Source: Disrupt Africa

Safaricom, M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation have opened applications for the latest edition of the Spark Accelerator in Kenya, which will support early-stage fintech and content startups to accelerate growth.

Safaricom first launched the Spark Venture Fund back in 2014, to invest and support late-seed, early growth stage companies with a presence in Kenya, whilst leveraging Safaricom assets to enable the companies to scale.

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A US$1 million fund, it invested an average of US$175,000 in six Kenyan startups, namely Sendy, Lynk, Ajua, Eneza, iProcure and FarmDrive, and a second fund was announced in 2020, though little was heard of it thereafter.

Now, it has partnered M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation, a leading Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company, to open applications for another edition. The three-month accelerator programme will provide a blend of training, mentorship, funding and go-to-market support to spark the growth and scale of ventures that come into the accelerator and set them up for long-term success.

It will benefit fintech and content startups in the initial phase, taking an ecosystem-based approach to identify and accelerate the startups by leveraging a team of experts who understand market dynamics, emerging tech and who are keen to enable continuous innovation.

“The Spark Accelerator programme is in line with our ambition to be a purpose-led technology company. With the accelerator, we are offering more than just capital injection which is what we did previously with Spark Fund. We have restructured the program to address the challenges that hinder early startups from growing to scale,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom.

“Sumitomo Corporation’s wide range of business experience will contribute to creating innovative businesses, support the expansion of the startup ecosystem.

Through this programme, we will contribute to the development of the African economy, human resource development, and the realisation of a more prosperous life for the people,” said Katsuya Kashiki, general manager of the smart communications platform business division at Sumitomo.

Participating startups are set to benefit with access and technical support to develop mini-apps embedded into Safaricom’s M-PESA Super App, empowering them to reach more than four million customers who use the app. 

“M-PESA connects more than 60 million customers and five million businesses across eight countries, providing a unique opportunity for startups in Africa looking to grow and scale rapidly. We have therefore partnered with Sumitomo and Safaricom to launch the Spark Accelerator to provide funding, technical expertise, resources and mentorship to the next generation of the continent’s leading tech startups. In turn, the startups will create innovations that connect customers and businesses on M-PESA to more opportunities while providing them with even more value,” said Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, MD of M-PESA Africa.  

In addition,  M-PESA Africa will offer expertise, market research and insights, and other capacity support for startups looking to expand their reach to other countries. The support will continue beyond the three-month programme, enabling startups in the programme to tap into more than 60 million customers and 5 million businesses across M-PESA’s eight markets. 

The accelerator program will culminate in an investor demo day for the startups to pitch for investment from Safaricom and partner venture capital firms. iHub, a pioneering force within Kenya’s startup ecosystem and a subsidiary of Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), will be the implementing partner of the Spark Accelerator. 

Applications are open here until February 16.

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Source: Disrupt Africa