Category : Science & Tech

Other News / Science & Tech - 13 hours ago

Nigeria’s #StopRobbingUs campaign could spur tech advocacy group, CEOs say

Nigeria’s #StopRobbingUs campaign to curb police harassment of techies could grow into a formal lobbying group for the country’s tech sector, according to founders Bosun Tijani and Jason Njoku. Tijani, the CEO of Lagos-based innovation center CcHub and now Kenya’s iHub, helped spearhead the movement last month in response to detainment and extortion of tech workers by local authorities. He joined Njoku — CEO of Nollywood VOD venture IROKO — and 29 other Nigerians to release a statement condemning police abuse of the country’s tech workers. The language called for “an end to the common practice where Nigerian police stop young people with laptops and unlawfully arrest, attack or, in extreme circumstances, kidnap them, forcing them to withdraw funds from their bank accounts in order to regain their freedom.” The campaign coined the #StopRobbingUs hashtag as a digital rallying point. The statement went on to say the #StopRobbingUs movement would “consider a Class Action Lawsuit on police brutality.” Energy for the campaign reached critical mass after Toni Astro, a Lagos-based software engineer, was reportedly beaten, arrested, detained and then extorted out of money by Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] the last week of...

Other News / Science & Tech - 6 days ago

Sahara Reporters founder Sowore remains detained in Nigeria

The founder of African investigative digital media site Sahara Reporters Omoyele Sowore remains detained in Nigeria on charges including treason, his wife Opeyemi Sowore told TechCrunch. Her husband founded Sahara Reporters to create and aggregate news content, social media tips and self-digital reporting toward exposing corruption in Africa and his home country of Nigeria. After being jailed and beaten several times for his journalistic work in Nigeria, Sowore re-located to New York City and formed Sahara Reporters in Manhattan in 2006 to report under U.S. legal protections. Several outlets, including Reuters, reported his arrest in August 2019. According to Opeyemi Sowore — who lives in New Jersey — her husband was detained in Lagos on August 3rd. He was then transferred to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Per social media and press reporting, Omoyele Sowore (who goes by Sowore), was participating in the #RevolutionNow movement calling for peaceful demonstration against bad governance in Nigeria.  After several hearings, he is still being held in Abuja, his wife said. According to a copy of his court charging document obtained by TechCrunch, Sowore is charged with two counts of conspiring to stage a revolution and to remove from office Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhar...

Other News / Science & Tech - 2 weeks ago

Africa Roundup: CcHub’s iHub acquisition, Andela’s $50M run-rate and layoffs, Transsion’s IPO

Two of Africa’s powerhouse tech incubators joined forces in September. Nigerian innovation center and seed-fund CcHub acquired Nairobi based iHub. The purchase amount was undisclosed, but CcHub will finance the deal out of its real estate project to build a new 10-story HQ in Lagos, CcHub CEO Bosun Tijani told TechCrunch. Details are emerging on how the two entities will operate together, but Tijani noted some degree of autonomy. The names — CcHub and iHub — will remain the same. Tijani is now co-CEO of both organizations. Nekesa Were continues as iHub managing director. And iHub’s existing programs will remain, with CcHub extending to Kenya some of its existing activities in education, healthcare and governance. CcHub will also use the iHub addition to expand the investment scope of its Growth Capital Fund. The acquisition brings together two of Africa’s most powerful tech hubs by membership networks, volume of programs, startups incubated and global visibility. CcHub and iHub visitors and partnerships span Zuckerberg, Mayer, Facebook, Google and several African governments. There’ll be a lot to cover on how this merger shapes up. At a high level, for now, the CcHub-iHub union creates a direct innovation link between two of Africa’s most active markets for VC and s...

Other News / Science & Tech - 2 weeks ago

Africa’s top mobile phone seller Transsion lists in Chinese IPO

Chinese mobile phone and device maker Transsion has listed in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market, a Transsion spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch.  Headquartered in Shenzhen, Transsion is a top seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand. The company has also started to support venture funding of African startups. Transsion issued 80 million A shares at an opening price of 35.15 yuan (≈ $5.00) to raise 2.8 billion yuan (or ≈ $394 million). A shares are the common shares issued by mainland Chinese companies and are normally available for purchases only by mainland citizens.  Transsion’s IPO prospectus is downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application is available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website. STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that went live in July with some 25 companies going public. Transsion plans to spend 1.6 billion yuan (or $227 million) of its STAR Market raise on building more phone assembly hubs, and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development, including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai, a company spokesperson said. To support its African sales network, Transsion maintains a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia. The company recently announced plans to build an i...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

Nigeria’s CcHub acquires Kenya’s iHub to create mega Africa incubator

Two of Africa’s powerhouse tech incubators will join forces. Nigerian innovation center and seed-fund CcHub has acquired Nairobi based iHub, CcHub CEO Bosun Tijani confirmed to TechCrunch. The purchase amount is undisclosed, but Tijani said CcHub will finance the deal out of its real-estate project to build a new 10-story innovation center to replace its Herbert Macaulay Way building in Lagos. Details are emerging on how the two entities will operate together, but Tijani noted some degree of autonomy. “The names will stay the same…iHub will remain iHub…it is a strong brand…but iHub will be supported from the central CcHub, which will help them strengthen what they do,” he said. Per the acquisition, Tijani becomes CEO of both organizations, while Nekesa Were continues as iHub managing director. And iHub’s existing programs will remain, according to Tijani, but CcHub will extend to Kenya some of its existing activities in education, healthcare and governance. CcHub will also use the iHub addition to expand its investment scope. “We’ll now have access to pipeline in Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda,” he said. Tijani views the arrangement as a boost to the continent’s tech ecosystem. “It strengthens our ability to su...

Other News / Science & Tech - 3 weeks ago

Voter manipulation on social media now a global problem, report finds

New research by the Oxford Internet Institute has found that social media manipulation is getting worse, with rising numbers of governments and political parties making cynical use of social media algorithms, automation and big data to manipulate public opinion at scale — with hugely worrying implications for democracy. The report found that computational propaganda and social media manipulation have proliferated massively in recently years — now prevalent in more than double the number of countries (70) vs two years ago (28). An increase of 150%. The research suggests that the spreading of fake news and toxic narratives has become the dysfunctional new ‘normal’ for political actors across the globe, thanks to social media’s global reach. “Although propaganda has always been a part of political discourse, the deep and wide-ranging scope of these campaigns raise critical public interest concerns,” the report warns. The researchers go on to dub the global uptake of computational propaganda tools and techniques a “critical threat” to democracies. “The use of computational propaganda to shape public attitudes via social media has become mainstream, extending far beyond the actions of a few bad actors,” they add. “...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Africa focused Andela cuts 400 staff as it confirms $50M in revenue

Africa-focused tech talent accelerator Andela will cut 400 junior engineers across Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, CEO Jeremy Johnson told TechCrunch. The layoffs come as the startup released first-time earnings figures indicating it will surpass $50 million in annual revenues for 2019. Yes, the news seems a bit disjointed. Not everything moves in the same direction in the business of startups. On the staff cuts, “they are due to market demand for more senior engineering talent,” Andela said in a company release. “We’ve seen shifts in the market and what our customers are looking for…toward more experienced engineers,” Johnson said on a call. For those who may not know Andela’s business, the startup’s client-base is comprised of more than 200 companies around the world that pay for the African developers Andela selects and trains to work on projects. What is Andela, the Africa tech talent accelerator? Founded in 2014, Andela has offices in New York and five African countries: Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Egypt. The Series D tech-venture is one of Africa’s most visible (by press volume) and best funded ― backed by $181 million in VC from investors that include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Andela selects a roster of d...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Nigerian online-only bank startup Kuda raises $1.6M

Nigerian fintech startup Kuda — a digital-only retail bank — has raised $1.6 million in pre-seed funding. The Lagos and London-based company recently launched the beta version of its online mobile finance platform. Kuda also received its banking license from the Nigerian Central Bank, giving it a distinction compared to other fintech startups. “Kuda is the first digital-only bank in Nigeria with a standalone license. We’re not a mobile wallet or simply a mobile app piggybacking on an existing bank,” Kuda bank founder Babs Ogundeyi told TechCrunch. “We have built our own full-stack banking software from scratch. We can also take deposits and connect directly to the switch,” Ogundeyi added, referring to the Nigeria’s Central Switch — a SWIFT-like system that facilitates bank communication and settlements. A representative for the Central Bank of Nigeria (speaking on background) confirmed Kuda’s banking license and status, telling TechCrunch, “As far as I’m aware there is no other digital bank [in Nigeria] that has a micro-finance license.” & Kuda offers checking accounts with no monthly-fees, a free debit card, and plans to offer consumer savings and P2P payments options on its platform in coming months. “You can open a bank account within...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

DHL expands Africa eShop online retail app to 34 countries

DHL has expanded its DHL Africa eShop business to 13 additional markets, upping the presence of the global shipping company’s e-commerce platform to 34 African countries. DHL went live with the digital retail app in April, bringing more than 200 U.S. and U.K. sellers — from Neiman Marcus to Carters — online to African consumers. Africa eShop operates using startup MallforAfrica.com’s white label fulfillment service, Link Commerce. Similar to MallforAfrica’s model, the arrangement allows Africa eShop users to purchase goods directly from the websites of any of the app’s global partners. This week’s expansion is the second for DHL’s Africa eShop, after adding nine markets in May. DHL’s moves run parallel to significant developments this year in Africa’s online retail scene — namely Jumia’s big IPO capital raise. Here are Africa eShop’s latest additions: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Namibia, Niger, Sudan, Togo and Zimbabwe. MallforAfrica CEO Chris Folayan points to the novelty of online sales in many of Africa eShop’s new markets. “For some of these countries no one has really tapped into e-commerce the way we’re tapping into it, with an ability to buy online and also buy o...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

SF based African fintech startup Chipper Cash expands to Nigeria

The African no-fee, cross-border payment startup Chipper Cash has expanded to Nigeria. The San Francisco-based startup, with offices in Ghana and Kenya, will offer its P2P payment service and app in Africa’s most populous nation in partnership with Paystack — the payment gateway company. Paystack CEO Shola Akinlade confirmed the collaboration. Chipper Cash will establish a company presence in Lagos and has hired a country manager, Abiodun Animashaun, co-founder of Lagos-based ride-hail startup Gokada. Animashaun is one of two senior figures departing African tech ventures to join Chipper Cash. Alicia Levine will leave Nairobi-based internet hardware and service startup BRCK to become Chipper Cash’s chief operating officer, according to Chipper Cash CEO Ham Serunjogi. The startup went live in October 2018, joining a field of fintech startups aiming to scale digital finance applications across Africa’s billion-plus population. Chipper Cash was co-founded by Serunjogi (from Uganda) and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled, both of whom emigrated to the U.S. to study and work in Silicon Valley. The fintech company now has more than 70,000 active users and has processed 250,000 active transitions on its no-fee, P2P, cross-border mobile-money payments product. The startup also runs C...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Africa Roundup: Goldman backs Kobo360, Rwanda commits to EVs, Interswitch IPO update

Nigerian freight logistics startup Kobo360 raised a $20 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs and $10 million in working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks. The company — with an Uber-like app that connects truckers and companies to delivery services — will use the funds to upgrade its platform and expand to 10 new countries beyond current operating markets of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya. Kobo360 looks to grow beyond its Nigeria roots to become a truly Pan-African company, co-founder Obi Ozor told TechCrunch. He co-founded the venture in 2017 with fellow Nigerian Ife Oyedele II. Since its launch in Lagos, the startup has continued to boost its product offerings, VC backing and customer base. Kobo360 claims a fleet of more than 10,000 drivers and trucks operating on its app. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, Dangote and DHL. Kobo360’s latest round is also notable for Goldman Sachs’ involvement. Goldman’s participation tracks a growing list of African venture investments made by the U.S.-based finance firm. Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 raises $30M backed by Goldman Sachs Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market, Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch. The company — which...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Update on Nigerian fintech firm Interswitch and its speculative IPO

Nigerian fintech firm Interswitch has been circulating in business news around a possible IPO on the London Stock Exchange. Last month Bloomberg News ran a story — based on unnamed sources — reporting the financial services firm had hired investment banks to go public on the LSE later in 2019. The piece spurred additional aggregated press. That Interswitch — which provides much of Nigeria’s digital banking infrastructure — could become one of Africa’s earliest tech companies to list on a global exchange isn’t exactly news. It’s more déjà vu of a story that began several years ago. As TechCrunch reported, Interswitch was poised to launch on the LSE in 2016. CEO and founder Mitchell Elegbe confirmed “a dual-listing on the London and Lagos stock exchange is an option on the table,” in a January 2016 call. Two additional sources wired into Nigeria’s tech market and close to Interswitch’s investors also said the public launch would happen by the end of that year. The IPO would have made Interswitch Africa’s first tech company to go from startup to a billion-dollar-plus unicorn valuation status. Of course, it didn’t happen in 2016. In 2017, TechCrunch checked in with Interswitch on the delay and was told the company could not comme...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

What is Andela, the Africa tech talent accelerator?

As someone who covers Africa’s tech scene, I’m frequently asked about Andela . That’s not surprising, given the venture gets more global press (arguably) than any startup in Africa. I’ve found many Silicon Valley investors have heard of Andela but aren’t exactly sure what it does. In a bite, Andela is Series D stage startup―backed by $180 million in VC―that trains and connects African software developers to global companies for a fee. The revenue-focused venture is often misread as a charity. In 2017, Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson described the organization as “a mission-driven for-profit company” ― a model for the concept “that you can actually build businesses that create real impact.” I asked Johnson recently to clarify the objective behind Andela’s drive. “It’s the exact same mission as when we started, based around our founding principle… that brilliance and talent are distributed equally around the world, but opportunity is not,” he said. “We’re about breaking down the walls that prevent brilliance and opportunity from connecting to each other.” A major barrier for Africa’s software engineers, according to Johnson, is simply the fact that the continent has been totally off the network that compa...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Rwanda to phase out gas motorcycle-taxis for e-motos

The government of Rwanda will soon issue national policy guidelines to eliminate gas motorcycles in its taxi sector in favor of e-motos. The country’s president, Paul Kagame, previewed the plan last week. “We will find a way to replace the ones you have now. We urge taxi-moto operators to help us when the phase-out process comes,” he said speaking at a youth forum. The director general for the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, Patrick Nyirishema, confirmed Kagame’s comments were ahead of a national e-mobility plan in the works for the East African nation. “The president’s announcement is exactly the policy direction we’re in…it’s about converting to electric motos…The policy is prepared, it’s yet to be passed…and is going through the approval process,” Nyirishema told TechCrunch on a call from Kigali. Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda are a common mode of transit, with estimates of 20 to 30 thousand operating in the capital of Kigali. The country has come a long way since the 1990s, becoming a test-bed for drone-delivery and prioritizing initiatives to become an African tech hub. Nyirishema explained that converting to e-motorcycles is part of a national strategy to move Rwanda’s entire mobility spa...

Other News / Science & Tech - 1 month ago

Justice Department indicts 80 individuals in a massive business email scam bust

The Justice Department has indicted dozens of individuals accused of involvement in a massive business email scam and money laundering scheme. Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Central District of California, confirmed more than a dozen individuals had been arrested during raids on Thursday — mostly in the Los Angeles area. A total of 80 defendants are allegedly involved in the scheme. News of the early morning raids were first reported by ABC7 in Los Angeles. The 145-page indictment, unsealed Thursday, said the 80 named individuals are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Most of the individuals alleged to be involved in the scheme are based in Nigeria, said the spokesperson. It’s not immediately known if the Nigerian nationals will be extradited to the U.S.; however, a treaty exists between the two nations, making extraditions possible. U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna said the case was part of an ongoing effort to protect citizens and businesses from email scams. “Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use [business email scam] schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims,” he said. “This indictment sends a mes...

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