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JABU, a Namibian B2B e-commerce retail platform, has raised $15 million in a round led by Tiger Global.


JABU: As African Entrepreneurs are in their increasing progression, More venture capital is focusing on Africa’s B2B e-commerce market, where firms are digitizing informal trade to help thousands of businesses run more smoothly.

This time, it’s a Namibia-based firm called JABU, whose $3.2 million seed round was highlighted by Techcrunch in January. Tiger Global has led a $15 million Series A investment in the last-mile distribution e-commerce startup.

Tiger Global’s second investment in the B2B e-commerce industry comes after backing Wasoko in its mammoth Series B round, which was completed in March. It’s also worth noting that this transaction was completed prior to Tiger Global’s alleged $17 billion loss amid this year’s tech sell-off.

Box Group, Knollwood, and D Global Ventures are among the other investors in this growth round. Afore Capital, Oldslip, and FJ Labs were among the seed round funders who doubled down.

For many years, small to medium-sized kiosk and store owners across Africa have faced logistical challenges when obtaining products from wholesalers and distributors.

Apps and more efficient distribution channels have made this process easier for startups like JABU and others like Wasoko, TradeDepot, Omnibiz, MarketForce, MaxAB, and Chari.

Merchants can use Jwallet to order, stock, and pay for their products, and expect same-day delivery, according to the YC-backed startup. In January, the company’s platform was used by over 6,000 merchants in Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia. According to CEO David Akinin, that number has climbed by 50%.

Through dashboards, the company also provides data-driven services to FMCG brands and banks, such as sales analytics and agent performance.

Finally, Akinin stated that JABU intends to establish a business around its Jwallet wallet technology, which is currently available as a standalone product. Jwallet enables retailers in Southern Africa to facilitate cash withdrawals and deposits to their clients using their physical flows.

This play is similar to agency banking, a branchless banking system used in Nigeria and West Africa where human agents operate as ATMs to provide financial services to those living in rural areas. In Morocco, Chari has a similar product.

“You may use JABU to allow your end-users to withdraw and deposit money into their wallets and bank accounts,” Akinin explained. “So we’re integrating an API with banks into the interchange, allowing someone who received money via the wallet to walk up to a JABU retailer and withdraw money using their physical float.”

Jwallet has various functional components. Drivers that handle distribution for the business’s 232 logistics partners and pay with the wallet can get asset financing and stock financing, according to the company.

More on the latter, Akinin believes the wallet system can offer merchants a more sustainable alternative to the popular BNPL model that other platforms are offering.

“I believe buy now, pay later is a trick of the eye. “I believe there are credit sales and cash sales, with nothing in between,” Akinin added. “So, I believe that [BNPL] will worsen the situation for small enterprises, resulting in more defaults, a culture of bad pay, and actual debt at the SME level in Africa that will be difficult to justify.”

His bias arises from JABU’s previous failures to implement the BNPL paradigm. Akinin described how merchants would leverage a platform’s BNPL service to create income, then use that profit to pay for the next invoice or buy merchandise from a new supplier in a different supply chain.

Jwallet gets around this by collaborating with banks to process digital payments and developing communities on the platform for merchants to save and extend credit lines to one another.

This technique also aids merchants in accumulating transaction histories while generating sufficient revenue — from offering financial services to end customers — to repay the loan.

“Much of what we’re doing with our Jabu wallet is around the community and the shop, rather than our balance sheet.” We’re enthused about it as a product because we’re trying to show that there’s a better way to interact with stores as we grow.”

JABU will use the Series A financing to extend its position in Southern Africa and enter new markets such as Botswana and Eswatini later this year. Akinin claims that what sets his company apart from others is that it is building a far larger ecosystem for small businesses than just a marketplace.

“Many businesses, including ours, are withdrawing funds from the market. We’re attempting to create a business that introduces things to the market and then goes on a journey that moves money 20 times around that market. And I believe that is the purpose of the JABU wallet.

Shared services will emerge, as would other products, as well as the capacity to pay for services and products in those markets.”

What do you think?

Written by Victo Achu

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