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BD Insider 165: 🚖 Ride-hailing fares could cost 200% more in 🇳🇬

Inside letter 165, we cover the upward review of Bolt and Uber fares in Nigeria, the controversy around MarketForce's $40 million Series A and what's happening at Accra-based Google AI Research Centre.

BD Insider 165: 🚖 Ride-hailing fares could cost 200% more in 🇳🇬
Credit: KC Nwakalor & Rest of World

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Inside letter 165, we cover:

  • the latest on MarketForce's $40 million Series A
  • the reviewed prices for Bolt in Nigeria
  • what's happening at Accra-based Google AI Research Centre

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African Tech Startup Deals
  • events, opportunities, interesting reads and more

The big three!

#1. MarketForce's $40 million Series A was not wholly disbursed by investors

MarketForce co-founders Mesongo Sibuti and Tesh Mbaabu

The scene: In February 2022, Kenyan B2B e-commerce MarketForce announced the close of a $40 million Series A in a round led by V8 Capital Partners with participation from Ten13 VC, SOSV Select Fund, Vu Ventures, Vastly Valuable Ventures, Uncovered Fund.

Existing investors including Reflect Ventures, Greenhouse Capital, Century Oak Capital and Remapped Ventures also participated in the round.

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At the time, the "oversubscribed equity and debt round" was described as the largest Series A round in East and Central Africa. 

Dig deep: $20 million of the fund was debt, and the other $20 million was equity. However, Tesh Mbaabu, MarketForce's CEO and co-founder recently disclosed that $8 million of the equity funding was not disbursed by an undisclosed investor.

"A significant chunk of the money that was committed and signed for wasn’t delivered due to failed capital calls on [the investor's] side. We didn’t get $8 million, and our runway was cut short by over 18 months," Mbaabu told TechCrunch.

After this investor backed out, MarketForce's efforts to raise additional funding were futile. Last year, the company laid off about 9% of its workforce and also slowed down on its expansion plans. Mbaabu disclosed that MarketForce was operating on a negative contribution margin in 2022. "We were losing money for every order we delivered, but going into quarter one of this year we are gross profitable," he said.

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Tip: "I advise my clients to only announce a fundraise once the money is deposited in their account. It is good practice to take precautionary measures [because] a deal can always fall through last minute," Victoria Crandall, a publicist and founder of No Filter PR tweeted

What now? MarketForce is still operating in its five markets—Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. "Our revenues this year will be higher than ever, and probably grow by a couple of multiples," according to Mbaabu, the company is now on the path to profitability.


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#2. Bolt increases ride fares across Nigeria

Credit: KC Nwakalor & Rest of World

The scene: Following the fuel subsidy cut in Nigeria, ride-hailing and logistics companies in the country, including Bolt and Uber have announced an upward review of their fare prices.

According to Uber, its minimum fare is now ₦850 from ₦700. The base fare was also increased from ₦575 to ₦690 while the per kilometre fare rose from ₦106 to ₦130. On average, these represent a 21% increase.

Unlike Uber which has a unified price review, Bolt reviewed its prices based on its operational base—as shown in the table below.

Be smart: To clarify the aforementioned price parameters, Bolt says:

  • Base fare refers to a fee without the inclusion of other variables.
  • Distance rate, this takes the trip distance into account and is calculated per kilometre.
  • Time rate, this includes the time taken and is recorded per minute.
  • Minimum fare refers to the lowest fare possible in a city.

Protest: Ride-hailing drivers through the Amalgamated Union of App-Based Transport Workers of Nigeria have asked that instead of a 15-17% review, the prices should be reviewed by 200%, with the minimum fare at ₦2000.

The union also said that the commission should be reduced by 50% or set at 10%.


#3. What's Google AI research centre in Accra up to?

At the Accra-based Google AI Research Centre

Start here: In 2018, Google launched its first African AI Research Centre in Accra, Ghana to foster the continent's growing capabilities in the field, and to also deliver innovative solutions that will benefit both Africa and the world, working with local universities and research centres, as well as working with policymakers on the potential uses of AI in Africa.

So far: Since its launch, the team at the Accra-based Research Centre has engaged in significant AI work, including mapping Africa's built environment using satellite imagery and machine learning, which allowed it to quadruple the number of African buildings on Google Maps, bringing the number up past 250 million.

The team also released the Open Buildings Dataset last in July 2021; which is being used by various organisations such as the United Nations. The Centre also uses machine learning to advance support of Sub-Saharan African languages, reduce the harms of locusts, and adapt its existing flood forecasting systems to respond to the special challenges of the continent.

Aside from the aforementioned, the Google AI Research Centre is also improving maternal health outcomes with ultrasound, helping people with non-standard speech make their voices heard and teaching reading to children worldwide.

Know more: In 2021, Google said it will invest $1 billion in Africa in the next five years to support a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investment in startups, to help boost Africa's digital transformation. The Centre is one of these initiatives.


🎙BD Talks: How to get into the ARM Labs Lagos Techstars Program

Earlier this week, ARM Labs Lagos Techstars opened applications for the second cohort of its accelerator program. The programme invests up to $120k into African early-stage startups focused on fintech, mobility, e-commerce and talent tech.

On Thursday, Oyin Solebo, MD ARM Labs Lagos Techstars and Banky Alao, Techstars alumnus and co-founder of Peppa will be answering FAQs about the application process.


💰 State of funding in Africa

Last week, CcHub selected 12 Nigerian startups for its inaugural Mastercard Foundation-backed edtech Fellowship Program. The selected startups will receive up to $100,000 in equity-free funding.

This is part of a $15 million fund that the innovation hub launched earlier this year, with a plan to invest in 72 Nigerian and Kenyan edtech startups in the next three years.

Find below a summary of the venture capital that was raised on the continent.

BD Funding Tracker

📚 Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:

  • Sudan has imposed nine internet restrictions since 2021: Sudan and four other African countries including Nigeria broke a 2021 United Nations resolution aimed at curbing internet restrictions.
  • How will the fuel subsidy removal impact the Nigerian capital market: Expert says that the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria which has led to hikes in prices of PMS, food and transportation will be received with enthusiasm in the capital market.
  • Competition is about to ramp up in the Ethiopian telecoms sector: After decades of operating as a monopoly in Ethiopia, state-owned Ethio Telecoms will experience more competition now that the government is privatising the sector.
  • Buy now, pay later startups are under fire for saddling drivers with expensive debts: Boda boda riders in Kenya have accused BNPL companies of exploitative loans and bike theft, Rest of World reports.

💼 Opportunities

Jobs

We carefully curate open opportunities in Product & Design, Data & Engineering, and Admin & Growth every week.

Product & Design

Data & Engineering

Admin & Growth

Other opportunities

  • For African founders: Applications open for $120,000 funding from ARM Labs Techstars Accelerator. The program is focused on African fintech, mobility, e-commerce and talenttech early-stage startups.

📖 Book recommendation

Starting this week, I will recommend an interesting book that any of my colleagues (or someone else) is reading. I will be starting with Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World.

Ben just finished reading the book.

In Range, the author David Epstein explores the lives of various successful individuals. He argues that in most fields, generalists are more likely to excel compared to specialists. According to him, they are more creative, agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can not see.

Read and share your thoughts with us.


What do you think about this week's letter? Reply to this email and let us know.

Have a great week ahead!  

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