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(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Huge losses.
THE BRAVE SIX

One of Africa’s most innovative fintech startups lost six colleagues in the Nairobi attack

By Abdi Latif Dahir

The financial payments company Cellulant said it lost six of its employees during the terrorist attack on Jan. 15 at an upscale hotel and office complex in Nairobi.

The employees, all male, comprised of the head of product development, three engineers, a quality assurance tester, along with the head of information security. Cellulant operated an office out of the Cavendish building in the 14 Riverside compound. The assault, claimed by terrorist group al-Shabaab, left 21 people dead including Kenyan and foreign nationals.

In remembering their lives, Cellulant said the six had “put their lives on the line in a true act of leadership, selflessness, and bravery to save the lives of their fellow colleagues.”

Established in 2004, Cellulant offers mobile payments solutions, remittance, and digital banking services. It also manages a secure people and business payment platform Mula, a blockchain-based payment system for agricultural services Agrikore, along with the card and bank payment service Tingg.

The Nairobi-headquartered company has operations in 11 countries and was in 2018 listed among KPMG’s 100 leading global fintech innovators. Last year, it raised $47.5 million series C funding from private equity firm TPG leading it to be reportedly valued at 10.8 billion shillings ($106 million).

The announcement of the staff deaths points to the enormity of losses and how the terror attack has struck at the heart of Kenya’s budding tech ecosystem. Jason Spindler, an American co-founder of advisory firm i-DEV which is focused on growing businesses in the emerging markets was also killed. In its statement, Cellulant described their colleagues—Ashford Kuria, Wilfred Kareithi, Kelvin Gitonga, Denis Mwaniki, Jeremiah Mbaria, John Ndiritu—as “energetic,” “intelligent,” “curious,” and “happy” individuals.

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