BusinessDay

Google’s first investment from African fund goes to transport startup, SafeBoda

Google’s first investment from its Africa Investment Fund has gone to SafeBoda, a transport startup with operations in Uganda & Nigeria, that has been backed by investors including GoVentures (GoJek), Allianz X, Unbound, Beodyenext, Justin Kan. The specific value of Google’s investment in SafeBoda (out of the $50 million fund) was not provided in the statement issued by Google.

The Africa Investment Fund, which was launched by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, at Google for Africa in October, is expected to help drive SafeBoda’s growth in Uganda and Nigeria, scaling its transportation-led app to offer new payment and financial services solutions for its expanding set of customers: passengers, drivers and merchants.

Ricky Rapa Thomson, one of the co-founders, while welcoming Google to their community, said they “are excited to continue to drive innovation in informal transportation and payments in the b (motorcycle taxi driver in East Africa) or okada (West Africa) industry.” As a former boda driver in Kampala, himself, Thomson said “I know that we are the lifeblood of Africa’s cities and we power economic development. SafeBoda is thrilled that leading global companies such as Google see the importance of backing start-ups working towards these goals.”

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SafeBoda app was launched in 2017 to connect passengers to their community of safer and trusted drivers and since then SafeBoda has grown to serve over 1 million customers, expanding its transportation-led super app offering rides, parcel delivery, food and shop, payments, savings and other financial services, according to a press statement by Google.

“I am thrilled about our first investment from the $50M Africa Investment Fund that we announced two months ago,” said Nitin Gajria, managing director for Google in Africa. “This is part of our ongoing commitment to tech startups in Africa. I am of the firm belief that no one is better placed to solve Africa’s biggest problems than Africa’s young developers and entrepreneurs. We look forward to announcing subsequent investments in other startups.”

SafeBoda says it has also worked with a number of organizations to bring impact in road safety and financial inclusion, including Shell Foundation, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), UN Women and the Global Road Safety Partnership, among many others. SafeBoda, with over 200 employees and 25,000 drivers in its community has completed over 40 million orders.

On the other hand, the Africa Investment Fund is part of a broader plan to invest $1 billion over 5 years to support digital transformation in Africa. Through this fund, Google will invest $50M in startups and provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build impactful products for their communities. Currently, Africa is home to 700,000 developers and venture capital funding for startups has decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, with a record $4 billion in equity funding raised in 2021, according to Partech Ventures Africa. Digital startups in Africa are driving innovation in fast-growing sectors, including fintech, healthtech, media and entertainment, e-commerce, e-mobility, and e-logistics, contributing to Africa’s growing Internet gross domestic product (iGDP) — defined as the Internet’s contribution to the GDP.

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