SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Unicorn Growth Capital, an Africa-focused venture fund investing at the intersection of traditional finance (TradFi) and decentralized finance (DeFi), and EchoVC, a technology-focused, early-stage venture capital firm for underrepresented founders and underserved markets, join the Celo Foundation in supporting growth of Web3 projects across Africa through newly dedicated Celo ecosystem investment funds.
The Celo Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that supports the growth and development of the carbon-negative, mobile-first, layer-1 Celo platform, continues to strengthen its presence in Africa, nurturing a robust ecosystem of cutting-edge founders and builders providing increased access to financial tools and expanding Web3 adoption through real-world use cases in Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, and beyond.
“Over 50 companies in Africa have raised venture rounds in the Celo ecosystem this past year alone,” says Aliu Musa, the Celo Foundation’s Africa ecosystem lead. “Africa is one of the fastest growing crypto markets in the world, totaling over $100 billion in value, with communities in Kenya, Nigeria, and elsewhere beginning to use Web3 tools. Our ecosystem of founders and builders are transforming people’s relationship to financial products, helping them attain meaningful wealth to improve their lives.”
"As we transform the future of finance, Unicorn Growth Capital is excited to have Celo as an important partner for our portfolio companies to leverage their mobile-driven platform and growing DeFi ecosystem," says Barbara Iyayi, Unicorn Growth Capital founding partner and CEO.
Flori Ventures, a Web3 impact fund and Celo Foundation partner, has also contributed investments in Celo’s Africa ecosystem, including Nigerian blockchain payments startup Bitmama, led by founder and CEO Ruth Iselema, who recently closed a $2M pre-seed round. Ryan Nesbitt, Flori co-founder and general partner shares, “We have made over a dozen investments in African companies building on Celo. We see a huge opportunity for this transformative technology to provide lasting prosperity for real people.”
Greater Engagement & Recognition Across the Continent
The Celo Africa Web3 Fund, which launched in early August, aims to help scale African startup projects building on Celo in support of blockchain technology and Web3 adoption. The Fund provides shortlisted candidates equity, mentorship, resources, and marketing support through workshops in the region. Upcoming workshops are scheduled in Accra (Sep. 26), Kampala (Oct. 25) and Johannesburg (Nov. 8).
Additionally, Alliance for Prosperity member, Nigeria-based Canza Finance, which aims to empower underserved Sub-Saharan Africa SMEs with access to financial services, received the Most Innovative Product award at the Celo x Huobi Hackathon, following a $3.27M seed funding raise by Canza’s founders Pascal Ntsama and Oyedeji Oluwole.
Providing Financial Access to Un- and Under-Banked Communities
The Celo Foundation completed a three-month employer lending program for rural farmers in Nanyuki, Kenya, together with Kotani Pay, a Nairobi-based blockchain off-ramp service and technology stack that connects protocols, dapps, and fintech services to local payment channels in Africa; Mercy Corps Ventures, the impact investing arm of global development agency Mercy Corps; and Cinch, an agriculture company that leases farmland from smallholder farmers and hires farmers to grow high-value crops at scale.
Loans were deployed to farmers employed by Cinch using DeFi and mobile-phone messaging. This use case represents a microcosm of the larger embedded lending market, forecast to grow by 49.5% annually through 2029. Over 91% of loans were repaid, with the highest repayments from landowners and full-time employees; 100% of female borrowers repaid their loans, despite being conservative during the loan withdrawal period.
Kotani Pay has also been recognized as a Digital Public Good following a standards review by the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA), a global, multi-stakeholder initiative to accelerate the attainment of UN Sustainable Development Goals in low- and middle-income countries by facilitating the discovery, development, use of, and investment in digital public goods to create a more equitable world.
Participation in Educational Programming & Events
Led by Umar Sebyala, the Celo Foundation’s Uganda ecosystem lead, a community of founders and crypto enthusiasts gather monthly at the Kampala Blockchain Happy Hour in collaboration with tech launchpad and co-working space Innovation Village. The Foundation supports university outreach throughout Uganda, mirrored by educational initiatives in Nigeria and code jams for impact in Kenya led by Daniel Kimotho, the Celo Foundation’s Kenya ecosystem lead.
The Celo Foundation also partners with Dacade, a peer-to-peer education platform, to create a series of courses introducing users to blockchain development on Celo. The Foundation works closely with Dacade’s team to host workshops online and in person, targeting developers at upcoming events in Kenya, such as EthSafari.
Alliance member Ejara, a mobile investment and savings platform focused on the Francophone African region and founded by Cameroon native Nelly Chatue-Diop, launched its Ejara School on YouTube to expand understanding of blockchain technology, and introduced its Ejara Lionesses initiative, which provides ongoing financial training, mentorship, and skills to women entrepreneurs.
The Celo Foundation and Celo’s ecosystem of founders and builders in Africa will continue to raise awareness of Web3’s transformative impact at forthcoming industry-wide events, including EthSafari (Sep. 18-24) and Africa Tech Summit (Sep. 27 & 28).
About the Celo Foundation
The Celo Foundation was founded in 2017 to support the growth and development of the decentralized, open source, mobile-first Celo platform to help build a carbon-negative financial system that creates the conditions of prosperity for all. The Foundation is guided by the Celo community tenets, and contributes to education, technical research, environmental health, community engagement, and ecosystem outreach—activities that support and encourage an inclusive financial system.
For more about Celo, visit https://celo.org/.