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Flutterwave and Ventures Platform CEOs will join us at Startup Battlefield Africa

Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa this December. TechCrunch will be hitting Lagos, Nigeria, bringing with it our Battlefield competition and a day’s worth of panel discussions, focused on topics facing the city’s startup scene. Iyin “E” Aboyeji We’ve already announced a pair of speakers for the event and and are excited to add a couple more to the list, bringing with them expertise on topics like VC funding and blockchain technology. Iyin “E” Aboyeji is the Founder and CEO of Flutterwave, a payment solution designed to transfer funds between Africa and abroad. The Lagos-based startup serves as a payment gateway for a number of high profile companies including Uber, TransferWise, booking.com and tuition platform, Flywire. In July of this year, Flutterwave rasied a $10 million Series A led by Greycroft Partners and Green Visor Capital. Other investors include Y Combinator, Omidyar Network, Social Capital, CRE Venture Capital and HOF Capital. Aboyeji will join us to discuss the potential of blockchain tech in Africa’s burgeoning startup scenes. Kola Aina Kola Aina is the CEO and founder of Ventures Platform, a Lagos-based VC firm focused on Africa. VP is among the largest accelerator/seed stage funders in the space with an eye toward solving local issues. In addition to serving as a Partner at the fund, Aina is also a mentor at World Bank Group and Google’s Launchpad Accelerator. We’ve got plenty more speakers to announce in the coming weeks. You can grab your tickets to the event here.

Hear about the keys to local investing at Startup Battlefield Africa with Omobola Johnson and Lexi Novitske

Omobola Johnson (Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 TechCrunch Startup Battlefield is returning to Africa in December, this time in Lagos, Nigeria. We will have a day-long program full of our flagship Battlefield competition highlighting the best startups that Africa has to offer. Not only that, we’ll have panel discussions designed to explore the continent’s rapidly developing technological infrastructure on the continent. To wit, I’m excited to announce the first two speakers who will don our stage with direct knowledge about investing Silicon Valley money in the local ecosystem. Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital and the former minister of communication technology for Nigeria. Her vast knowledge about the startup investing landscape comes from her 25-year tenure at Accenture where she served as the managing director. As ICT minister, she focused on the execution of the National Broadband Plan, as well as promoting government interest in local venture capital through the development of a fund and a network of startup incubators. And at Accenture, she advised numerous startups in various industries on how to become competitive and help to strengthen the tech landscape. Lexi Novitske Lexi Novitske is the principal investment officer for Singularity Investments where she is responsible for managing investments in the firm’s Africa portfolio. Novitske moved to Africa from the United States, having identified a unique approach to providing African startups with the capital necessary to thrive. Big surprise: It’s not just about writing a check and hoping for returns. It’s about understanding the complexities of the environment, modifying Western attitudes about business and working hard with your companies to ensure the best outcomes. Johnson and Novitske are just the beginning of what we have to offer at Battlefield Africa technology. Stay tuned for more announcements of great speakers and get your tickets before they sell out.

MallforAfrica goes global, Kobo360 and Sokowatch raise VC, France explains its $76M fund

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor Harley-Davidson to expand EV lineup, may include scooters, bicycles Sokowatch closes $2 million seed round to modernize Africa’s B2B retail B2B e-commerce company Sokowatch closed a $2 million seed investment led by 4DX Ventures. Others to join the round were Village Global, Lynett Capital, Golden Palm Investments and Outlierz  Ventures. The Kenya-based company aims to shake up the supply chain market for Africa’s informal retailers. Sokowatch’s platform connects Africa’s informal retail stores directly to local and multi-national suppliers — such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble — by digitizing orders, delivery and payments with the aim of reducing costs and increasing profit margins. “With both manufacturers and the small shops, we’re becoming the connective layer between them, where previously you had multiple layers of middle-men from distributors, sub-distributors, to wholesalers,” Sokowatch founder and CEO Daniel Yu told TechCrunch. “The cost of sourcing goods right now…we estimate we’re cutting that cost by about 20 percent [for] these shopkeepers,” he said. “There are millions of informal stores across Africa’s cities selling hundreds of billions worth of consumer goods every year,” said Yu. These stores can use Sokowatch’s app on mobile phones to buy wares directly from large suppliers, arrange for transport and make payments online. “Ordering on SMS or Android gets you free delivery of products to your store, on average, in about two hours,” said Yu. Sokowatch generates revenues by earning “a margin on the goods that we’re selling to shopkeepers,” said Yu. On the supplier side, they also benefit from “aggregating demand…and getting bulk deals on the products that we distribute.” The company recently launched a line of credit product to extend working capital loans to platform clients. With the $2 million round, Sokowatch — which currently operates in Kenya and Tanzania — plans to “expand to new markets in East Africa, as well as pilot additional value add services to the shops,” said Yu. MallforAfrica and DHL launched MarketPlaceAfrica.com: a global e-commerce site for select African artisans to sell wares to buyers…

CowryWise micro-savings service opens high-yield government bonds to everyday Nigerians

In emerging market countries where economic volatility is a way of life, there aren’t a lot of relatively safe options for members of the burgeoning middle class to park their money. For instance, countries like Nigeria have experienced a tremendous growth in the number of citizens entering the middle class, which now accounts for about 23 percent of the population (it’s around 50 percent in the U.S.), according to a recent article citing the African Development Bank. While Nigeria now faces some significant headwinds from a weak domestic currency (the naira), high interest rates and a manufacturing recession, there are ways that local investment can both protect the wealth that’s been created and encourage investment domestically to potentially spur development. At least, that’s the conclusion that college friends Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola came to while they were thinking about opportunities for new financial services options in their home country of Nigeria. The two men, Ahmed with a background in finance and Popoola in computer science, are launching a company called CowryWise that gives Nigerian investors a way to save their money by investing in high-yield government bonds. The rates on those products are high enough to absorb the wild swings in value of the naira and still provide a healthy return for investors, according to Ahmed. Set to present at this year’s demo day from Y Combinator, CowryWise is one of a number of startups that Y Combinator has backed coming from the African continent, and an example of the wellspring of entrepreneurial talent that is flourishing in sub-Saharan Africa. Using CowryWise, a customer would just have to sign up with their email address and phone number and link their bank account up to the CowryWise platform. There are already roughly 57 million savings accounts in Nigeria and 32 million unique bank users. By investing in the bonds, these savers gain access to interest rates that range between 10 percent and 17 percent, according to Ahmed. “The bonds… are similar to the treasuries issued by the U.S. government, which is A-rated,” says Ahmed. Even if there were foreign currency…

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