Last year, Safaricom announced it would be pumping billions to invest in Kenyan startups. Well, the company in partnership with M-PESA Africa and Sumitomo Corporation, a notable Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company, has begung accepting applications to the Spark Accelerator Program. Startups, particularly those in the early stages, with a focus on Fintech and Content, are encouraged to apply. The program, set to last three months, promises to foster the acceleration of these startups, aiding them in scaling their business operations.

Designed to support ventures in their nascent stages, the Spark Accelerator Program will provide a comprehensive mix of training, mentorship, financial backing, and market entry support. This blend is tailored to ignite growth in the participating startups, steering them towards sustainable long-term success. “The Spark Accelerator program aligns with our vision of being a purpose-led technology company,” explained Peter Ndegwa, CEO of Safaricom. He emphasized that the program goes beyond mere capital injection, a strategy previously employed in the Spark Fund, focusing now on tackling the key challenges that impede early-stage startups from scaling.

The initial phase of the accelerator will prioritize Fintech and Content startups. It adopts an ecosystem-based approach to select and nurture these startups, leveraging a team of experts well-versed in market dynamics, emerging technologies, and committed to fostering continuous innovation. Katsuya Kashiki, General Manager at Sumitomo Corporation’s Smart Communications Platform Business Division, highlighted their role in supporting the creation of innovative businesses and the broader startup ecosystem, contributing to Africa’s economic development and the prosperity of its people.

A unique advantage for participating startups is access to technical support for developing mini-apps integrated into Safaricom’s M-PESA Super App. This integration opens avenues to over 4 million customers who currently utilize the app. Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, Managing Director of M-PESA Africa, outlined the extensive network M-PESA offers, connecting over 60 million customers and 5 million businesses across eight countries. He noted that the Spark Accelerator is a gateway for startups to tap into this vast network, offering them unparalleled growth and scaling opportunities.

Moreover, M-PESA Africa will extend its support beyond the three-month program, providing expertise, market research, insights, and capacity support to aid startups in expanding their reach to other countries. This extended support is crucial for startups in the program to access M-PESA’s expansive customer base across its markets.

The program will culminate in an investor demo day, offering startups a platform to pitch for investment from Safaricom and partnering venture capital firms. iHUB, a leader in Kenya’s startup ecosystem and a subsidiary of Africa’s premier innovation hub, Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB), will be the executing partner for the Spark Accelerator. Ojoma Ochai, Managing Director at CcHUB, expressed enthusiasm about leading this groundbreaking collaboration. “We invite startups with innovative and impactful solutions to join this transformative journey,” she stated, emphasizing the collaborative effort to empower digital ecosystems.

Other supporting partners for the Spark Accelerator include Vodacom and AWS. The call for applications is open from 12 January 2024 to 16 February 2024, and interested startups can apply via Safaricom’s Spark Accelerator website. This program represents a significant opportunity for startups in Kenya and across Africa to leverage expert guidance, financial support, and a vast network to catapult their growth and redefine the future of technology in the continent.

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