Telnet Nigeria Limited, the Nigerian technology conglomerate, is near closing a deal to sell stakes in its mobile money business subsidiary, Paycom to the maker of popular Opera Mini browser, Opera Software, according to Technology Times.

 

According to the reports Telnet and Opera will this month sign the dotted lines of an agreement by which the Nigerian technology company sells controlling stakes in its fully-owned Paycom to the browser maker. That is barring any last-minute change.

 

Opera has been in exclusive negotiations with Telnet on the acquisition hoped to extend the footprint of its mobile payment platform, OPay (Opera Pay) into the Nigerian market as part of its African expansion strategy, people conversant with the situation told Technology Times on condition of anonymity.

 

With the deal sealed, Nigeria will be the next African market for the rollout of the OPay payment platform developed by Opera to let users shop and pay for services and products through their mobile or web browser.

 

Talks between the two companies have shifted into higher gear after the operating licence of Paycom was renewed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the banking industry regulator that also oversees the mobile money sector.

 

Nigeria has issued licences to 21 companies to deliver mobile money services in the country and they have been directed to achieve a minimum capital base of N2 billion by CBN.

 

The banking industry regulator has also issued regulatory guidelines that defines the operating terrain rules as part of plans by the CBN towards “promoting a sound financial system in Nigeria.”

 

According to the CBN rules, Nigeria has adopted two models of mobile money services under which industry players operate:

 

The Bank-led Model: “This is a model where a bank either alone or a consortium of banks, whether or not partnering with other approved organizations, seek to deliver banking services, leveraging on the mobile payments system. This model shall be applicable in a scenario where the bank operates on stand-alone basis or in collaboration with other bank(s) and any other approved organization. The Lead Initiator shall be a bank or a consortium of banks.”

The Non-Bank led Model: “This model allows a corporate organization that has been duly licensed by the CBN to deliver mobile money services to customers. The Lead Initiator shall be a corporate organization (other than a deposit money bank or a telecommunication company) specifically licensed by the CBN to provide mobile money services in Nigeria.”

 

 

Meanwhile, the impending deal between Telnet and Opera is coming as the two entities are seen to be joining forces to advance Opera’s plans to extend its OPay platform into the Nigerian market by acquiring controlling stakes in Paycom.

 

PayCom Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Telnet, which was granted licence by the CBN in August 2011 to operate in the mobile payment sector recently had its licence renewed by the banking sector regulator, a development that was to complement progress towards a deal, according to a Technology Times source.

 

The indications of the closed deal comes one year after Opera, the developer of the most popular mobile browser in Africa, announced its plan to invest N3 billion ($100 million) across Africa over two years.

Opera last year unveiled an ambitious plan to deepen its stakes in the emerging African internet ecosystem where the technology company “is planning to seek local partners to integrate value-added services, mobile payment and data bundling into its browser product.”

 

Opera said at the time that the alliance with local partners “will grant consumers access to quality content and services, giving them the ability to transact more easily on their mobile devices. The range of services to be added over the next 12 months will create a content and services hub that will provide African users with a truly unique experience.”

 

As part of the N30 billion African investments plan, Opera said that it plans expanding with new offices across select cities including Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, and also hire 100 people for these offices over the next three years.

 

Nigeria’s Telnet is a technology industry pioneer and leading player that is reputable as a factory for successful spin-offs that counts the likes of companies like Interswitch, the e-payment market leader; IPNX, a frontline ISP in the country, iTeco, a leading network business, alongside Paycom, among

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NITDA Says MDAs Work in Silos, Neglect eGovernment

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Dr. Isa Pantami, Director General of NITDA

Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government in the country are operating in silos, thereby making nonsense of e-government policy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, directo-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has said.

 

Pantami, at the opening ceremony of the Stakeholders’ Engagement on Nigeria’s e-Government Interoperability Framework (Ne-GIF) in Abuja, said that ‘’Silo e-Government systems would not help government deliver public services efficiently. Advanced phases of service innovation cannot be achieved without integrating many back-office functions.

 

‘’For instance, registering a Limited Guarantee Company in Nigeria requires visit to at least three institutions: CAC, FIRS, and Attorney General of the Federation physically and/or through their portals. However, the Nigerian government is becoming more complex and wide-reaching than ever before and citizens believe and expect that public services must be delivered effectively and at speed. This is inefficient, inconvenient, time consuming and makes citizens pay more’’, Dr Pantami said.

 

He said through robust e-Government applications, it is possible to make the transactions and get the service delivered on a single portal, adding that citizen-centered service delivery involves breaking up silos, integrating across agencies, innovating new ways of doing business, and creating a service-focused culture.

 

According to him, it has been proven that one of the strategic directions for e-government is to adopt a Whole-of-Government (WoG) approach for deriving expected value from IT.

 

He said WoG involves back-end offices re-engineering, consolidation and integration of business processes across government agencies to deliver effective and consolidated services through the front-end offices at an affordable cost.

 

‘’WoG is a deliberate path to attain Government Digital Transformation (GDT) we desire. GDT views Government as an entity by promoting the idea of ONE GOVERNMENT but still respect individual MDA’s mandates while providing government digital services.

 

‘’Fundamentally, e-Government or digital service delivery has three models or approaches: Government-to-Government (G2G), Government-to-Business (G2B) and Government-to-Citizens (G2C).

 

‘’Transforming G2G is the foundation for providing efficient digital services. It enables and drives the other delivery models.

 

‘’However, the workability of any G2G is determined by the level of IT systems integration and standardization considering the social, institutional, legal, economic and political systems of a particular country.

 

‘’The main difficulty in achieving advanced G2G is the interoperability requirements of IT systems of various government agencies. For instance, compliance with Executive Order 001 requires advanced G2G,” he said.

 

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GSMA Welcomes GDPR, Raises Concerns Over Inconsistencies in Privacy Regulations

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The GSMA, which represents the interests of nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, who collectively serve more than 5 billion customers globally, welcomes the protection brought to consumers by Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

However, while this new regulation, which goes live on 25 May, strikes a balance between enabling industry to flourish and protecting the rights of individuals, mobile operators are deeply concerned by inconsistencies in the application of European privacy regulations that could risk consumers’ access to new communication services in the future.

John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, explains: “Consumers should rightfully celebrate the new protections the GDPR brings them.

The GDPR is driving up standards of responsible data governance, not only in the EU, but also around the world, stimulating efforts to find a common ground for data privacy.

“The more compatible data privacy laws are with each other, the faster we can move to a world where countries allow personal data to flow relatively freely between them.

Consumers’ ability to benefit fully from the next wave of innovation, built on technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), will depend on this unhindered flow of data between countries.

“However, the benefits of GDPR could easily be undermined if the current regulatory imbalance between the telecommunications industry and other players in the digital world is not resolved.

Telecom operators are still subject to additional obligations vis-à-vis other digital players imposed by the ePrivacy Directive.

When the European Council shortly decides on their position on the proposal to replace the current directive with an ePrivacy Regulation (ePR), we must not ignore the impact of the ePR on both existing and future services that are critical to Europe’s digital growth.

“The specific obligations imposed by the European Commission’s current proposal for the ePR would be detrimental to the mobile industry’s ability to innovate and invest in future technologies, such as 5G, the Internet of Things, AI and big data.

Data privacy regulation is essential, but fair competition and consumer protection require the consistent application of privacy regulations.

“The current ePR proposal only allows the use of communications metadata under very limited circumstances, which could prevent the legitimate, unobtrusive use of data across a number of sectors, negatively impacting society and the European economy.

In contrast, the generally applicable GDPR strikes a better balance between the ability to innovate and the protection of people’s personal data. Its principles should therefore also be applied to processing metadata to allow telecoms operators to equally compete in a responsible way with other market players in the digital value chain.

“Europe needs greater alignment between the ePR and the GDPR to support individuals’ fundamental rights, while permitting technological developments and spurring investment.

Otherwise, this lack of consistency in European privacy regulation could harm consumers’ interests in the long term by denying them the potential benefits of new communications services in the future.”

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