Sudanese e-commerce, Alsoug raises $5m, the first VC investment into the country in 30 years
Sudanese e-commerce and fintech startup, Alsoug has announced the closing of a $5 million funding round. The investment is a landmark one for the Central African country as it represents the first international venture capital investment into a technology business since international sanctions were lifted in 2020 after nearly 30 years.
The investment was led by Fawry, marking the Egyptian fintech’s first investment outside its home country in its 13 years. Other investors in the round include the Western Venture Capital Funds. Alsoug will also leverage Fawry’s in-house technology and experience to expand its payments infrastructure, Cashi.
Recall that Sudan suffered an extended period of economic isolation following several sanctions by the US, the EU, the UK, the UN and of course the AU mostly due to the conflict in Darfur. By 2017, the sanctions were gradually lifted, the latest being the removal of the country from the US terrorism watchlist in 2020.
With the economy having reopened to the rest of the world, Alsoug says it is building on its reputation of integrity, long-term growth and social impact by expanding the technological literacy of the nation.
Thus, with this funding, the startup hopes to pivot into financial technology by establishing a national payments network that will enable quick, easy and safe transactions for all Sudanese.
Speaking on the development, Alsoug CEO, Tarneem Saeed who happens to be the only female tech CEO in Sudan, said it represents exciting times for Sudan as the country now has a long race ahead to catch up with the rest of Africa as regards technological developments.
“These are exciting times for Sudan, which has a bright future now that it has moved on from a long period of isolation. This was once the land of opportunity in Africa, a country full of natural resources, with a small but educated and very entrepreneurial workforce – and it will be that country again.Tarneem Saeed, CEO, Alsoug
From e-commerce to fintech and everything in between
Alsoug considers itself Sudan’s largest local digital advertising marketplace. Established in 2016 as an e-commerce platform, the startup enables users to buy and sell products and services in every category including real estate, cars, electronics, furniture etc. It also allows users to post job listings.
The startup enables buyers and sellers of goods and services to deal with each other directly. It also operates a payment service provider, Cashi, that enables users to pay for goods and services as well as utility bills, airtime top-up and government education services.
But according to its CEO, Sudanese consumers, businesses and organisations are handicapped and limited by a shortage of payment options. It is for this reason that Alsoug is expanding its payment service beyond its own platform to give more financial freedom to the Sudanese people.
“Today, ordinary Sudanese consumers and businesses still have limited ways to make payments. This investment enables us to expand our services in fintech so that everyone in the country has the financial freedom they deserve and are able to transact in a fast, transparent, simple, and digital way,”Tarneem Saeed
With nearly two million downloads, Alsoug is easily the largest tech platform in Sudan. By expanding into fintech and payments, it will become the largest digital payments network in the country boasting a population of 41 million.
The company says this new investment will enable it to further develop its payment platform, Cashi, and create a network enabling people to deposit, withdraw and transfer cash and transact digitally. It also says the investment will give Sudan a push in its drive to catch up with the continent.
“Fintech has been one of the fastest-growing industries across Africa in the past decade because of its huge user base. With this fundraising, we expect Sudan to catch up with the rest of the continent,” the CEO said.
She also said her company has a critically important role to play in breaking down barriers that are holding parts of society back. Any Sudanese consumer – rich or poor, man or woman – should be able to trade in the products and services they need.
“I am particularly proud of the important role we have played in breaking barriers for women in the country. By moving traditionally male-dominated public spaces online, we have enabled women to take charge of key life purchases like cars, real estate and electronics, so they no longer have to be reliant on a man,” she said.
Alongside its investment in payments, Alsoug also intends to continue building its marketplace by offering new services for users and ensuring the platform maintains its position as the premier digital buying and selling platform in Sudan.
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