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Nairobi’s Sokowatch secures $125M to help informal retail channels through BNPL in West Africa; rebrands to Wasoko

Wasoko
Image credits: Wasoko

Sokowatch, an African e-commerce company, announced that it has secured $125M in a Series B funding round led by Tiger Global and Avenir Growth Capital, making it the largest non-fintech venture raise in African history. 

The round also includes participation from a host of leading names, including VNV Global, Binny Bansal of Flipkart), Sujeet Kumar of Udaan, and existing investors Quona Capital, 4DX Ventures, and JAM Fund. 

Rebrands to Wasoko

In addition to the funding, Sokowatch has appointed Sujeet Kumar, Co-Founder of Udaan, to its Board of Directors to provide strategic guidance for Wasoko’s continued growth.

Further, the company has officially launched in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Dakar, Senegal. The company has rebranded to Wasoko, which translates to “People of the Market” in Swahili.

“The new brand reinforces the company’s shift from its origins as a backend distribution software platform in East Africa to a public brand providing free delivery of essential goods and working capital financing to informal retailers across opposite ends of the African continent,” writes the company in the press release. 

How will the funding be used?

The new capital will enable Wasoko to drive further geographic expansion into Nigeria and Southern Africa while continuing to consolidate its position across its six current countries.

The Nairobi-based company is also exploring opportunities to expand its product offering to verticals such as merchant point-of-sale systems, bill payments, and social commerce through internal innovation, strategic investments, and acquisitions of relevant companies.

Daniel Yu, CEO, and Founder of Wasoko says, “After more than six years building and constantly iterating on our operations, we are proud to have demonstrated the traction and quality of business required to raise funding from world-class investors. We’re fully focused on leveraging their strategic support to build one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the world and transform access to goods and services for African citizens across every corner of the continent.” 

What does Wasoko solve?

According to Wasoko, over $600B of consumer goods are sold in Africa through informal retail channels every year, supplying the vast majority of the population. 

However, the industry still remains highly fragmented and inefficient with local shops facing a number of major challenges including frequent stockouts, limited access to capital, and difficulty receiving goods from suppliers. 

And here’s where Wasoko comes into play! 

And, how?

Founded by Daniel Yu, David Jaress, Josh Raine in 2016, Wasoko transforms access to essential goods and services by connecting small shops to the digital economy. 

Through Wasoko’s platform, informal retailers can order products at any time through SMS or mobile app for free same-day delivery to their stores. 

Using the historic purchasing data, the platform also evaluates retailers to provide them with access to Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) financing.

Since the launch, Wasoko has delivered 2.5M orders to over 50,000 informal retailers across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal with revenue growth over the past 12 months at over 500%. 

Wasoko has built a Pan-African business with more than 800 full-time employees across the African continent, all of whom are also shareholders in the company through Wasoko’s universal employee equity policy. 

As Wasoko continues to strengthen its presence across Africa, the company has made several transformative appointments to its senior leadership team including:

  • Mellany Msengezi (ex Airtel) as Head of Marketing 
  • Aurelien Barreau (ex Carrefour) as Head of Sourcing
  • Georges Bejjani (ex Jumia) as Head of Business Intelligence. 

Wasoko is currently recruiting for a number of roles including Chief Operations Officer and Chief Product Officer as well as Engineers and Product Managers at all levels and a host of other positions throughout the business. 

Investor

Avenir Growth Capital is a private investment firm that focuses on growth equity opportunities

Andrew Sugrue, Founding Partner at Avenir Growth Capital, adds “Informal retailers capture the vast majority of consumer spending in Africa, and they are dramatically underserved by existing distribution and financial infrastructure. We’re excited about the category-defining, Pan-African commerce platform Wasoko is building and the efficiencies it brings to these retailers and their suppliers through a combination of superior product selection, logistics, and financial services.”

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