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BD Insider 220: Nigeria's capital city plans crackdown on unlicensed ride-hailing startups

Inside: Tribute to Wigwe, co-founder of Access Holdings, AI regulations in Kenya and cleantech funding in Africa.

BD Insider 220: Nigeria's capital city plans crackdown on unlicensed ride-hailing startups
Ride-hailing in Abuja

💔 Gloomy news: Over the weekend, a tragedy gripped the Nigerian (and African) communities, especially those in the business and finance sectors, as Herbert Wigwe, the co-founder and group CEO of Access Holdings, died in a helicopter crash in California. A source close to the deceased, who confirmed the news to Bendada.com, mentioned that Wigwe's wife, son, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former group chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, were also involved.

Sunday Ekwochi, the company secretary at Access Holding, confirmed the passing in a statement released on Sunday afternoon. Ekwochi also stated that an acting group CEO will be announced soon.

Amidst an outpouring of tributes, this quote from Wigwe, who recently established the $500 million Wigwe University in his home state of Rivers, resonates deeply. It reflects the driving force behind his global ambition: "I cannot change the world overnight. But if I can empower even one youth today, or tomorrow, they could join me in empowering others. With time, we could change the world."

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, his partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, and the Access Holdings and Wigwe University teams.

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, CFR

We've lost a gem! 🕊


In this letter, we cover:

  • The latest AI regulation in Kenya
  • Regulations for ride-hailing startups in Abuja, Nigeria's capital
  • A new cleantech fund for early-stage African startups

And other noteworthy information like: the latest African Tech Startup Deals + opportunities, interesting reads, and more.


The big three

#1. Proposed AI regulation in Kenya sparks controversy

Start here: Last year, Kenya was one of the three African nations that signed the “Bletchley Declaration”, a joint commitment to tackling the risks of artificial intelligence (AI), alongside 25 other countries including the US and UK.

The Eastern African country came up with The Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society Bill, which has faced opposition from professionals who worry that the regulations could hinder innovation within the nation.

The Bill, which aims to establish the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society, a regulatory body overseeing the country's use of robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT), proposes penalties of up to 24 months in prison and fines of up to KES 1 million ($6,250) for unlicensed entities.

Opposed: Despite Kenya encountering AI-related consumer threats such as the Worldcoin controversy last year, some experts argue that the sector isn't ready for regulation. John Wafula, commercial lead at AICE Africa, an AI training institution based in Nairobi, said, "We need data and a lot of experiments. After we have laid the foundations and the pillars, then we can talk about regulation."

"This Bill simply creates offices and taxes and does not address the aspects of AI. We need a proper law to regulate AI and emerging technologies," Alex Gakuru, who is the director of the Kenyan Center for Law in Information Technology told lawmakers' communication, information and innovation committee.

Common ground: At the session, John Kiarie, the committee chair, guaranteed Gakuru and others that consultations with stakeholders would be initiated to aid in finalising the draft.


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#2. Uber, Indrive and Rida are not yet licensed to operate in Abuja

The news: As insecurity surges in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is taking steps to regulate ride-hailing operations as a means to mitigate the trend, with licensing being one of the key approaches.

Just last week, the FCTA disclosed that both Bolt and Nairaxi, a Nigerian government-funded startup, have received licenses to operate within the city.

Other top ride-hailing startups like Uber, Indrive and Rida are missing from the list. The FCTA plans to conduct immediate enforcement operations to crack down on unlicensed operators in Abuja. Additionally, the Public Transport Management Scheme cautions that operators without the FCTA Public Transport Management License may face a potential ban.

"We have submitted the necessary requirements to the FCTA and look forward to continuing to provide a reliable mobility option for riders and earnings opportunity for drivers in Abuja," an Uber spokesperson told TechNext. Indrive also disclosed that they have been in discussions with the authorities since last year and have received a pre-approval letter.

Zoom out: In May 2022, the Lagos state government declared that inDriver and Rida were operating without licenses in the state. Drivers associated with these platforms were subjected to fines. Later in July, the ride-hailing companies initiated discussions with local authorities to ensure adherence to regulations.


#3. Rally Cap VC launches $5M fund to back African cleantech startups

The news: Rally Cap VC, a $20m emerging market fintech fund, is making its debut foray into cleantech with the launch of a $5 million fund to back early-stage startups in Africa.

"There’s always like push and pull factors for every decision. many of the most exciting calls we were having with founders were on the climate side — and that dovetailed alongside our internal initiative to kind of expand our mandate beyond fintech," Hayden Simmons, general partner at Rally Cap VC, said.

Why it matters: As global dialogues on climate financing intensify, the cleantech sector has emerged as one of Africa's most funded sectors in recent years, according to BD Funding Tracker. At least five cleantech-targeted VC funds were launched last year.

Rally Cap VC plans to invest between $50,000 and $100,000 in 50 startups, primarily operating on a business-to-business model. The firm said it has since invested in African cleantech startups like Amini, Zimi, Zeno Moto and Circadian.

Its portfolio highlights its readiness to invest in both software and hardware providers, though it leans towards the former. "Some hardware is okay if that’s the wedge," Simmons said. "Circadian and Amini both have hardware components, for example. However, the real recurring revenue and IP reside at the software layer. That’s really what we’re investing in, and that's where we think we can generate the real sort of fintech-esque returns in this market."


💰 State of Funding in Africa

The World Innovation League (WIL), formerly NaijaHacks, obtained a $1.2 million investment from a Canadian accelerator, Digital Technology Supercluster, last week to equip African and black immigrants in Canada with tech skills.

Other funding activities that took place last week include:


📚 Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:

  • How to fix Africa’s brain drain challenge at home: Last month, Late Herbert Wigwe shared his insights on the continent's mass migration and proposed solutions to mitigate the ongoing brain drain.
  • Sudan's latest internet outage is escalating tension: For a couple of days and still counting, internet and communications networks have been down in Sudan, a North African nation currently engulfed in politically inspired conflicts. Andrew Christian has the story.
  • The $72 billion market: Africa's digital commerce is set to hit $72 billion by 2026 in the top five markets, growing annually at 25%, according to Beyond Borders report by EBANX.
  • 2G and 3G will soon go off in South Africa: SA Federal Department of Communications and Digital Transformation has announced that it will deactivate 2G and 3G networks by December 2027.
  • 2023 Q4 at Spotify: The global streaming platform reached an all-time high advertising revenue mark of $538 million in Q4 2023, amid cost cuts.

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