TPG’s Rise Fund makes its first Africa investment

The Rise Fund, the impact fund run by private equity group TPG Growth, has made its first investment in Africa, leading a $47.5m deal to buy an unspecified stake in digital payments provider Cellulant.

The deal, which also included Endeavour Catalyst and Satya Capital, is the largest involving a

fintech company that does business only in Africa, according to the Rise Fund.

“Much of the [fintech investment] activity in recent times in Africa has been specifically in the consumer lending space,” said Yemi Lalude, TPG’s managing partner for Africa. “This is different from that. What Cellulant has is a payment platform that enables people who have not had access to financial payments to get access in a way that is transparent.”

Cellulant was founded in 2004 with operations in Kenya and Nigeria. It now works in 11 countries with 94 banks and seven mobile money platforms that have a combined potential customer base of 130m. It focuses on facilitating mobile payments and ecommerce.

Ken Njoroge, Cellulant co-founder and chief executive, said the new capital would be used to scale up the company’s operations and expand into two more countries this year.

“The payment market on the continent is [worth] anywhere between $20bn and $40bn over the next couple of years while all of the fintech players in the market [currently] collectively generate a little shy of $2bn,” he said.

Mr Lalude said TPG’s investments were “usually up to seven years, and this would be similar to that”.

TPG formed the Rise Fund last year, attracting some $2bn in capital. It aims to be “committed to achieving measurable, positive social and environmental outcomes” while delivering “competitive financial returns”. Its board members include entrepreneur Richard Branson, singer Bono and Jeffrey Skoll, the first president of online auction website eBay.

Mr Lalude said one of the attractions of Cellulant for the Rise Fund was that many of its 40m customers had no access to formal financial services before they started using Cellulant products and services.

Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based investment adviser, said he was not surprised Cellulant had attracted the attention of a major private equity group, noting that Mr Njoroge had “built a successful business, grown it organically and delivered for big corporates across the continent”.

Cellulant’s existing shareholders include Velocity Capital Private Equity, Progression Capital Africa Limited and TBL Mirror Fund.

Magister Advisors acted as transaction advisers to Cellulant while Orrick and KPMG provided advised The Rise Fund.

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