28 May 2024

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3 Min Read

Nine early-stage startups selected to benefit from the Spark Accelerator Program

By iHUB

The Spark Accelerator Program is an initiative of Safaricom, M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation, implemented by the iHUB that seeks to grow and scale commercially viable businesses that are also creating societal change.

Nairobi, Kenya – 28th May 2024Safaricom in partnership with M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation has shortlisted nine startups to benefit from the Spark Accelerator Program, a platform for bold and visionary founders to grow and scale their businesses. 

The recipient startups were identified following a call for applications across different categories, which included Embedded Finance, Future Fintech, SME Productivity Tools and Content. By providing a blend of training, mentorship, and go-to-market support, the Spark Accelerator is taking an ecosystem-based approach to provide the startups with access to markets, access to technology, product development support and access to capital. 

“Leveraging technology to drive meaningful innovation is a strong premise under which the Spark Accelerator program was founded. By supporting and investing in these tech-enabled startups, we aim to drive significant societal change and economic growth. We are excited to work with visionary founders who represent the promise of tomorrow and to see the impact they will create in their respective sectors.” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom.

The first cohort of the Spark Accelerator will include two startups under Embedded Finance category namely Chumz, a startup that is leveraging mobile money, gamification, and behavioral psychology to build a community of savers and Nobuk which is streamlining payment collection and reconciliation for African groups and collectives, simplifying financial reporting.

Four startups were shortlisted under the SME Productivity Tools category. These include, Chpter which empowers businesses to sell more on social platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram by automating conversations, marketing and payments all in one place, through an AI powered platform. Faidi HR, a one in all Cloud Payroll and HR Platform for Businesses, Churpy which seeks to automate repetitive and manual tasks in the office of the “CFO” and Twiva, a social-commerce platform that helps brands to effectively gain access to markets by leveraging social media influencers to market their goods and services. 

HealthX Africa, a data driven, primary health care provider offering hybrid digital and physical touch points, with the goal of providing a doctor for every Kenyan and BlackRhino VR that is enabling creators and brands alike, to tell immersive and interactive stories that are appealing to contemporary audiences, were shortlisted under the content category.

VunaPay, a platform for Agricultural Cooperatives that facilitates instant payment to smallholder farmers for produce delivered to the cooperatives was shortlisted under the Future Fintech category.

“By leveraging our extensive global business know-how with excellent operations and customer base of Safaricom and M-PESA Africa, we are excited to expand digital financial services and contribute to the development of the Kenyan and African economies, human resource development and a more prosperous life through supporting and collaborating with advanced startups.” said Katsuya Kashiki, General Manager of Smart Communication Platform SBU, Sumitomo Corporation.

“In alignment with our commitment to accelerating innovation for African prosperity, we are excited to welcome these startups into the programme. Their unique solutions harness transformative opportunities to leverage technology to significantly improve the quality of lives of millions of Kenyans. We look forward to supporting the startups to optimize their offerings, scale their solutions and expand their impact.” – Nissi Madu Managing Partner at iHUB/CcHUB

Last year, Safaricom entered into a strategic partnership with M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation, a leading Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company, to launch the Spark Accelerator following an approval by Safaricom board and shareholders to restructure the Spark Fund.

The Spark Accelerator will leverage a team of founders and experts to accelerate product innovation across different industry verticals. 

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About Safaricom 

Safaricom is the leading telecommunication company in East Africa. Our purpose is to transform lives by connecting people to people, people to opportunities and people to information. We keep over 45.9 million customers connected and play a critical role in the society, supporting over one million jobs both directly and indirectly while our total economic value was estimated at KES 393 billion ($ 3.1 billion) for the 12 months through March 2022.

Listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange and with annual revenues of close to KES 335.4 billion as at March 2024. Safaricom provides connectivity through wide range of technology, 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in aggregate covering over 99% of Kenya’s population.

We run the world’s largest mobile payment system and Africa’s largest Fintech, M-PESA, the world’s first mobile money transfer system. By empowering over 32.1 million customers to transact, save or borrow money through their mobile phone, M-PESA has driven financial inclusion in Kenya to 83.7% in 2021 of the adult population from a low of 26.7% in 2006 and generated over KES 139.9 Billion in revenue as at FY24.

Our subsidiary, Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, has deployed world class network and services to contribute to Ethiopia’s digital transformation.

Safaricom is an equal opportunity employer, actively recruiting staff from different backgrounds reflecting the communities that we serve. We are committed to equal gender representation at all levels. Our target is to achieve 50:50 senior management gender parity by 2025. 

As part of our ongoing commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we continue to work towards improving energy and resource efficiency in our network and facilities to reduce carbon emissions and our fuel consumption. We remain committed to becoming a Net Zero carbon-emitting company by 2050.

For news, please visit: https://www.safaricom.co.ke/media-center   

For media-ready photos, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/safaricom_pr   

PRComms@Safaricom.co.ke

About M-PESA Africa

M-PESA Africa was established in 2020 as a joint venture between Safaricom and Vodacom. It runs Africa’s largest Fintech Platform and Digital ecosystem, M-PESA, which is the world’s first mobile money transfer system launched in Kenya in 2007. 

The M-PESA platform provides financial services to over 61 million people with a safe, secure and affordable way to send and receive money, top-up airtime, make bill payments, receive salaries, get short-term loans and much more. Currently, the platform processes over $400,000+ value of transactions per minute, disburses $300M+ short terms loans monthly and has over 23M+ customers actively making merchant transactions on a monthly basis.

M-PESA services are accessible from more than 650,000 active agents and 907,000 active merchants operating across seven African markets including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania.

In June 2021, M-PESA rolled out the M-PESA Super App that enable more than 60 million customers with a modern, intuitive and secure way to transact on their smartphones. The Super App also hosts other Mini-Apps which enable customers and businesses to accomplish day-to-day tasks from shopping to accessing government services without having to download different apps for each task.

Moreover, M-PESA for Business Super App and the transacting till, enable businesses to receive and make business payments while Pochi La Biashara enables small businesses to separate their personal and business funds. 

M-PESA Africa continues to expand its partnerships in an aim to boost remittances which empower customers to send and receive money across more than 200 countries and territories.

About Sumitomo Corporation

Sumitomo Corporation (TYO: 8053) is an integrated trading company with a strong global network comprising 129 offices in 66 countries and regions. The Sumitomo Corporation Group consists of approximately 900 companies and 80,000 employees on a consolidated basis. The Group’s business activities are spread across the following nine groups: Steel, Automotive, Transportation & Construction Systems, Diverse Urban Development, Media & Digital, Lifestyle Business, Mineral Resources, Chemicals Solutions and Energy Transformation Business. Sumitomo Corporation is committed to creating greater value for society under the corporate message of “Enriching lives and the world,” based on Sumitomo’s business philosophy passed down for over 400 years. Sumitomo Corporation. For more information, please visit the Sumitomo Corporation home page at the following link  

www.sumitomocorp.com

About iHUB

iHUB Kenya is a globally recognized innovation center that has been the main catalyst for regional technology acceleration and a role model for tech hubs in emerging markets since 2010. iHUB is committed to playing a critical role in leapfrogging the African technology entrepreneurship scene by creating an environment of trust and experimentation that facilitates the growth of entrepreneurs and their companies. The iHUB is part of a wider collective of pan-African innovation enablers including the Co-Creation Hub in Nigeria, CcHUB Design Lab in Rwanda, eLimu in Kenya, Growth Capital by CcHUB, and CcHUB Syndicate. All these partner companies contribute to stimulating innovation and technology application towards achieving social impact across diverse sectors. Please see https://ihub.co.ke/ for more information about iHUB.