B2B retailer MarketForce raises US$40m series A, appoints Cellulant co-founder as board Chairman

KENYA – MarketForce, a Kenya-headquartered B2B retail distribution platform and financial services provider, has closed a US$40 million Series A funding round, coming seven months after it raised over US$2 million in pre-Series A funding round.

Being the largest Series A round of its kind in East and Central Africa, the funding attracted a wide pool of investors, made up of equity and debt.

The round was led by V8 Capital Partners – a London and Lagos based African-focused investment vehicle led the round, with participation from Ten13 VC, SOSV Select Fund, Vu Ventures, Vastly Valuable Ventures and Uncovered Fund, along a number of existing investors.

Existing investors who took part in the latest fund raising include Reflect Ventures, Greenhouse Capital, Century Oak Capital and Remapped Ventures.

Ken Njoroge, Cofounder and former CEO of Cellulant also participated in the round and joins the board as Chairman.

Njoroge’s appointment in MarketForce follow’s the recently forged partnership between the B2B retailer and Cellulant, a leading pan-African payments company that provides locally relevant and alternative payment methods for global, regional and local merchants.

The partnership is aimed to offer additional revenue opportunities for informal retailers through empowering them to be agents for major financial services, as well as access payments, savings, investments, insurance and buy-now-pay-later products.

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With the recently clinched investment, MarketForce plans to scale merchant inventory financing through a BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) offering, grow deeper in existing markets and avail more digital financial and banking services through its extensive merchant network.

One year ago, the company served about 5,000 customers: now, that figure has grown more than twenty-fold to 100,000 merchants, with the average transaction size tripling and revenue growing 27x over the same period.

It runs an asset-light operating model and is currently operational in 5 markets (Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda) with the merchant super app, RejaReja – which offers informal merchants next-day delivery for hundreds of SKUs from the leading FMCG brands.

The company has a team of 400 and intends to double the team before the end of the year.

“Our goal is be the ultimate partner for informal merchants, empowering them to maximize their profits and grow in a digital age by getting better service, assortment, and access to new revenue opportunities, outfitting them with the technology and support they need to transform themselves from simple FMCG outlets to comprehensive financial service hubs for the continent’s last-mile communities.

“We are targeting to serve over 1 million active merchants on our platform in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025,” said Tesh Mbaabu, Cofounder and CEO of MarketForce.

MarketForce counts top consumer brands and financial service providers such as Nestle, Pepsi, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Bidco Africa, Chandaria Industries, Kapa Oil, Safaricom, Cellulant, Lami and Pezesha, to mention a few, as its partners.

It monetizes the supplier side through availing real-time market intelligence dashboards to FMCGs.

“The MarketForce team has demonstrated their ability to build a differentiated, powerful and all-inclusive digital commerce platform for merchants in Africa.

“We are proud to partner and build the future of retail in Africa by helping to optimize supply chains and catalyze the digitization of the African retail ecosystem, which holds a lot of untapped potential to improve incomes and enable millions of African merchants to grow their businesses,” said Tobi Oke, General Partner at V8 Capital and member of the MarketForce board.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 90% of household retail transactions are in cash, and delivered through a network of about 100 million MSMEs.

Retail payments on the continent are expected to top US$2.1 trillion by 2025 and MarketForce aims to digitize a large portion of these offline transactions.

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