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Global investment money is flooding into Africa’s fintechs –



Ricky Rapa Thomson was a security guard and then a motorbike taxi driver before he became an entrepreneur. SafeBoda, the startup he co-founded, promises safe and reliable transport on Uganda’s deadly streets. It also offers fintech solutions for its drivers and customers and hopes to become Africa’s largest ride-hailing service.

It’s the kind of fairy-tale story that tech investors usually love. Yet it’s also the sort of pothole-filled journey that overseas capital has traditionally avoided in Africa, preferring instead to focus on extractive industries like mining or on infrastructure projects.

So Thomson was anxious when SafeBoda sought Series B investments in 2019. But the startup drew funding from the investment arms of German insurance major Allianz and Indonesian super app Gojek, neither of which had ever put money in African tech before.

“It was humbling,” Thomson told Al Jazeera, recalling his emotions at the time. “It’s an amazing validation.”

Two years later, Thomson’s experience resonates with hundreds of African founders, as the continent emerges as ground zero for a stunning surge in fintech funding. Global investors, often from countries that have traditionally not been major players in Africa, are rushing to back promising startups. From giant corporations to venture capital (VC) firms of myriad sizes, no one wants to be left behind.

It’s an amazing validation

Ricky Rapa Thomson, co-founder, SafeBoda

In the third quarter of this year alone, African fintech firms raised $906m, according to Digest Africa, a database of early-stage investments on the continent. That represented more than 60 percent of all venture money that flowed into Africa last quarter, and more than all other sectors combined in the first half of 2021.

This year’s trend builds on a separate analysis by BFA Global’s Catalyst Fund, which showed funding for African fintechs grew exponentially, from a mere $385m in 2018 to $1.35bn last year.

Unicorns multiply

Three years ago, the continent had one privately-owned startup worth over $1bn – Nigerian e-commerce company Jumia. Today, at least seven African startups have joined the “unicorn” club. Five of those are fintech firms, three of which — Flutterwave, OPay and Wave — became unicorns just this year.

Too many numbers? This wave is just getting started, according to Ryosuke Yamawaki, whose Kepple Africa Ventures entered the continent in 2018.

“I think it’s going to explode,” Yamawaki told Al Jazeera. “Now we see new investors from outside Africa every day.”

In October, Google announced a $50m fund to support African startups. The same month, New York-based Tiger Global invested $15m in Nigeria’s Mono, and $3m in Zambia’s Union54. In March, Tiger Global led a $170m funding round for Nigeria’s Flutterwave, which helped that company become a unicorn.

But it isn’t just the West that has its eyes on African fintech. In August, Nigeria-based mobile money service OPay became the most-valued African startup at $2bn after a mammoth $400m funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank and backed by Chinese investors such as Sequoia Capital.

But while these behemoth funds often grab the spotlight, smaller investors from a diverse set of countries are the ones who’ve laid the foundation for African fintech’s moment in the sun.

Now we see new investors from outside Africa every day.

Ryosuke Yamawaki, Kepple Africa Ventures

Unlike Tiger Global and SoftBank, which started investing in African startups only this year, Japanese venture capital companies Kepple, Samurai Incubate Africa and Asia Africa Investment & Consulting have been rapidly building their portfolios over the past two years.

Kepple has now invested around $15m across 96 companies, Yamawaki said.

In April, Australia’s TEN13 invested an undisclosed amount in Kenya-based ImaliPay. And the investment in SafeBoda from Indonesia’s Gojek underscores how funds from emerging markets are joining their peers from developed economies in betting on Africa. “The world realises that the best way — the only way really — to find solutions to Africa’s challenges is by investing in local innovators capable of designing fixes that actually work,” Thomson said.

The race is on

To be sure, fintech is hot globally — not just in Africa. But the continent has unique features and challenges that make the sector an ideal fit.

Traditionally, the high cost of doing business in Africa has served as a deterrent for many foreign investors, said Aubrey Hruby, who advises Fortune 500 firms and other major companies on investments in the continent. Poor physical infrastructure complicates business activities.

“Fintech does away with those infrastructure challenges,” she said.

African talent in the sector has also matured now, with many founders on their second or third startups. “Investors know they’re dealing with people with a proven track record who’ve learned along the way,” Hruby told Al Jazeera.

Then there’s the market itself: 40 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s people are under the age of 15, making them potential future customers at a time when smartphone penetration, still under 50 percent, is rising sharply.

Investors know they’re dealing with people with a proven track record.

Aubrey Hruby, adviser

“It’s a huge opportunity,” says Ricardo Schäfer, a partner at Target Global, a London-based venture capital fund. “Like in a gold rush, you want to invest in picks and shovels, we want to focus on the infrastructure of digital money — and that’s fintech.”

Though the United States, China and others are all vying for influence in Africa, the race to invest in fintech is unlikely to be impacted by geopolitics, according to Hruby and Yamawaki. VCs, Yamawaki said, just don’t think that way. But a different competition, among private sector investors from around the world, appears inevitable. “There’s a scramble to get in,” said Yamawaki. “The winners will be those who came to the market earlier.”

Yet getting in early brings its own risks and anxieties. After Target Global led a $10m investment round for Nigerian digital bank Kuda last year, Schäfer said his firm’s “biggest concern” was whether smart capital would “follow us.” It did: In early August, Kuda was valued at $500m after a fresh round of funding. “Our concern faded away very quickly,” he told Al Jazeera.

Now, the entry of some of the planet’s biggest funds like SoftBank and Tiger Global is likely to increase the confidence of smaller VC firms looking to make early-stage investments, said Yamawaki. And as the startups grow bigger, “their talent will leave and start their own businesses”, further spreading the lessons they’ve learned from their success, said Hruby.

True, the political instability and regulatory uncertainty that have long spooked investors in Africa remain realities in several nations even today. But SafeBoda’s Thomson is convinced that the flood of investments into African fintech reveals a pathway to a better future. “When global investors back local innovators and local tech, you build a better world,” he said.

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Peel Hunt Reports Record First-Half Investment Banking Revenue – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Peel Hunt’s investment banking unit reported record results in the six months to Sept. 28 as the exit from lockdown boosted market confidence and the broker grew its client roster.

Revenue at the division rose 43% to 32.7 million pounds ($44 million), with investment banking fees up almost half, the company said in a statement Wednesday. That’s its strongest half-year on record.

“We continue to grow our number of retained investment banking clients and have a healthy deal pipeline with a strong balance of transactions,” Chief Executive Officer Steven Fine said in the statement. “We’re well positioned to execute our growth plans, which include opening an European office.”

The firm’s research operations grew by 3.5% and revenue at its execution and trading operations more than halved to 24 million pounds, reflecting an expected normalization from the heightened trading volumes seen at the onset of the pandemic.

The firm returned to London’s Alternative Investment Market at the end of September, more than two decades after it was first floated. It currently has 162 corporate clients, with an average market value of around 775 million pounds.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Here’s why you shouldn’t shy away from investing, even if you only have a small amount of money – CNBC



Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

Robert G. Allen, author of several best-selling personal finance books once asked, “How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts? I rest my case.” 

Using a savings account and an emergency fund for short-term expenses is important, but investing for retirement and the future is arguably just as crucial. While it may feel pointless to start investing if you don’t have much money, it can still be incredibly worthwhile. Think of it this way: few, if any, start investing with a large sum of money. For many, growing your wealth happens over years and years and is a slow and steady process.

By starting slow, even with a small amount of cash, you can begin to establish the habit of investing regularly, which will hopefully lead to a large nest egg in the future.

Select details why you should start investing today, even if you don’t have a large amount of money to start with.

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Why you should start investing today

Investing can be an intimidating word and concept for many reasons. There are a large amount of terms, tax implications, planning and investments to understand — along with knowing there will be market fluctuations making your net worth go up and down. But by understanding the mere basics, you can begin to grow your wealth quickly.

Corbin Blackwell CFP, senior financial planner at wealth management app Betterment, told Select that, “Investing is one of the best ways to grow your long-term wealth and reach major goals for things like retirement, buying a home and college funds.”

He also said that beginning the investing journey is often the most difficult part, as growth will be limited at first. He added that, “Tools available today, like digital investment advisors, make it easier than ever to get started.”

And by getting started today, you have the best asset that any investor can have on their side: time.

By letting your money sit in the market longer, you allow for compound interest to take over — which is when your interest and gains stack on top of one another. Blackwell gives an excellent example of the power of compound interest:

“Let’s say you invested just $100 today and saw a 5% annual return – thanks to the power of compound interest, if you don’t touch your investment, in 30 years you’d have $430.”

That’s an ok return, but imagine if you invested $100 monthly for 30 years into a common index fund. An index fund is a fund that has a group of companies within it, and tracks the performance of the entire group. These groups can range in focus including the size of each company, the respective industries, location of the companies, type of investment and more. One of the most popular indices, the S&P 500, consists of the 500 largest companies in the United States, making it a relatively safe investment because of its exposure to hundreds of companies and dozens of industries.

Many consider this a ‘boring investment,’ but the results the index has produced are nothing to balk at.

The average yearly return of the S&P 500 over the last 30 years is 10.7%, but even at a conservative return of 8%, you would have over $146,000 if you invest $100 a month for 30 years. The impressive part is that your total contributions would be $36,000, which means your money would have quadrupled in value in 30 years (note that past performance does not guarantee future success).

In short, the more money and more time you have in the market, the more likely you are to grow your investment funds.

How to begin investing

If growing your net worth is your goal, you can get started in just a few minutes. Here are a few things to consider:

Build a budget that works for you

Starting to invest with a small amount of money isn’t an issue. However, it’s important to know how much you can afford to invest, as you don’t want to harm your personal finances in the process. Blackwell urged, “as long as you aren’t using money [to invest] that you need to cover day to day expenses such as food, rent and high interest debt payments, I recommend you start investing.”

A budget gives you a way to see where your money is going each month, where you can possibly cut back and how much you can invest each month. You can set up a budget for yourself using a budgeting app, a spreadsheet or even a simple pen and paper. I use Personal Capital to manage my budget because I’m able to track my expenses and monitor the performance of my investments in one convenient app.

Regardless of which budgeting method works best for you, it’s important to have an established budget to understand how much you can invest each month without cutting into the money allocated towards your monthly essentials.

Select an investing “bucket” and investments

There are many different buckets you can fill with money, such as a Roth IRA, HSA, 529 or taxable brokerage account. Each of these accounts serve a different purpose and have different tax implications, so be sure to select one that makes sense for you. For example, a Roth IRA is great if you plan on being in a higher tax bracket when you retire — you’ll contribute after-tax income but all gains are tax-free after 59 and a half years old.

Once you select the type of account you want to invest within, you then must decide what type of investment to put your money into. This is the puzzling part for many, as there are an abundance of options, from ETFs to viral meme stocks to index funds and many more in-between.

For long term investors, index funds are a great solution as they have low fees, are low maintenance, provide wide exposure and many provide stable returns. In fact, John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, summarizes the effectiveness of index funds in one analogy: “Don’t look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack.”

Regardless of which investment you choose, it’s important to evaluate your risk-tolerance and understand what you’re investing in. Be sure to do your own research, and potentially connect with an accredited financial advisor to discuss the best options.

Automate your investing

Once you determine how much you can and want to invest each month, it’s important to turn on auto-investing.

This is where money is taken out of your checking account each month and automatically deposited into your choice of investments. Choosing this option is important because it takes the leg work away from needing to invest each month. Additionally, studies show that we are built for ‘present bias‘ — which is the idea that the farther away something is, the less important it is. Essentially, it’s much easier to spend now, rather than save for later. Automating transfers from your checking account or paycheck into an investment account will help ensure you don’t spend money that you were planning on investing.

By automating your investments, you will be passively growing your nest egg and getting yourself closer to reaching your financial goals.

You may also want to consider a robo-advisor like Betterment or Wealthfront. Robo-advisors work by gathering information from you on your financial situation and investing goals to suggest investments that fit your needs and risk tolerance. After supplying this information, the robo-advisor will build you a portfolio based on your answers through computer algorithms and advanced software, with little to no work on your end. Plus, it will rebalance your investments over time based on your goals and changes in the market.

Best brokerages to get started

To begin investing, you’ll need to select a brokerage account provider. These brokerages serve as the intermediary between you and the seller of the stock or security you want to purchase.

When deciding on the best brokerage for you, be sure to consider these factors:

  • Fees: These can range from minimum deposits, stock trade fees, mutual fund trade fees and more. Be sure to select a no- or low-fee brokerage.
  • Ease of use: Each brokerage has a different website and mobile app. While this is much more subjective, it’s advantageous to use a brokerage with a web interface and experience you understand and enjoy.
  • Promotions: From time to time, brokerages will offer bonuses to new users. For example, I recently signed up for a Fidelity brokerage account and earned a $100 bonus after depositing $50.

Below are a few of our favorite online brokerages:


Information about Fidelity accounts has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer prior to publication.

  • Fees/commissions

    $0 for stocks, ETFs, options and some mutual funds

  • Account minimum

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, fractional shares, ETFs, mutual funds, options


  • Some ETFs don’t have expense ratios
  • Mobile app is easy to use
  • No commissions on many types of securities


  • No futures or forex trading
  • High fees for broker assisted trades

TD Ameritrade

  • Fees/commissions

    $0 commission on stocks, options and ETFs

  • Account minimum

  • Investment options

    Includes stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, Forex, and futures


  • Excellent customer service
  • Intuitive trading platform
  • Large selection of mutual funds


  • Some mutual funds charge high commissions
  • Free research may not all be relevant to novice investors
  • Doesn’t offer fractional shares of stocks


Information about the Vanguard accounts has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer prior to publication.

  • Fees/commissions

  • Account minimum

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, CDs


  • Excellent customer service
  • One of the largest ETF and mutual funds offerings around
  • Large number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds


  • $20 annual fee for IRAs and brokerage accounts, though investors can waive this fee by opting into paperless statements
  • Basic trading platform only
  • No robust research and data tools

Bottom line

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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Increased scrutiny will make greenwashing tougher – Investment Executive



The global conversation around climate and social issues will make engaging in greenwashing more difficult, says Jacob Hegge, an investment specialist with J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Hegge said the growing popularity of bonds that focus on environment, social and governance (ESG) excellence is helping to identify bad-faith players who try to appear more conscientious than they are.

He allowed that investing in green initiatives can be confusing, given unclear and sometimes conflicting definitions, but standardization is coming.

“It’s great to see all the activity around ESG, but a consequence of this increased activity means a greater dispersion in terminology,” he said. “As ESG investing continues to grow, we’d expect to see more standardization. But until then, it’s important to understand that navigating the landscape can be difficult.”

Hegge said investors should test the terminology used to define green projects.

“Is the data or testing methodology readily available for investors to use? Is it easy to understand? Are the definitions explained and easily accessible? These are things investors need to be looking out for,” he said. “It comes down to transparency and consistency. And as ESG investing continues to grow globally, we expect this standardization to be more prominent in the market.”

The hot ESG market makes it all the more necessary for investors to know what they’re buying, Hegge said. “We do think it’s important for investors to look under the hood and pay attention to what investment firms are saying when they title a fund as being ESG. They really need to make sure that investment products are staying true to the prospectus.”

Hegge said green and sustainability-linked bonds are being issued at record levels, and issues are likely to increase.

“This year alone, green social sustainability and sustainability-linked bonds are expected to reach a combined issuance of over a trillion [U.S. dollars], which is doubled compared to last year,” he said. “And … some expect that investment in green bonds will actually double and reach US$1 trillion for the first time in a single year by the end of next year.”

Hegge said many companies are at the beginning of their green journeys, and their success in meeting ambitious targets will reflect their commitment level.

“Don’t narrow your opportunity set by being put off by low ESG scores. The important part is whether these scores are improving over time. You can find sustainable bonds even if they don’t have a sustainable label in the market,” he said.

“The global fixed-income market is very large and there are a lot of opportunities out there.”


This article is part of the Soundbites program, sponsored by Canada Life. The article was written without sponsor input.

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