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East Africa

MarketForce gets $40 million in funding backed by Kenyan businessman Ken Njoroge

MarketForce established a strategic partnership with Cellulant in December.

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Ken Njoroge.

MarketForce, a Nairobi-based retail B2B and end-to-end distribution platform managed by Tesh Mbaabu, has secured $40 million in a Series-A funding round joined by Kenyan entrepreneur and startup creator Ken Njoroge.

The Series-A funding round, the largest of its kind in East and Central Africa, comes seven months after the Kenyan business secured $2 million in a pre-Series A funding round, bringing the total funds garnered to $42.5 million.

V8 Capital Partners, an African-focused investment entity with offices in London and Lagos, Nigeria, led the $40-million capital round.

Cellulant co-founder Njoroge, who joined MarketForce as the chairman of the board, also participated in the investment round. Other investors participating in the round included Ten13 VC, SOSV Select Fund, Vu Ventures and Vastly Valuable Ventures.

The capital injection will be used to finance merchant inventories and expand across Africa.

Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibuti founded MarketForce in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2018 to digitize retail distribution for emerging markets, with a primary focus on assisting consumer brands in managing their field sales operations and expanding their distribution networks in Africa.

MarketForce has handled $500 million in sales transactions and mapped out more than 125,000 retail outlets in five countries since its inception over four years ago, while working with over 50 brands such as Nestle, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Unilever, Bidco and METL Group.

Mbaabu, co-founder and CEO of MarketForce, commented on the round, saying the move is consistent with the company’s mission to be the best partner for informal merchants by empowering them to optimize their revenues and develop.

He went on to say that, to achieve this lofty aim, merchants must be equipped with the technology and assistance that they need to transform their businesses from basic FMCG stores into full financial service hubs for the continent’s last-mile communities.

Nearly two months ago, the B2B retail and financial services distribution platform established a strategic partnership with Cellulant, Njoroge’s pan-African payment company.

The partnership will enable MarketForce to expand its RejaReja retailer’s “super app” to more than 1 million merchants in seven countries, with five more Sub-Saharan African nations joining in 2022.

Aside from the extra income prospects that will be explored as a result of the collaboration, the combination of MarketForce and Cellulant will enable MSMEs to fully use the power of mobile-first financial distribution technology and infrastructure to build their companies.

East Africa

James Mwangi’s Equity Group to receive $4.1 million for acquisition of Spire Bank

Equity Group is the largest financial services conglomerate in East Africa.

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James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, the Kenyan financial services giant led by James Mwangi, is set to receive millions of dollars from Mwalimu Sacco’s acquisition of financially distressed Spire Bank, as the teachers-backed lender agreed to pay Equity Group Ksh510 million ($4.1 million).

The deal is structured as an asset purchase transaction, backed by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), and will see Equity Group assume control over the assets and liabilities of the troubled bank.

The $4.1-million payment by Mwalimu Sacco to Equity represents the difference between the assets and liabilities of Spire Bank, implying that the bank holds zero value and the teachers have lost millions of dollars after purchasing a majority stake in 2014.

Mwalimu Sacco CEO Kenneth Odhiambo said the key consideration was to stop the bleeding and preserve Sacco’s bottomline for its members.

Equity Group will settle all redundancy costs for the more than 100 employees who will lose their jobs following the deal. The bank’s non-performing loans stand at Ksh2.63 billion ($21.1 million), and Equity’s immediate task will be to step up collections and recoveries.

The process of exiting Spire Bank was not as seamless as the initial acquisition, with Mwalimu Sacco citing the bank’s decline as beginning after the withdrawal of Naushad Merali’s deposits worth Ksh1.7 billion ($13.7 million), which represented one-fifth of the bank’s total deposits. 

The takeover of the troubled Spire Bank may present additional challenges and opportunities for Equity Group, which under the leadership of Kenyan businessman, Mwangi reported profits in excess of $280 million in the first nine months of 2022.

As of today, Equity Group shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange are trading at Ksh44.95 ($0.361) per share, a 0.99 percent decrease from their closing price on Fri., Jan. 27.

This values the company at Ksh170 billion ($1.36 billion) and Mwangi’s 3.38-percent stake at Ksh5.74 billion ($46.1 million).

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East Africa

Meet Mohammed Dewji, Tanzania’s ‘King of Wealth,’ with $1.5-billion net worth

Dewji showcases his philanthropic spirit through his role as the founder and financier of the Mo Dewji Foundation.

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Mohammed Dewji
Mohammed Dewji. ©Billionaires.Africa

With a staggering net worth of $1.5 billion, Mohammed Dewji, the CEO of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania (MeTL) Group, stands tall as the richest man in Tanzania and one of Africa’s most prominent billionaires.

His prominence in the African business arena is further accentuated by his position as the head of MeTL Group, one of East Africa’s largest industrial conglomerates. The majority of his $1.5-billion fortune is attributed to his stake in the group.

METL Group, a highly successful conglomerate established by its founder’s father in the 1970s, has an impressive reach across a wide range of industries, including trading, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and petroleum, financial services, mobile telephony, infrastructure, real estate, transport, logistics, and distribution.

The highly diversified company has established itself as Tanzania’s largest domestically-grown corporation, with a presence in 11 African nations, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania.

Beyond his business ventures, Mohammed Dewji also showcases his philanthropic spirit through his role as the founder and financier of the Mo Dewji Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to providing scholarships for underprivileged children in Tanzania.

With a view to tackling the growing food security challenges faced by Sub-Saharan Africa, Mohammed Dewji announced his intentions to go public with an agriculture company in either New York or London in 2023.

He declared that the ambitious $4-billion initiative will receive robust support from top-notch development banks and will be executed via a blank check agreement, delivering a much-anticipated uplift to the agriculture industry.

The proposed investment comes at a pivotal time in the world, as food prices continue to soar due to disruptions in the global supply chain network. This has resulted in a significant hike in the cost of staple commodities, including grains, edible oils, and fertilizers. 

Dewji added that the $4-billion blank check arrangement, which will result in the launch of an agricultural venture, is a fantastic way to bring food security to Africa’s heels because it will capitalize on the continent’s potential to feed itself and the world.

He explained that the agricultural company, which may diversify into soybean and sugar plantations, could provide investors with a five- to ten-fold return over a decade, but it would necessitate “patient, impactful, long-term capital.”

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East Africa

Kenyan banker James Mwangi’s Equity Group receives approval to acquire Spire Bank

Mwangi owns 3.38 percent of the financial services group.

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James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, a reputable financial services group led by Kenyan businessman James Mwangi, is set to acquire the financially distressed Spire Bank on Jan. 31, cementing its position as East Africa’s leading financial services group.

Following approval from both the National Treasury and the shareholders of both banks, the recent development marks the completion of a long-awaited merger.

“Pursuant to section 9 (1) of the Banking Act, the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning has granted approval for the acquisition of select assets and liabilities of Spire Bank Limited by Equity Group, led by James Mwangi,” Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge stated in a gazette notice.

The new deal, modeled after the successful partnership between SBM and Chase Bank in August 2018, is set to be implemented on Jan. 31 and will result in the end of Mwalimu Sacco’s ownership of the bank, which they acquired for more than Ksh2.7 billion ($21.7 million) in 2014 from late Kenyan tycoon Naushad Merali.

The process of exiting the bank has not been as seamless as the initial acquisition, with Mwalimu Sacco citing the bank’s decline as beginning after the withdrawal of Naushad Merali’s deposits worth Ksh1.7 billion ($13.7 million), which represented a fifth of the bank’s total deposits.

Spire Bank’s financials for the first quarter of 2022 showed a loss of Ksh188 million ($1.51 million), bringing the total accumulated losses to Ksh9.7 billion ($77.9 million). In addition, the bank was in default on all CBK capital and liquidity ratios.

Despite a challenging macroeconomic environment that has increased the cost of living for East African teachers and other workers, Spire Bank has pursued a turnaround based on lower costs, loan recoveries, and the conversion of shareholder deposits into equity.

Equity Group, which has the financial and managerial strength to put Spire Bank back on track and pull it out of its recent financial difficulties, will get a good deal by accepting teachers’ deposits, as well as Ksh1.3 billion ($10.8 million) in liabilities and nearly Ksh900 million ($7.48 million) in assets linked to Spire Bank.

The acquisition may present additional challenges and opportunities for Equity Group, which reported profits in excess of $280 million in the first nine months of 2022 under the leadership of Kenyan multimillionaire businessman James Mwangi.

Mwangi, who has been instrumental in the growth and transformation of Kenya’s financial services industry, owns a sizable 3.38-percent stake in Equity Group.

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