BD Insider 159: Internet shuts down in Sudan as crises escalates
BD Insider 159 examines the internet shutdown in Sudan, Gluwa's $35 million investment in African crypto exchanges and the ongoing restructuring at Kuda Bank.
Letter 159 covers:
- the ongoing restructuring at Kuda Bank
- the internet shutdown in Sudan
- Gluwa's $35 million investment in African crypto exchanges
and other noteworthy information like:
- the latest African Tech Startup Deals
- opportunities, interesting reads and more
The big three!
Kuda Bank dismisses new Chief Strategy Officer
The news: Last week, Kuda Bank dismissed its chief strategy officer (CSO), Elena Lavezzi, according to Semafor Africa. The report says that Elena's dismissal is part of an ongoing restructuring of the digital bank's executive team.
We have reached out to Kuda but have not received a response.
Why it matters: Eight months ago, Kuda hired Elena and Pavel Khristolubov—the company's Global COO—to drive its international expansion. Shortly after these appointments, the Nigerian digital bank expanded its operations into the UK (through its UK-based subsidiary, Kuda EMI Limited), Ghana and Uganda.
In January, Kuda acquired a digital banking licence from the State Bank of Pakistan, marking its expansion into the South Asian country. The licence was issued to "KT Bank", a joint venture between Kuda and two leading Pakistani companies—Fatima Fertilizer Company and City Schools Group.
Zoom in: Before joining Kuda, Elena led operations in Italy and Southern Europe for a British digital bank, Revolut. She also pioneered Uber's expansion into Italy.
Although it's unclear why Elena was dismissed [we will inform you immediately after we get Kuda's comment], the company conducted layoffs last year; about 5% of its 450 employees were affected, mostly redundant roles and nonperforming staff, per TechCrunch.
"Kuda is currently making some strategic changes to serve its customers better and continue to make financial services more accessible, affordable and rewarding to every African," the bank disclosed at the time.
Sudan partially shuts down the internet as war persists
The news: Sudan is experiencing an internet outage as the war between its armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a Sudanese army-general-led paramilitary continues in the streets of the capital, Khartoum and around the country.
"Real-time network data show a near-total collapse of internet connectivity in Sudan with national connectivity now at 2% of ordinary levels," global internet outage monitor, NetBlocks tweeted yesterday.
Last week, MTN blocked its internet service in the country following the orders of the local regulators, according to Reuters; another local provider, Canar Telecom also went off. However, NetBlock says that power outages and inability to access gasoline for backup generators and the destruction of population centres are also factors.
Dig in: "Internet connectivity has saved lives since the start of the conflict, and its absence will make it more difficult for residents to avoid danger and stay safe," Isik Mater, Director of Research at NetBlocks said.
Since the crises erupted a week ago, some citizens have been using social media to crowdsource for aid and information with hashtags activated to meet the needs of various regions.
"Anyone who wants to go outside Khartoum [can ask] about safe roads and travel stations that [are operating], and he can find someone on Twitter going to the same area," Jia El Hassan, a Sudanese activist said.
The outage also has a ripple effect on Chad, the country derives much of its connectivity from Cameroon and from Sudan, which fell largely offline. Reports say that the satellite network has been activated to quell the outage.
Gluwa to invest $35 million in African crypto exchanges
The news: A global blockchain company, Gluwa says it is committing $35 million to the growth of African crypto exchanges. "We believe cryptocurrencies have the potential to transform the financial landscape in Nigeria, and the African continent," Tae Oh, Gluwa founder and CEO, said.
Gluwa also disclosed that it is working with the Nigerian government to create an environment that will drive Web3 adoption in the country. "Our proposals have been sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Ministry of Finance, and the Central Bank of Nigeria," Oh says. "By working closely with the Nigerian government, we hope to create a policy framework that encourages the responsible and regulated use of cryptocurrencies while prioritising the protection of consumers and preventing illicit activities."
In May 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Nigeria issued new guidelines for the issuance, offering, and custody of digital assets in the country, despite the ban on crypto transactions by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The SEC described “Digital Asset” as a digital token that represents assets such as a debt or equity claim on the issuer.
Driving the news: Recently, a Bitcoin exchange with large Nigerian and Kenyan users, Paxful discontinued its operations due to US-related regulatory challenges. A local exchange, Lazerpay also shut down its operations after failed fundraising attempts.
Generally, investments in the Nigerian [and African] Web3 and crypto industry have slowed down due to the global economic downturn. Last year, the winter in the industry became evident with plunging Bitcoin, Ethereum and other major asset prices, as well as the collapse of companies like FTX.
Gluwa's investment will possibly enable access to funding in the sector.
Outside this news: Last year, the Lekki Free Zone Development Company listed Gluwa as its potential partner for the creation of a virtual zone within the Lekki Free Zone. Although there is no mention of the use of cryptocurrency in the proposed virtual free zone, on Monday (August 5, 2022) Bashir Ahmad, the Special Assistant on Digital Communications to Nigeria's President in a teaser-like manner tweeted "a crypto-friendly economic zone in Nigeria".
The proposed partnership includes other companies like Binance and Iyin Aboyeji's Talent City.
💰 State of funding in Africa
Nigerian mobility startup, Autochek made its seventh acquisition last week since it launched operations in 2020. The company acquired a majority stake in Egypt’s AutoTager; this is Autochek's second North African acquisition since its expansion last year.
Within one year, the company has made three [disclosed acquisitions]. Mayokun Fadeyibi, SVP at Autochek told Benjamindada.com that acquisitions are "a strong part of [its] growth strategy".
Autochek has raised at least $16.5 million in venture funding since it commenced operations, according to BD Funding Tracker.
Before you go, here's an overview of African tech VC funding from last week.
Here are other important stories in the media:
- Review of Klasha's virtual dollar card: Klasha's virtual dollar card works for online spending at international merchants like Amazon and can be funded with Nigerian naira. Here is what Benjamin observed from creating, funding, using and withdrawing from the card.
- Copia exits Uganda: B2C e-commerce company, Copia has shut down its Ugandan operations due to the economic downturn. However, it will double down on its operations in Kenya.
- Kenyan Varsity revamps computing curriculum: Following a review by Microsoft ADC Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is adding emerging tech and UI design courses.
- A Peter Thiel–backed startup city wants to be Africa’s Delaware: Nigeria’s Itana partnered with Binance and the Charter Cities Institute to build a physical tech hub near Lagos, but the plan has sparked controversy, Wired reports.
- African techies in the 2023 Forbes 30 under 30 class: Out of the 30 young Africans recognised by Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class, 11 are tech professionals from Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda and Mauritius.
More on the conflict in Sudan:
- Twitter is helping civilians in Sudan: A civilian network organised mainly through Twitter is helping Sudanese people where aid groups cannot.
- Egyptian travel blogger trapped in Sudan conflict: When Ahmed El-Badawy woke up to the sound of gunfire and heavy artillery in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, the Egyptian travel content creator did not think he would soon be stranded in a flat with little food or water and unable to leave.
We carefully curate open opportunities in Product & Design, Data & Engineering, and Admin & Growth every week.
Product & Design
- Treepz — Creative Designer
- Reliance Health — UX Researcher
- Seerbit — Senior UI/UX Designer
Data & Engineering
- Flutterwave — VP, Data & Senior Core Switching Engineer
- Yassir — DevOps Engineer
- Peach Payments — Data Engineer
Admin & Growth
- Autochek — Senior Marketing Lead
- Kuda — Product Marketing Manager
- Paystack — Sales Associate in South Africa & Nigeria
Have a great week ahead!