Google’s Africa Investment Fund makes maiden investment in Uganda’s SafeBoda

UGANDA – Internet giant Google, has announced that it has made the first investment from its Africa Investment Fund in Ugandan super app SafeBoda, reports TechCrunch Africa.

The undisclosed investment comes two months after Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the tech giant’s intentions to commit US$1 billion over the next five years in “tech-led initiatives”, which includes a US$50 million Africa Investment Fund targeted at early- and growth-stage start-ups on the continent. He made this known at the Google for Africa event in October.

Before launching the fund, Google proved helpful in start-ups’ journeys via its Google for Start-ups Accelerator Africa program.

The accelerator program has supported more than 80 start-ups in seed to Series A stages with equity-free mentorship and resources and collectively, they have raised over US$100 million in venture capital.

Google also recently launched Black Founders Fund; a non-dilutive US$3 million fund allocated to 50 startups yearly. 

Fintech startups and those from Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa get looked at the most by venture capitalists. Last year, fintech startups accounted for 25% of the VC funding which flowed into Africa, while startups from the Big Four received more than half of the continent’s total funding.

The Ugandan startup launched as a two-wheel ride-hailing platform before embarking on a super app plan two years ago.

Presently, 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. 

“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”

Ricky Papa - Co-founder, Safe Boda Tweet

The company counts more than 25,000 drivers who have completed over 40 million orders in both markets. 

SafeBoda has rarely announced any of its funding rounds since its inception in 2017, but people who know the company’s dealings say it has raised over US$20 million. 

Its investors include GoVentures of Gojek, Allianz X, Transsion Holdings, Beenext, Unbound and Justin Kan.

SafeBoda said 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.” 

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