SafeBoda Becomes the First Beneficiary of Google’s African Investment Fund

SafeBoda Becomes the First Beneficiary of Google’s African Investment Fund

In October, Google launched the Africa Investment Fund, to help the African tech ecosystem, especially startups, with funding and digital amenities needed to accelerate growth.

Two months after, the $1 billion “tech-led initiatives”, which is billed to run for over the next five years and includes a $50 million Africa Investment Fund targeted at early- and growth-stage startups on the continent, has found its first startup – SafeBoda.

The ride-hailing motorbike startup has gained popularity in Uganda since it was founded in 2014. Google says that the investment will 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.

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Google has been passionate about Africa’s tech development. Before launching the fund, the tech giant proved helpful in startups’ journeys via its Google for Startups Accelerator Africa program. The accelerator program has supported more than 80 startups in seed to Series A stages with equity-free mentorship and resources. Collectively, they have raised over $100 million in venture capital, and also recently launched Black Founders Fund, a non-dilutive $3 million fund allocated to 50 startups yearly.

SafeBoda becomes Google’s first choice due to its impact in Uganda, which has evolved from solving a last-mile transport friction with a huge growth potential, to being a super app offering other services.

SafeBoda app was launched in 2017 to connect passengers to their community of safer and trusted drivers and since then, the motorbike company 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. The Uganda & Nigeria venture-backed company has investors that include GoVentures (GoJek), Allianz X, Unbound, Beenext, and Justin Kan.

Co-founder, Ricky Rapa Thomson, said African cities have economic development opportunities that will continue to be powered by SafeBoda.

“SafeBoda welcomes Google to their community and are excited to continue to drive innovation in informal transportation and payments in the boda boda (motorcycle taxi driver in East Africa) or okada (West Africa) industry. As a former boda driver in Kampala, 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,” he said.

Besides providing US$50M to support early tech ideas, Google will provide them with access to Google’s employees, network, and technologies to help them build impactful products for their communities.

Africa’s investment volume has risen more than ever before in 2021, with a record $4 billion in equity funding raised, according to Partech Ventures Africa. There is also a growing army of vibrant tech-based workforce, made up of 700,000 developers in the continent. 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.

Nitin Gajria, Managing Director for Google in Africa said the fund will help Africa’s developers and entrepreneurs to solve the continent’s problems.

“I am thrilled about our first investment from the $50M Africa Investment Fund that we announced two months ago. 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,” Gajria said.

It is expected that more startups and entrepreneurs will emerge as beneficiaries of the Google fund in early 2022.

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