Kenyan telecommunication company, Safaricom, has unveiled its strategic plan to enter the venture capital landscape. This move comes as the telco works towards establishing two new subsidiaries designed to identify and invest in technology startups within Kenya. This move has officially been set in motion following a consensus at Safaricom’s 15th annual general meeting (AGM). Safaricom CEO, Peter Ndegwa, emphasized the company’s commitment to supporting the tech ecosystem in Kenya and beyond. This significant step will see the company expand its investments across seed-stage and growth-stage startups.
Seed-stage Investment Subsidiary
Safaricom has incorporated a company limited by guarantee to invest in seed-stage startups. This complements the existing Spark Fund, an investment entity under the governance of a board of trustees that focuses on empowering and nurturing Kenyan startups. The new entity is anticipated to streamline administrative procedures and enhance governance, thus offering further support to budding entrepreneurs. The Spark Fund, launched in 2014, has been instrumental in backing numerous startups, including Sendy, iProcure, Eneza Education, and Ajua, and has received applications from over 200 other startups. The fund fosters the successful development and expansion of promising mobile tech startups in Kenya, providing investment, business development support, and technical assistance. With the inauguration of the new subsidiary, Spark Fund will continue to work alongside the new entity to identify and finance promising seed-stage startups.
Focus on Emerging Technologies
“We will be looking to invest in and support early-stage companies, especially in emerging technologies such as analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things. We will be launching the call for applications in the coming weeks,” said Ndegwa.
Growth-stage Investment Subsidiary
The new growth-stage subsidiary will have a distinct mandate: to invest in well-established startups that will be pivotal to accelerating Safaricom’s evolution into a ‘purpose-led tech company by 2025,’ according to the telco’s CEO. This entity will also serve as the primary investment platform for all strategic investments executed by Safaricom. Adil Khawaja, Chairman of the Board, thanked the shareholders for their unwavering support in establishing the new subsidiaries. “By investing in tech entrepreneurs and initiatives aligning with our strategic mission, we aim to continue transforming lives by connecting people, opportunities, and information while driving innovation, creating value, and leaving a lasting impact on society.”
Shareholder Dividend Payout
During the AGM, shareholders also approved a final dividend of KES 0.62 per ordinary share. This approval brought the total dividend for the year to KES 1.20 per share. The interim dividend of KES 0.58 per share, approved in February 2023, amounted to KES 23.24 billion ($163.4 million). The final dividend of KES 0.62 per share will amount to KES 24.84 billion ($174.6 million), bringing the total dividend payout for the year to KES 48.08 billion ($338 million).
Despite the challenging operating conditions that included increased regulatory scrutiny, changes in taxation policies, political uncertainty surrounding the elections, and significant economic slowdown compounded by rising inflation, currency depreciation, drought, and famine, Safaricom demonstrated resilience throughout the year to maintain an overall solid performance. For further information on Safaricom’s investment strategy, visit the Safaricom official website.