Partech Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital (VC) firm, has launched an Africa-focused fund which will look to provide early-stage funding to promising startups and founders on the continent. The fund has raised $70 million of its $100 million target, making it one of the largest Africa-focused funds.
Partech Africa is backed by French bluechip corporate partners with “a strong footprint in Africa” including Orange, Edenred, JCDecaux Holding and Bpifrance, a French investment banks as well as multilateral financiers: International Finance Corporation and the European Investment Bank.
The new fund plans to differentiate itself by not limiting operations to Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s leading ecosystems.”We think the impact of a local VC should also be to widen the scope and look at other markets that people know less of,”says Tidjane Dème, general partner at Partech Africa. This includes Francophone African countries Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon as well as Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda.
Francophone Africa in particular has been a significant under-tapped market for tech startup investors over the last decade. The region of over 120 million people in 24 countries across West, Central and North Africa includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies led by Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.
And yet, between 2010 and 2016, there were 167 private equity deals in Anglophone East Africa alone (Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda), according to AVCA data. During the same period, Francophone West Africa saw a third of that. More than 30% of that has gone to Côte d’Ivoire. Investment for tech startups is even more scarce.
Perhaps a testament to that stance, Partech Africa is headquartered in Dakar, Senegal and is looking to build permanent presence in other African cities to ensure a first-hand understanding of local markets. “We’re making sure our investment team is based in Africa and lives and works in the same context as these startups and can really understand where they’re coming from and the product they’re building,” Dème says.
More Africa-focused VC firms are raising significant funds to support local startups on the continent. Last October, CRE Venture Capital, an African VC firm, led the $40 million Series C round of Andela. The round also saw participation of TLcom’s Africa-focused fund, headed by Omobola Johnson, Nigeria’s former ICT minister. Partech’s research showed startups on the continent raised $366 million in 2016—a $90 million increase from the prior year.
Another gap Partech Africa is looking to plug is the lack of early stage funding much of which has typically been provided by incubators and accelerators on the continent. With majority of private equity investment going towards tickets above $10 million, according to Partech’s data, Dème says it’s the gap below $10 million that needs to be addressed. As such, Partech Africa will be providing funding between between $600,000 and $6 million. The big hope for Partech Africa, according to Dème, is that its smaller early-stage funding tickets “not only address existing demand but also hopefully drive demand for the lower stages as we create a call for more startups.”