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VIDEO PREVIEW: Kigali 2020 Africa Tech Summit

Izunna Okpala

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Africa Tech Summit returns to Kigali, Rwanda on February 4-6th 2020. The third ATS will once again provide unrivalled insight, networking and business opportunities for African and international tech leaders and investors who want to do business in Africa.

Following on from last year’s Africa Tech Summit (ATS) which connected more than 500 decision-makers representing 345 companies from 45 countries, the 2020 edition will host three tracks.

The Money and Blockchain Summit The Africa Start-up Summit and The Future Summit which will drive interaction and a future line of sight across Fintech; Blockchain; Start-ups; Crypto: Innovation: Payments and Credit; AI; Mobility; Cloud and IoT; Connectivity; Investing; Mobile and Content; Tech & Talent; Future Trends; mCommerce; mHealth; EdTech; Drones; AgriTech; VR; Digital Media; Legal Tech, Policy and Regulation and much more.

Each Summit will explore the latest trends, connect 600+ digital leaders, tech corporates, MNO’s, banks, investors, regulators, start-ups, creatives media and leading tech ventures from across Africa over an action-packed three days of insight, networking and entertainment.

Inventions

Paga Nigeria acquires Apposit, announces its expansion in Mexico and Ethiopia

Izunna Okpala

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Nigerian online payment startup Paga has acquired Apposit, an Ethiopian-based software development firm, for an undisclosed amount.

That is just part of the news from Paga. The startup based in Lagos will also launch its payment products in Mexico this year.

The moves come a little over a year after Paga raised a $10 million Series B round and Oviosu announced the company’s intent to expand globally, while speaking at Disrupt San Francisco.

Paga will use Apposit — incorporated in the United States but based in Addis Ababa — to support its expansion into East Africa and Latin America.

Repat founders

There is a story behind the acquisition woven with whimsy, return and collaboration. Repatriate entrepreneurs had established both Paga and Apposit. Oviosu completed his MBA at the University of Stanford and worked at Cisco Systems before returning to Nigeria.

Apposit CEO Adam Abate moved back to Ethiopia 17 years ago for an assignment in the country’s Ministry of Finance, after studying at Brown University and working in fintech in New York.

“I put together a team…to build…public financial management systems for the country. And during the process…brought in my best friend Eric Chijioke…to be a technical engineer,” said Abate.

The two teamed up in 2007 to co-found Apposit with Simon Solomon, with a focus on building large-scale enterprise software for Africa.

Oviosu met Chijioke a year later when he crashed in his home while preparing for a wedding in Ethiopia. It just happened that Chijioke’s brother had been his Stanford roommate.

That meeting started an extended conversation in Africa between the two on innovation in digital finance, which eventually led to a 2010 Paga collaboration with Apposit.

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Nigeria’s Rensource raises $20 million to fuel solar markets in Africa

Izunna Okpala

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A $20 million Series Around co-led by CRE Venture Capital and the Omidyar network has been raised by Nigerian company Rensource Energy.

The renewable energy company is building and running solar-powered micro-installations that provide electricity to commercial community facilities, such as open-air bazaars.

The startup, which was launched in 2016, modified its business strategy. “We’ve been pivoting away from a residential focus … and we’re developing much larger systems to basically become the utility in Nigeria for these large urban markets,” said Ademola Adesina, co-founder of Rensource.

The company has an alliance with BOS AG, a German manufacturer, with whom it creates customized panels for use. For its software-related programs, Rensource also has developer teams in Nigeria and Europe.

The startup plans to sell them B2B services in addition to becoming a micro-energy provider to the diverse SME groups in Nigeria. Rensource is introducing its Spaces Offline to Online Supply Chain Services Project with the $20 million round, offering business analytics and options for working capital.

“It’s a platform for mini-ERP. We’re trying to bring a world of banked people, but … yet offline — their goods are offline, they’re monitoring nothing, and there’s no data behind their business — online,” Adesina said.

Rensource Africa Nigeria App

The value Rensource aims to bring to Nigeria’s small and medium-sized businesses at a profit for itself is to minimize overhead costs through better business practices and free them from generator bane.

Cross-market generators in West Africa are like an unexpected but essential business partner, noisy, fuel-guzzling and pollution-producing generators.

Nigeria’s lack of affordable and reliable electricity creates a huge economic and opportunity cost to the largest economy in Africa.

The West African nation, with a 200 million population greater than Russia, is roughly the size of Texas, producing fewer gigawatt hours of electricity each year than the U.S. state of Connecticut.

Nigerian companies (and citizens) adapt by spending on diesel fuel and generators to fix these power shortages.

Nigeria’s 2019 study from the IMF cited $29 billion in economic losses in Nigeria due to inadequate supply of electricity. Nigeria ranked 169 out of 190 countries in the “Having Electricity” category in the global Doing Business rankings.

This difficulty and cost weighs particularly heavy on Nigeria (and the continent’s) SMEs, which often operate in Africa’s informal economy — projected to be one of the largest off-the grid commercial spaces in the world.

Rensource Solar Nigeria AfricaThe micro-utility model of Rensource deploys power clusters — consisting of solar panels, batteries and a power management network — adjacent to markets and business hubs. The demand for energy is not completely clean, as the company also uses its own diesel backup system.

Rensourse used this model to become an off-grid energy supplier in six Nigerian states, and operated the Sabon Gari market— one of the largest in the country, located in northern Kano State.

According to Adesina, the company is planning to grow to 100 markets in Nigeria and other African countries within 24 months.

Rensource generates revenue from regular, weekly or monthly fees charged to merchants. “We made a couple of hundred thousand dollars in revenue in 2017. We’ve made around $7 million in revenue last year, and this year we’re going to do better than that,” said Adesina.

According to Adesina, the company did not release official reports, but produced a small profit last year. He called the introduction of more of his micro-use to new markets and the diversification of services as the road to sustainability in the long term.

Rensource differentiates itself from many home-kit solar energy startups in Africa, such as M-Kopa, by becoming a renewable energy utility at scale.

ademola adesina rensource

The CEO of the startup sees the company as a classic leapfrog tech business, essentially bypassing the deficient electricity grid in Nigeria and offering a less capital-intensive alternative to massive (and often complicated) energy infrastructure projects.

Rensource is also following a trend by some Nigeria-based startups, such as trucking-logistics company Kobo360 and motorcycle ride-hail company Gokada, to shape a suite of additional services around the needs of core clients.

In Rensource’s case, those clients are SMEs and traders in the informal economy. “This informality of theirs is what we see as an opportunity in building this new business line and bringing these [merchants] into the online world,” said Adesina.

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Digital currency may be on the Ghana’s Central Bank cards

Izunna Okpala

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A digital currency – the e-cedi – could soon be introduced by Ghana’s Central Bank. Speaking at this week’s annual banking conference, Bank of Ghana Governor Ernest Addison announced the bank is in talks to explore the digital currency’s future.

He said, “The Bank is also discussing the possibility of issuing an e-cedi in the near future with key stakeholders to explore a pilot project on digital currency in the central bank.”

“The modern age offers the financial sector enormous potential to reorient itself to meet new consumer and business demands for financial services.” According to Addison, growth potential is evident; “Mobile money transaction volumes increased from 982 million to 1,4 billion between 2017 and 2018.”

This is an unprecedented move by a central bank. The rise of ‘digital currency’ has been known to central banks, particularly of the blockchain nature as they make them useless. Certain types of digital money, such as mobile cash, have led policymakers to be behind legislation and to catch up playing.

But this would seem that the central bank of Ghana is interested in being a trendsetter–not just on the continent, but worldwide.

“The digital age provides the financial sector with enormous potential to reorient itself to meet the new demands for financial services from consumers and businesses,” Addison concludes.

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