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3 startup lessons from Kobo360’s $30 million fund raise

Having relevant experience or skills for your startup’s industry provides an investor with confidence that you can visualize an innovative way of defining your industry,



Kobo360 plans aggressive expansion in Kenya and Ghana, Food crisis imminent as lockdown continues to restrict cargo movement – Kobo360

This week, we were proud to co-lead the $30 million Series A funding for one of our portfolio companies, e-logistics platform Kobo360, building upon their $6 million seed funding in 2018. For African tech startups, it’s an indication of not only how much this sector is evolving, but also an inspiration for those at an earlier stage in their startup journey. In light of this, I wanted to discuss what we saw in Kobo360, from an early stage, and use this to share three key lessons African startups can take as they embark on a similar path.

An extraordinary team with a clear strategy to win in a large market

From the start of our conversations with Kobo360, the combined expertise of their founders, Obi Ozor and Ife Oyedele, shone through. From Obi’s logistics background and experience with Uber to Ife’s technical expertise, they demonstrated that they had the skill set to lead a business that could sit comfortably between the worlds of logistics and technology. They also showed an extraordinary ability to articulate and execute a strong strategy built around superior business fundamentals. A large under served market that suffers from fundamental inefficiencies is what the Kobo360 business model is designed to overcome.

Having relevant experience or skills for your startup’s industry provides an investor with confidence that you can visualize an innovative way of defining your industry, that you’re aware of the key challenges your sector faces and also have the capacity to solve them. However, founders are only humans and can only do so much by themselves — the important thing is that they’re self-aware enough to identify their weaknesses and recruit people who can complement them. In recent months, they’ve built out a dynamic executive team members who are helping them to execute on their vision.

Deliver on your targets — execute your strategy

Since joining the Kobo360 board, one thing that has stood out to me is the company’s focus on execution. It’s something that flows through Obi and Ife to the rest of the team, keeps them on track for their goals and was a key reason why we decided to build upon our initial investment. Since their seed funding, they’ve expanded into Togo, Ghana and Kenya, which moves them closer towards their goal of building their G-LOS (Global Logistics Operating System) Network that will connect supply chain operations across Africa.

Every startup has aspirations, but it’s the ones who can show evidence of how they’re achieving them that will stand out to investors. If you’re a business currently targeting your next raise or even your first one, it’s vital that you can show how your current pool of funding has supported your business objectives. If investors can’t see this, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be willing to give you more cash. It’s more than okay — in fact it is very smart — to change your mind about elements of your strategy and how to execute, as long as you manage to dynamically keep a good level of consistency between

(a) constantly improving your strategy and understanding of the market, and

(b) between your strategy and your execution capabilities, starting with capital and human resources.

Attract a complementary set of investors at the service of your value generation strategy

At TLcom, we’re interested in scalable companies looking to solve key challenges in Africa by leveraging technology. Kobo360 fits right into that model. For decades, poor logistics has stunted the growth of African trade. When we came across Kobo360, their case for increased speed, transparency and efficiency in the sector was strong. On top of this, their vision for building their thousand-strong driver fleet spoke to another core problem in Africa — unemployment. Not only are they getting the continent moving, they are also addressing the considerable problem of widespread unemployment across the continent. We need more start-ups and SMEs to catalyze Africa’s economies through mass-employment opportunities.


Every investor has their own unique criteria for investment so it’s key startups that decipher which ones are right for them and make a strong case once they do. At the same time, entrepreneurs should also investigate about the contribution that an investor can provide beyond capital. After all, the startup-investor relationship is a long-term one, so it’s important to find someone truly aligned with your vision.

TLcom brings a unique combination of a global 20 years VC track record and a strong on-the-ground presence in the key African VC clusters of Lagos and Nairobi. We can challenge your strategy and support your execution and we can offer access to local African networks as well as global talent and co-investors. Other investors can bring vertical industry expertise or other critical capabilities. In the case of Kobo360, leading Series A investor, Goldman Sachs brings unparalleled access to global capital markets, investment experience in similar companies across several emerging markets, and global opportunities for exit in the form of M&A or IPO.

NOTE: This list is by no means exhaustive and not every startup will secure $30 million in funding. However, they are basic principles that will ensure founders can move a step closer towards their goals. It’s undoubtedly a tough feat to be an entrepreneur (and even tougher when you’re based in Africa), however, Kobo360’s success should be a source of encouragement to African startups that with the right guidance in place, their ambitions can become a reality.

We at TLcom congratulate Obi, Ife and the entire team, on and what has been a transformational year, and we look forward to continuing working at the service of their value generation vision as they scale.

This article was contributed by Omobola Johnson.

Omobola Johnson is a Senior Partner at TLcom Capital, a venture capital firm focused on investments in technology-enabled companies in sub-Saharan Africa. She is the Honorary Chairperson of the global Alliance for Affordable Internet. She is also a former Minister of Communication Technology in the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Johnson serves on the Board of a number of not-for-profit and for-profit organisations, including MTN Nigeria, Guinness Nigeria, Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ) where she was the founding Chairperson.

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Dangote Sugar records revenue boost despite inflation and Apapa gridlock

Dangote Sugar has revealed it increased prices in the first quarter of 2021 to mitigate the problems of rising inflation and depreciation.



Dangote Sugar proposes N18.2 billion as final dividend for 2020

One of Nigeria’s largest Sugar manufacturers, Dangote Sugar revealed it increased prices in the first quarter of 2021 to mitigate the problems of rising inflation and depreciation.

In a note to investors, the company revealed its recent 41.5% surge in revenues was due to an increase in sales volume as well as an uptick in price. In the first quarter of 2021, Dangote Sugar posted a revenue of N67.39 billion compared to N47.6 billion, the same period in 2020. The increase in price was driven by 5.7% pop in sales volume as the company sold 200,510 tonnes of sugar in the quarter compared to 189, 724 the same period in 2020.

But while sales value surged by 41.5%, volumes only rose 5.7% suggesting that price increase was a catalyst for the growth in revenue and the company alluded to this in its statement.

READ: Dangote set to earn N13 billion in dividend from his sugar business

Dangote Sugar’s performance

“Group sales volume increased in the quarter by 5.7% to 200,510 tonnes (2020: 189,724 tonnes). Growth continued to benefit from the sustained efforts to drive customer base expansion, several trade initiatives and investments. Group production volume also increased by 4.3% to 200,783 tonnes (2020: 192,584 tonnes) due to our operations optimization strategy despite the challenges of the Apapa traffic situation. Group revenue increased by 41.5% to N67.39 billion (2020: N47.64 billion). Growth in revenue advanced ahead of volume growth due to pricing benefits. Gross profit increased by 41.8% to N18.04 billion (2020: N12.72 billion) on account of better topline performance. EBITDA increased by 34.7% to N17.02 billion (2020: N12.64 billion) on account of increased earnings. Group profit after taxation for the period increased by 30.3% to N8.30 billion (2020: N6.37 billion) reflecting management’s unrelenting drive to deliver consistent shareholder value.”

The company also explained it had no choice but to increase prices because of the impact of the 2020 devaluation, higher inflationary environment, port congestion issues and a rise in global sugar prices. The company imports raw sugar from Brazil, under the government’s backward integration plan.

“We have continued to witness high cost of raw materials, energy costs and other input costs due to rising inflation and FX rate fluctuation. Further cost escalation is anticipated in the year as inflationary pressure mounts,” the company said.

READ: Dangote Sugar yearly revenue surge by 33%, announces a dividend of N1.50


Dangote vs BUA Sugar Scarcity Controversy

Just last month, the company’s adversary and competitor BUA Group accused Dangote Sugar of conniving with Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN) in price-fixing and arbitrary collusion to create sugar scarcity and keep the price of the commodity high.

This triggered Dangote Sugar and FMN into issuing a joint press statement denying the accusations.

The allegation made by BUA was triggered by a joint letter written by John Coumantaros of FMN Plc and Aliko Dangote of Dangote Industries Limited, reporting key developments in the Nigerian Sugar Industry to the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo.

The duo in the letter dated January 28, 2021, pointed out how BUA’s new sugar refinery in Port Harcourt may lead to a spike above the import quota as stipulated in the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), and how BUA’s investment in the sugar industry via the new refinery is non-compliant to the undertakings under its Backward Integration Programme, in line with local production.

READ: Dangote’s stakes in his sugar enterprise has earned him N90 billion in 365 days

BUA’s response however led to an immediate reply by the duo of Dangote Sugar and Flour Mills of Nigeria.

“In line with this, the Dangote Sugar Refinery wishes to vehemently refute the allegations and assertions made by BUA Sugar Refinery as they are not only false but defamatory, malicious and libellous, as they were geared at tarnishing the good name and brand of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc and Dangote Industries Limited.”

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The Group Managing Director, Mr Ravindra Singhvi, explained that the Dangote Group is socially responsible and considers price-fixing to be unethical and disastrous to the nation’s economy, and as such, the allegations made by BUA is highly mischievous and defamatory and should be considered a malicious attempt to smear the reputation of DSR.

“DSR does not engage in artificial price manipulation of its products, either during the Holy month of Ramadan or at any other time. We have never ever increased the price of our food items or commodities during the Holy month of Ramadan in the history of our operations,” Ravindra Singhvi said.

Outlook for Dangote Sugar

Despite the operational headwinds, the company insist it is on track to improve its operations and seek growth in its sugar sales volumes. It also recently received approval from the government to revise its local sugar production targets to 550,000 metric tonnes annually from over 1 million metric tonnes annually.

“Despite these uncertainties, achievement of our Sugar for Nigeria Backward Integration Project goal remains a key priority, though we anticipate increase in cost to completion in Naira-terms and some delays in Letter of Credit establishment for the importation of plant and equipment. The focus is to achieve the Federal Government’s revised sugar production target of 550,000 metric tonnes annually by 2024. We remain confident of the huge benefits the Backward Integration Programme would deliver and the positive impacts it will have on the economy.”

Find out why Dangote Sugar is recommended as a buy in our Stock Select Portfolio Newsletter? Click here.

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GlaxoSmithKline in big trouble as losses mount

The results were less than impressive with several key indicators showing a year-on-year decline.



GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc records 3.34% increase in 2020 9M revenues.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc (“GSK Plc” or “the Company”) is a public limited liability company with 46.4% of the shares of the Company held by Setfirst Limited and Smithkline Beecham Limited (both incorporated in the United Kingdom), and 53.6% held by Nigerian shareholders.

The ultimate parent and controlling party is GlaxoSmithKline Plc, United Kingdom (GSK Plc UK). The parent company controls GSK Plc through Setfirst Limited and SmithKline Beecham Limited.

The Company recently published its unaudited first quarter (Q1) 2021 consolidated financial statements for the period ended 31 March 2021.

READ: GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc records 3.34% increase in 2020 9M revenues

The results were less than impressive with several key indicators showing a year-on-year decline. For example, Group revenue (turnover) declined from ₦4.99 billion in Q1 2020 to ₦3.46 billion in Q1 2021 a drop of over 30.66%. The revenue drop was due to a sharp decline in the local sale of its healthcare products.

Total loss after tax as of Q1 2021 was ₦238.07 million compared to a profit after tax of ₦113.47 million for the same period to Q1 2020.

The company is essentially divided into two segments viz: Consumer Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals. While the Healthcare segment was largely profitable in Q1 2021 (making a profit before tax of ₦ 8.73 million by March 31, 2021, the pharmaceuticals segment made a loss of ₦262.93 million in the same period.

READ: GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria announces changes in its board


The Consumer Healthcare segment of the company consists of oral health products, digestive health products, respiratory health products, pain relievers, over the counter medicines, and nutritional healthcare; while the pharmaceutical segment consists of antibacterial medicines, vaccines, and prescription drugs. While goods for the consumer healthcare segment are produced in the country, the pharmaceuticals are all imported.

The largely imported pharmaceutical products are thus exposed to the vagaries of foreign currency fluctuations coupled with a negligible to no revenue from the foreign sale of its healthcare products (same as in Q1 2020) as it barely exports its products out of the country.

The cost of importing the antibacterial, vaccines and prescription drugs, and the significant local operating expenses wiped off the marginal gross profits made by the pharmaceutical segment of the company. In effect, the gross profit of ₦508.12 million made by the pharmaceutical segment of the company was eliminated by an operating expense of ₦735.7 million and this resulted in a net loss for the pharmaceutical segment of the business.

READ: Nigerian Breweries posts N7.66bn as Q1 2021 profit, shares gain 2.2%

Apart from the impact of imported pharmaceutical products as already discussed, other issues that affected the company’s Q1 2021 results and are likely to continue to affect its performance in future include:

  1. A limited product mix that has only the likes of Macleans and Sensodyne (Oral Healthcare); Pain relievers (Panadol and Voltaren); Digestive Health (Andrews Liver Salt); and Respiratory Health (Otrivin and Panadol Cold and Catarrh) all within the Consumer Healthcare segment.
  2. Increased competition, particularly from local pharmaceutical manufactures of similar over the counter medicines and other prescription medications and vaccines.

In addition, in October 2016, GSK Plc divested its drinks bottling and distribution business that manufactures and distributes Lucozade and Ribena in Nigeria, and other assets including the factory used for the drinks business to Suntory Beverage & Food Limited. The loss in revenue from these popular brands continues to impact its topline.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a global healthcare company and is well-known and acknowledged for its pioneering role in discovering and distributing vaccines for the likes of hepatitis A and B, meningitis, tetanus, influenza, rabies, typhoid, chickenpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, cervical cancer and many more.

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It is also renowned for its manufacture and distribution of prescription medicines such as antibiotics and treatments for such ailments as asthma, HIV/AIDS, malaria, depression, migraines, diabetes, heart failure, and digestive disorders.

Perhaps GSK Plc’s fortunes may change if the company is able to obtain the parent company’s licence to manufacture GSK-owned vaccines and prescription medicines within the country while also exploring the possibility of extending the sale of its products outside the shores of the country.

Since different expertise is required for vaccines and prescription drug manufacture and distribution as compared to manufacture and sale of consumer healthcare products, perhaps another alternative may be for the company to create two separate companies with one company being a 100% vaccines and prescription drug pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution company while the second company specializes entirely in the manufacture and sale of consumer healthcare products.

As a result of the Q1 2021 performance, the company’s earnings per share (EPS) dropped to -20 kobo compared to the 9 kobo earnings per share reported in Q1 2020. At the start of 2021, GSK Plc’s share price was ₦6.90 but the company has since lost over 10% of its price valuation as the company’s share price closed at ₦6.20 on April 30, 2021.

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