By Rogers Wanambwa
KIU, Main Campus – On Friday, 17th December 2021, Google announced that it has made the first investment from its Africa Investment Fund in Ugandan super app SafeBoda.
The unrevealed investment comes two months after Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the tech giant’s intentions to commit $1 billion over the next five years in “tech-led initiatives,” which includes a $50 million Africa Investment Fund targeted at early- and growth-stage startups on the continent. This he said at the Google for Africa event in October.
Before initiating the fund, Google had proved helpful in startups’ journeys via its Google for Startups Accelerator Africa program.
More than 80 seed to Series A stages received equity-free mentorship and resources from the fund. The accelerator program. Collectively, they have raised over $100 million in venture capital.
Furthermore, Google recently launched Black Founders Fund, a non-dilutive $3 million fund allocated to 50 startups yearly. Though Google’s investment in SafeBoda serves as an early reminder of Gajria’s statement, startups from the Big Four markets will likely fill the fund’s portfolio in the next couple of years.
The Ugandan startup launched as a two-wheel ride-hailing platform before embarking on a super app plan two years ago. Now, it offers rides, parcel delivery, food and shop, payments, savings, and other financial services to over 1 million customers in Uganda and its second market, Nigeria. The company counts more than 25,000 drivers who have completed over 40 million orders in both markets. As it is, SafeBoda, which rarely announces any of its funding rounds since its inception in 2017, is said to have raised over $20 million already. Its investors include GoVentures of Gojek, Allianz X, Transsion Holdings, Beenext, Unbound, and Justin Kan.
According to SafeBoda the investment from Google’s Africa Investment Fund will help “drive its 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.”
“SafeBoda welcomes Google to their community and is excited to continue to drive innovation in informal transportation and payments in the boda boda (East Africa) or okada (West Africa) industry,” said co-founder Ricky Rapa Thomson in a statement.
“This vital industry is the lifeblood of Africa’s cities and powers economic development. SafeBoda is thrilled that leading global companies such as Google see the importance of backing startups working towards these goals,” he added.