Kenyan insurtech Lami raises $3.7M seed extension led by Harlem Capital

Right from the launch of its first product in 2020, Kenyan insurtech Lami Technologies set out to increase insurance penetration in Kenya and the rest of Africa. It began on this path by building and distributing an end-to-end digital insurance platform and API that allowed businesses in different sectors to create tailored insurance solutions for their customers. 

With its API platform gaining ground in the insurance space, the startup is also planning to provide tech solutions that will digitize agents and brokers too, helping them streamline their operations — to reach a wide customer base and sell online. These plans also include enabling the digitization of traditional insurers as innovation continues to shape the industry. 

Speaking to Techcrunch, Lami’s founder and CEO Jihan Abass further announced plans to offer additional insurance product lines, while also revealing that the startup has made an entry into Egypt and Nigeria. All this against the backdrop of a $3.7 million seed extension raised in a round led by Harlem Capital — which invests in minority and women founders. 

Other investors that participated in the round include early-stage VC firm Newtown Partners, Peter Bruce-Clark (a partner at New York’s research-driven venture capital company Social Impact Capital), Caribou Honig and Jay Weintraub of InsureTech Connect (a networking platform for insurtech innovators) and senior members from Exotix Advisory, a corporate finance and mergers and acquisition boutique focused on emerging markets. The latest funding adds to the $1.8 million seed funding the insurtech raised last year. 

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Kenya commences shipment of fresh avocados to Chinese market

The first batch of fresh avocados grown in Kenya and destined for the Chinese market was flagged off Tuesday at a ceremony attended by senior government officials, diplomats, and industry executives.

The first batch of fresh avocados grown in Kenya and destined for the Chinese market was flagged off Tuesday at a ceremony attended by senior government officials, diplomats, and industry executives. 

Kenya became the first African country to export fresh avocados to China in a move set to further boost the economic ties between the two countries. 

David Osiany, the chief administrative secretary of the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, said that by exporting fresh avocados to China, Kenya's foreign exchange earnings were set to spike and unleash economic vitality in the country. 

"The export of fresh avocados to China is a monumental feat that will boost our economy and benefit key players across the avocado value chain including farmers," said Osiany. 

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Kenya Power to set up electric car charging hubs September

Kenya Power will, from next month, start constructing electric charging systems for homes, businesses and the public across the country as the shift to clean transport gathers momentum. 

The State-owned power utility is seeking a firm to build an e-mobility network infrastructure system (ENIS) in Nairobi and Nakuru to pilot the charging stations. 

Kenya, like the rest of the world, is pushing for clean mobility to reduce environmental pollution from fossil fuels, placing Kenya Power at the centre of the shift due to the need for electricity supplies for motorists. 

The State utility has floated tender inviting bidders who will build the infrastructure that will also allow customers to pay via M-Pesa and credit like in the traditional fueling stations. 

Clean mobility is fast gathering pace in Kenya, with several companies already piloting electric-powered buses and motorcycles, placing Kenya Power at the centre given the need for electricity supplies. 

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Italian Firm Eni Commences Production Of First Kenyan Vegetable Oil

Italian multinational oil and gas company, Eni has commenced production of the first Kenyan vegetable oil for bio-refineries at its oilseed collection and pressing plant in Makueni. 

The agrihub will have an installed capacity of 15,000 tons with an expected production of 2,500 tons in 2022. 

“This project embodies all the pillars of Eni’s approach to sustainability. The carbon neutrality, as bio- refining is an important element in our path to zero emissions by 2050,” said Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni. 

The agri-hub will process castor, croton and cottonseeds to extract vegetable oil. 

The facility will also produce feed and bio-fertilizers derived from the protein component of the seeds for the benefit of livestock and food production, contributing to food security. The center will also work as a training and technical support hub for farmers. 

Eni Kenya, its supply chain and all agri-feedstocks developed have been certified under the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC-EU) sustainability scheme, one of the main voluntary standard recognized by the European commission for biofuel certification (RED II). 

Notably, Eni is the first company in the world to certify castor and croton for biofuel use under the ISCC-EU scheme and has also enabled an African cotton mill to achieve such certification standard for the first time, offering new market opportunities to local farmers for the fiber. 

The first phase of the project in Kenya includes the construction of a second agri-hub to reach a total capacity of 30,000 tons per year of vegetable oil in 2023, as well as the development of associated agricultural supply chains. 

The startup of the production in Kenya represents the first step in Eni’s agro-industrial chain initiatives. 

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Kenyan construction tech startup Jumba raises $1m pre-seed round

Kenya’s Jumba, a tech startup working to rationalise the construction supply chain in Africa, has raised a US$1 million pre-seed funding round to build a digital business-to-business platform for the predominantly offline construction sector.

Launched in April, Jumba creates efficiencies in the construction materials supply chain by connecting manufacturers to hardware stores. Hardware store owners who place orders through Jumba’s platform benefit from standardised pricing, product selection and reliable delivery.  

“The market has been very receptive to us. We are currently available in Nairobi, and have begun our expansion to Garissa, Nakuru, Njoro and other urban centers across Kenya. We are expanding our work with suppliers to improve the availability of construction materials in Kenya and in East Africa,” said Jumba co-founder and CEO Kagure Wamunyu. 

The startup’s US$1 million pre-seed round was raised from investors including Enza Capital, Seedstars International Ventures, Chandaria Capital, Future Africa, Logos Ventures and First Check Africa, as well as several angel investors, among them startup founders and industry experts.  

“Africa’s populations are rapidly growing and increasingly urbanising, and the construction industry is a core economic engine supporting sustainable growth Across Africa. In a US$10 trillion industry yet to be reshaped by technology, we are thrilled to be backing Kagure and this exceptional team building Jumba,” said Mike Mompi, managing partner at Enza Capital. 

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In Nairobi, two TotalEnergies stations will collect electronic waste

With Kenya generating 3,000 tonnes of electronic waste every year, TotalEnergies' Ngong Road and Gigiri service stations will collect used appliances from households in the capital Nairobi. The initiative, led by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Centre, comes on the heels of the enactment of the new Sustainable Waste Management Act in the East African country.  

In Kenya, people can now drop off their used appliances (televisions, computers, smartphones, cables, etc.) at TotalEnergies’ service stations in Ngong Road and Gigiri, near Nairobi. This is part of a partnership between the French oil group and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Centre based in Utawala in Nairobi. 

 “More than 50% of diseases today are related to e-waste and industrial chemicals. We are doing the right thing, not just for Kenya, but for the world,”says Tom Musili, the chairman of the WEEE centre’s board. Once the end-of-life devices are dropped off at TotalEnergies’ service stations, the centre will destroy the data and magnetic fields from the equipment using “internationally approved” software. 

Sustainable development in focus 

By accepting the collection of electronic hutocktterwaste in Kenya, TotalEnergies wishes to reinforce its sustainable development policy in East Africa. The French group also announced that it would be donating recycled computers to several schools in the region. “TotalEnergies’ commitment is to work with like-minded partners such as the WEEE Centre. Our partnership aims to provide a safe, responsible and environmentally friendly way to dispose of e-waste, especially through consumer awareness,” says Eric Franchini, TotalEnergies’ Managing Director in Kenya. 

Parallel initiatives are also underway in Kenya. This is the case of an operation aimed at collecting, decommissioning, transporting, storing and recycling electronic waste launched by the Kenyan subsidiary of the Indian telecommunications company Bharti Airtel in Nairobi. The initiative targets household appliances containing motherboards, batteries, screens and cables. Ultimately, it will enable Airtel Kenya to minimise the environmental impact of its operations and products in use, with the help of the WEEE Centre. 

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Kenya, Seychelles sign ten cooperation agreements

Kenya and Seychelles on Monday signed ten cooperation agreements following high-level talks led by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Seychellois counterpart Wavel Ramkalawan in Victoria. 

The Kenyan President arrived in Seychelles on Sunday for an official three-day visit. 

According to the Seychellois presidency, Kenyatta and Ramkalawan's discussions centered on how their two countries can further enhance their bilateral cooperation and agreements on matters of tourism, maritime and security, capacity building in various sectors, health, agriculture, sports, economic progress, and trade as well investment. 

Seychelles' Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde, and Kenya's Cabinet Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, signed the agreements concerning Defense, mutual assistance on criminal matters, Blue Economy, Memorandum of Understanding for peace, security and law enforcement at sea, maritime affairs, tourism development, agriculture, livestock and cooperative sectors, security and crime combatting, sports, promotion on partnership on gender equality and promoting women economic empowerment. 

"Our meeting in Seychelles testifies to the importance we place on the relationship between our two countries. It is an opportunity to give a new impetus to the Seychelles-Kenya relations. President Kenyatta and I had excellent discussions this morning. First of all, we reminded ourselves of the bonds of history and personal friendship that unite our two peoples. Seychellois and Kenyans have known each other like forever," said President Ramkalawan. 

He also expressed his wish for Kenya to consider establishing an Honorary Consulate in Seychelles. 

On his part, President Kenyatta commended the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the two nations for putting together the agreements that were signed which outlined the avenues to be explored to enable Kenya and Seychelles to fully maximize and further solidify their existing ties. 

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Kenya-based aquaculture tech Victory Farms nets $5M funding to expand into new markets

Victory Farms, an aquaculture startup and farm for tilapia fish comprising hatcheries, nursery ponds and deep-water cages, has raised $5 million in new funding.

The investment was led by Ed Brakeman, a senior managing director at Bain Capital and Hans den Bieman, founder and ex-CEO of Mowi, one of the largest salmon businesses globally.

It is the startup’s first institutional investment following seven internal angel rounds from the same set of equity–and debt investors (it raised $4 million in debt last year). This funding will allow the Kenyan-based company to expand its business into Rwanda, DRC and Tanzania.

Joseph Rehmann founded Victory Farms in 2015. On a call with TechCrunch, Rehmann narrated his journey to starting the company. After completing his MBA program, he got to work on a three-month aquacultural project in Ghana, which ultimately led to a three-year role where he became CFO of an Accra-based farm.

“I learnt a lot about aquaculture scaling and all that. I believed the platform I was running could be a lot bigger and scale a lot faster if we could connect more dots — and basically creating an end to end protein plant,” said Rehmann, who has worked for an investment bank and Microsoft.

In 2015, Rehmann teamed up with his longtime business partner Steve Moran to explore Lake Victoria and perform some feasibility studies on how they could use technology to disrupt the country’s cold chain markets.

They concluded that a unique opportunity to rebuild the fish value chain from scratch existed. They raised an angel round to start Victory Farms before launching in mid-2016 to serve a market with about a $1.5 billion fish deficit.

The average Kenyan only consumes about 10-20% of animal protein intake, most of which is red meat. With a large fish deficit and retail prices reaching $5 per kilo, Victory Farm says it uses technology to produce more fish and drive down costs simultaneously for the thousands of market women who buy fish in small batches to cook and sell in local food markets.

“We run a tech-enabled platform and have scaled 2x faster than any other African fish company. And using data, we have built the most efficient operation globally at half the capex of current global leader,” Rehmann told TechCrunch via email. “We sell to mass market Africans via a high innovative RTM cold chain which uses predictive data to push fish to thousands of market ladies every day all across Kenya with less than 1% spoilage.”

The company has more than 54 retail locations where over 15,000 market women go to buy fish, and according to Rehmann, they use no electricity nor ice.

“We use vertical integration to drive a more robust data set from end to end,” he said. “This allows us to innovate and create more cost-effective solutions through our systems and the power of data to deliver a better, fresher product to more consumers.”

Victory Farms claims to have one of the highest margin structures in the fishing industry globally due to its technology. The company recorded a 130% CAGR between 2017 to 2021. Maintaining this growth rate can exude utmost confidence. In Victory Farms’ case, Rehmann believes there are no significant competitors to the company — which also has a processing plant and distribution network — in Kenya and the larger East African region.

“We’re growing so much faster than them (the competition) that we don’t see this as a competitive playing field. The real competitor for us is hunger and consumers not being able to have an affordable protein option,” he said.

But from a global perspective, Rehmaan touts Zurich-based Regal Springs as a bigger player. However, Victory Farms could surpass Regal Springs in the next five years to become “the largest end-to-end tilapia platform” globally if its expansion into new geographies takes off as planned, the CEO argued.

As much as Victory Farms is profit and growth-oriented, Rehmann said it is worth highlighting that the company is working toward becoming the world’s most sustainable tilapia platform. “We’ve got several initiatives underway and planned to build the world’s first carbon negative fish platform. And I think it’s very exciting because we’ve got a lot of tangible and measurable dimensions built into the business to achieve that.”

Update: Correction was made with regards to Victory Farms’ debt funding last year. It was $4 million not $40 million.

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Kenyan Software Startup Bamba Secures $3.2M Seed Funding

Enterprise software startup Bamba secured $3.2 million in a seed funding round led by 468 Capital with participation from Presight Ventures, Jigsaw VC and angel investors Mato Peric, Leonard Stiegeler, Laurin Hainy and Thomas Stafford.

The startup is based in Nairobi, Kenya and builds mobile-first enterprise software for micro-merchants in Africa. Founded in 2022 by CEO Bastian Gotter, Bamba is currently in stealth mode and plans to use the fresh capital to enhance its app and grow its engineering team. Funds will also be earmarked for expanding its user base across 12 sub-Saharan African countries.

“We truly believe entrepreneurship is essential to prosperity, so we make running a small business easier by building mobile-first small business software for Africa. This investment allows us to scale the platform, the team and gives us access to insights from our high caliber of investment partners,” Gotter said in a press release emailed to PYMNTS on Wednesday (May 18).

Bamba’s tools enable small merchants to manage their customers, record stocks, receive and make payments, and access cash advances against future cash flow.

Ludwig Ensthaler, partner at 468 Capital, said the company believes there are a lot of investment opportunities in Africa in the enterprise software space focusing on micro and small businesses. These opportunities are “significant and remain largely untapped.”

“We believe that Bamba is well placed with a great product and a solid founder to build a category-defining company,” Ensthaler added.

“We appreciate entrepreneurs that build novel solutions that push boundaries and are thrilled to support Bamba’s potential impact across the small businesses ecosystem in Africa,” said Fabian Hansen, investor with Presight Ventures.

A recent study on African entrepreneurs showed that the percentage of working-age adult entrepreneurs was higher in Africa than anywhere else in the world, PYMNTS reported.

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Kenya Emerges Top With Most Innovative Companies in Africa

Kenya has once again shown its prowess in the technology industry after trouncing all its continental peers, proving it has the most competitive environment for start ups.

On Tuesday, May 10, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its annual 2022 Technology Pioneers list which includes firms employing technology and innovation to positively impact on business and society.

On the African Continent, six companies are on the list, three of which are from Kenya.

They are Access Afya - which provides high-quality healthcare for the global mass market, Pula Advisors, - an insurance and technology company providing comprehensive insurance solutions as well as Sendy, which is known for building fulfillment infrastructure for e-commerce and consumer brands.

Other companies that are featured on the list are Ampersand from Rwanda - which is a leading battery-swap network for light vehicles as well as Okra from Nigeria which digitalises financial services for Africa.

HawKar, an innovative start-up headquartered in Tunisia, North Africa also made it to the list.

African Continent beat the Middle East, which had only two innovative companies on the list, all from Israel as well as Latin America which only recorded five entries.

WEF also recorded a spike in companies led by women which exceeded a third of the total listed companies.

"For the first time ever, more than one-third of the selected firms are led by women, which is well above the industry average. The 2022 Tech Pioneers are based in 30 countries – with Vietnam, Rwanda and the Czech Republic represented for the first time – and this year’s cohort is shaping industries around the world.

"Following their selection as Technology Pioneers, this year’s companies will join an impressive group of alumni that include many household names, such as Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Spotify, TransferWise (now Wise), Twitter and Wikimedia," read the WEF statement in part.

Kenya continues to cement its position as the most preferred destination for tech companies following the entry of several multinationals.

Microsoft, Alphabet, which owns Google, and Visa have all set up continental headquarters in Nairobi.

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