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Kenya’s agri-tech startup Pula raises $20m funding for farmers’ insurance

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Kenyan agri-tech and insurance startup, Pula, has announced raising $20 million Series B funding round which will be used to help thousands of smallholder farmers in emerging markets gain access to insurance against floods, droughts, and other climate-related events.

The funding round, according to the company’s co-founder and CEO, Rose Goslinga, was led by BlueOrchard, a global impact investment manager and member of the Schroders Group, via its InsuResilience strategy, while fundraising also came from IFC and the Private Sector Window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).

“Partnering with this group of like-minded investors to boost the growth of Pula globally is a very exciting milestone in driving our triple 100 vision, through which we intend to bring insurance to 100 million smallholder farmers,” Goslinga said.

“What started nine years ago as an unconventional idea that many deemed un-scalable is now a proven solution that has solved real needs for millions of smallholder farmers across 22 countries.

“What sets Pula apart is the innovative business model, leveraging artificial intelligence, on the ground data collection mechanisms, mobile-based registration systems, remote sensing, and end-to-end automation tools.”

Co-founder of the startup which was launched in 2015, Thomas Njeru, said “Pula designs and delivers innovative agricultural insurance and digital products to help smallholder farmers endure climate risks, improve their farming practices and bolster their incomes over time.”

“Since its inception, Pula has partnered with over 70 insurance, 20 reinsurance companies, and 100 distribution partners across the globe to deliver their innovative insurance solutions,” Njeru stated.

“This has also helped develop the capacity of local insurance and reinsurance players to understand and underwrite agricultural insurance for smallholder farmers.

“Currently, Pula’s main markets span across Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and expanding our presence in Asia and Latin America. These markets are managed from Switzerland and coordinated from the Kenya service centre,” he added.

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American risk management solutions provider Archer opens business in Egypt

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American risk management solutions provider, Archer, has announced expanding its operations to Africa with Egypt as the first point of call.

While opening the Archer Integrated Risk Management (IRM) office in New Cairo, Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat, said the company couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate location for its business than the North African country.

The opening ceremony witnessed the presence of key dignitaries including Ahmed Elzaher, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), Sarah Kahler, Senior Director of Business Operations at Archer IRM and a member of the company’s Executive Leadership Team, Matt Tinsley, Senior Director of Global Services at Archer IRM, Rasha El Kaliouby, Director and General Manager at Archer IRM in Egypt, alongside officials from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), Archer in the United States (US), and various markets.

The Minister said the inauguration of the Archer IRM office at Cairo Festival City Business Park aligns with the company’s expansion strategy to bolster its presence in the Egyptian market.

Archer had last year, earmarked Cairo as the location for Archer’s first office in the Middle East.

The company said it aims to expand its operations from its Egyptian base into other countries in the continent and currently, the office boasts a team of over 140 talented employees specializing in engineering, research and development (R&D), technical support, sales, pre-sales, marketing, and customer services in more than nine languages, among other professional services.

In his remarks, the Egyptian ICT Minister emphasized that the efficiency and ability of Egyptian youth to harness technology contributed to making the ICT sector the fastest-growing state sector nationwide for five years in a row and an attractive destination for investments by ICT multinationals.

He underlined that Archer IRM office opening and planning to expand its operations in Egypt come as part of the efforts to develop Egypt’s capabilities in the outsourcing industry and attract multinationals to establish their outsourcing centers, run by Egyptian youth specializing in various ICT disciplines.

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How Nigerian online connection hub Workjeje helps with access to quality service providers

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A Nigerian online connection hub, Workjeje, has revealed how it is connecting individuals and corporate bodies to quality service providers in their vicinity, while catering to urban dwellers that prioritise quality and convenience in the services they seek.

The startup which was founded in 2021 by the trio of Fortune Nwankwo, Collins Onyebuchi and Ejike Anthony, who were students at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has evolved into one of the most sought after hub in major cities in the country.

According to Nwankwo, Workjeje, unlike other competitors in the Nigerian market, focuses on quantity of artisans with a strong focus on quality.

“It was really hard to get service providers, let alone reliable ones. They were so unserious, they’d tell you they would come in the afternoon and show up four days later, and worst of all might deliver mediocre services,” Nwankwo said in an interview.

“Collins called me one day into his house to share his proposed solution to me, so I called my friend Wisdom – who is a programmer – to build it, and that was how Workjeje started.

“We had customers asking if the artisans were pre-vetted, which of course is a pain point for them, especially for women who would love to feel safe when a stranger is in their home.

“We pre-vet our artisans by onboarding them ourselves, and still monitor their contracts and ratings to maintain optimum quality.

“Customer feedback has been really important to us. At the test phase, some customers believed our vetting process was not very thorough, and some artisans did not look the part.

“We listened, we churned a lot of unserious artisans, we made sure we vetted the artisans ourselves, and we prioritised service companies because they have more to lose,” he added.

Workjeje is currently operating in Abuja and Enugu as test markets, and is taking its growth plan seriously and slowly, he stated.

“We were funded twice by friends – first at the building stage and the second at the marketing phase.

“Getting 10 successful transactions was a major booster for us even though we were still in the testing phase. It showed us people actually were ready to pay for the convenience we provide. Right now we have processed over 70 transactions.”

Recently, Workjeje completed a new feature that its artisans had been asking for – an escrow service, primarily designed for delivery services to protect themselves against unpaid bills.

On how the platform makes money for survival, Nwankwo said:

“The startup collects between five and 10 per cent from its artisans as fees, depending on its agreement with them, Workjeje also plans to incorporate advertisements on its platform in the near future.

“We plan on expanding to major states and cities across Nigeria, and in time Africa to limit the macro influence on our business.”

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