BD Insider 156: Liberia gets $3.9M to modernise its payment infrastructure

We examine the AfDB $3.9 million grant to modernise Liberia's payment infrastructure, the launch of AWS FinTech Africa Accelerator and Nigeria Air's commencement.

BD Insider 156: Liberia gets $3.9M to modernise its payment infrastructure
Central Bank of Liberia

In the last letter, we told you that the African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the Nigerian government and other foreign and local investors have launched a $618 million fund for tech and creative startups in Nigeria.

Last week, the bank expanded its development efforts into another West African country. AfDB through the African Development Fund (ADF) disclosed that it's providing a $3.9 million grant to modernise Liberia's payments infrastructure and systems project.

We will examine this grant and other stories including:

  • the launch of AWS FinTech Africa Accelerator
  • Nigeria Air's proposed commencement

We will also share updates from the BD Funding Tracker, opportunities, noteworthy stories and more at the end of the letter.


Liberia gets $3.9 million ADF grant to strengthen its payments infrastructure

The news: The African Development Fund (ADF), an entity of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved the disbursement of a $3.9 million grant to finance the upgrade of Liberia's payment infrastructure.

"The modernisation of Liberia's payments infrastructure and systems to improve payments efficiency will not only strengthen the formal financial sector but contribute to greater financial stability and improved private sector development," Benedict Kanu, AfDB Country Manager for Liberia, said.

Why it matters: Liberia's current national payment infrastructure was deployed in 2016 with the assistance of the AfDB. However, it requires "urgent upgrading", after serving the nation for six years.

The upgrades will allow Liberia to progress with its National Electronic Payments Switch (NEPS) initiative, which was approved by the World Bank in 2022. Liberia also aims to enhance financial inclusion for small business owners, women, rural populations, and young people, with financial inclusion currently at 44.2% in the country.

How it will work: With an objective to foster growth in the West African country's payment ecosystem, AfDB disclosed that the project targets:

  • the automated cheque processing and automated clearing house (ACP/ACH) and real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems, which form the backbone of payment processing in the country's financial sector.
  • the main data centre and disaster recovery sites at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

According to a statement seen by Benjamindada.com, the implementation of the new project will commence in June 2023 and will be executed by the CBL in collaboration with undisclosed banking and non-banking institutions.


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Amazon wants to invest in early-stage fintech startups in Africa

The news: Amazon through its cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services has launched a fintech accelerator in collaboration with Vestbee, a European VC matchmaking platform.

"The AWS FinTech Africa Accelerator is an online and equity-free 10-week program that leverages the best of Amazon's infrastructure and partner network to support pre-seed and seed stage fintech startups developing their projects in Africa," Vestbee disclosed in a statement.

This accelerator intends to train early-stage founders, CEOs and CTOs on strategy, team management, product development and fundraising. Applications for the inaugural cohort have opened and will close on April 27.

Zoom in: Fintech remains the most funded sector in the African tech ecosystem. Last year, the sector secured 36.11% of the continent's venture capital inflow, according to BD Funding Tracker.

Although Amazon will not take equity in the companies or offer venture debt, the company disclosed that it will provide the participating startups with about $25,000 worth of AWS services, and other free credits on Hubspot, Notion, Loom amongst others.

Zoom out: The launch of this accelerator reaffirms Amazon's continued interest in Africa's digital ecosystem since it expanded into the continent in 2004. The company has three African data centres; two in South Africa and one in Kenya.

Last year, Amazon opened an office in Lagos, Nigeria; five years after its first African office in Johannesburg. The Lagos office houses AWS account managers, partner managers, solutions architects, and other roles that support its Nigerian customers.

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Aside from the office, AWS is supporting Nigerian startups and the community with programs like AWS Activate and AWS educational programs like AWS Academy, AWS Educate and AWS re/Start. Three Nigerian universities are currently part of the AWS Academy.

Amidst this progress, Amazon has faced resistance in South Africa where it intends to build its Africa HQ, a project worth $280 million. Last year, a South African court overturned an earlier order halting the construction of HQ after some descendants of the country's earliest inhabitants said the land it would be built on was sacred.


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Nigeria Air to begin operations before May 29

The news: The Nigerian government has disclosed that its national carrier, Nigeria Air will commence operations before May 29, 2023. Hadi Sirika, Nigeria's Minister of Aviation made the revelation at an aviation stakeholder’s forum in Abuja last week.

"Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly," Sirika said.

With the launch of the national carrier, Nigeria will maximise the benefit of the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the development of an aviation hub.

Why it matters: Last year, the aviation ministry announced the relaunch of Nigeria Air after a 20-year halt due to debt, mismanagement, corruption and a suspended take-off in 2018. The ministry announced the recruitment of pilots, engineers and cabin crew members immediately after the disclosure.

Zoom in: At the time, Hadi Sirika said that Nigeria Air will relaunch with a shuttle service between Abuja and Lagos using three Boeing 737-800, then "other domestic destinations will follow thereafter". He also disclosed that Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's biggest airline, is the lead technical partner in the new carrier and the single largest shareholder, owning a 48% stake.

The Nigerian government will own 5% of the carrier, meanwhile, three local investors; MRS, SAHCO and the Nigerian Sovereign Fund will own the remaining 46%.

"Negotiation meetings with the Ethiopian Airlines Group Consortium and the Federal Government of Nigeria are ongoing. Next step: Federal Executive Council approval of the Full Business Case," Sirka added.


💰 State of funding in Africa

Last week, Lagos-based VC firm, Ventures Platform led a $2.5 million seed round in Dubai-based fintech, Credable. This investment will go towards building Credable's team and scaling its market presence across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia from its current presence in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Pakistan.

Editor's Note: Before will move on, you might be wondering why we are tracking funds raised by a Dubai-based company. BD Funding Tracker curates deals by Africa-founded companies with Africa as their primary market in terms of operations or revenue—not based on HQ or incorporation.

Get to learn more about how we curate this database.


📚 Noteworthy

In commemoration of this year's women's month, we covered important stories about gender equity in the African tech ecosystem.

  • These Nigerian women talk about balancing their tech careers and motherhood: Apart from driving innovation and advancing their careers in the Nigerian tech ecosystem, these women are defying the stereotypes that come with motherhood.
  • Maureen Okojie of SEND on tackling Africa's logistics problems and life as a female founder: Meet Maureen, co-founder of SEND, a digital freight forwarder and customs broker for Africa. She talks about tackling the continent's logistics challenges and embracing equity in the industry.
  • The exciting relationship between women and mobile money in Africa: Using mobile money leads to a 19.8% increase in the likelihood of female-led businesses receiving investments from outside sources, Rashi Gupta, Group COO at MFS Africa, writes.

Here are other noteworthy stories in the media:

  • Starting April 2023, Twitter's legacy blue checkmarks will be revoked: Twitter is rolling out the legacy verified program that allows notable individuals to have blue checkmarks next to their names, the checkmarks will only be left for Twitter Blue subscribers.
  • Kenyan B2B e-commerce marketplace, Zumi is shutting down: After failing to raise funding, and letting go of 150 employees, William McCarren, Zumi, CEO and co-founder said the company will wind down operations.
  • How two Harvard graduates saw big profits in African education but Children paid the price: An aggressive startup set out to disrupt African education. Now it’s plagued by a sexual abuse investigation, The Intercept reports.

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