October 5, 2020
Tugende, a technology-enabled asset finance company operating in Uganda and Kenya, today announced the completion of a USD 6.3M Series A investment round, led by Toyota Tsusho investment fund Mobility 54. Other participants in the round were U.S.-based Global Partnerships’ Social Venture Fund, current shareholders including Denali Venture Philanthropy and Segal Family Foundation, and new angel investors.
Based in Kampala, Uganda, and launched in 2012, Tugende uses asset finance, technology, and a high touch customer support model to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) own income-generating assets. With over 35,000 clients served, Tugende is tackling the USD 331 billion credit gap MSMEs face across Africa. The new investment will help Tugende further enhance its technology platform, both for internal operations and client-facing offerings—including Tugende’s transparent, dynamic credit score all clients already receive automatically. Tugende will also use the capital to further grow its core financing product for motorcycle taxi drivers and accelerate its diversification into other MSME asset finance products including equipment for retails shops, agriculture, and further mobility assets, including e-mobility.
“We are extremely delighted to participate in this investment for Tugende,” said Takeshi Watanabe, CEO of Mobility 54. “Financial inclusion for MSMEs and individual business entrepreneurs is a critical success factor for sustainable development across African economies. Tugende has proven commercial viability and is also a leader in terms of innovation, execution, and deep respect for its clients and their ambitions.
“In addition, we as Toyota Tsusho / CFAO Group are very excited to work with the CEO Michael Wilkerson as well as his excellent team – on the ground, side-by-side, and under a shared vision, to realise the geographical expansion of Tugende, to continue developing innovative value-added services for its clients, and to build together opportunities for long term growth for informal and MSME entrepreneurs,” Watanabe said.
Mobility 54 and its group network will help Tugende with further market expansion, partnerships, and technology development. Tugende recently launched a client app and has invested heavily in its technology backbone for scalability, data analytics, and operational efficiency. In addition to building ownership, Tugende clients earn a digital credit profile which allows them to unlock new opportunities like discounts, rewards, and products exclusive to top performers in the network.
“Tugende consistently demonstrates a commitment to providing high-impact services to boost the incomes of its low income customers so we are thrilled to be part of this funding round,” said Jim Villanueva, Managing Director of Global Partnerships’ Social Venture Fund.
“Even amidst the pandemic, when there was a temporary ban on motorcycle taxi service in Uganda, Tugende demonstrated disciplined management of impact and operational sustainability, preparing them for rapid growth as the market re-opens.”
Tugende currently has 17 branches in Uganda and one in Kenya and has already resumed growth in both countries after Covid-related lockdowns. While also commercially sustainable, Tugende has won numerous awards for its social impact and responded to challenging lockdowns in Uganda and Kenya in part with an unconditional household support grant for all clients to help their households survive the worst of the lockdowns.
“Tugende’s focus has always been on meeting our clients where they are today, and finding win-win ways to grow together,” said Tugende CEO Michael Wilkerson. “We started with three motorcycle taxi clients, a tiny office without water, and many negative perceptions about lending to the informal sector and motorcyclists in particular.”
“Our clients have proven that they are creditworthy tens of thousands of times now and want opportunities to drive their own growth. We are committed to expanding those growth opportunities beyond credit alone—something we have already started by providing smartphones, family insurance, and digital credit profiles clients can access themselves,” Wilkerson added.
“Tugende is a launchpad for our clients and a partner for many years to come. We are excited and energised about bringing on strong new investors who also share our long term focus and will catalyse our ability to help clients own their future.”
Tugende received financial advice from Verdant Capital and legal advice from Bowmans on the transaction.
Tugende Contact: Solomon Zacharia, Chief of Staff, [email protected]
Founded in 2012, Tugende uses asset finance, technology, and a high-touch customer support model to help Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) own income-generating assets. Tugende’s core product is a lease-to-own/hire-purchase package for motorcycle taxi drivers in Uganda and Kenya. The package includes training, medical and life insurance, safety equipment and hands on support through the journey to ownership. Tugende has served over 35,000 clients with more than 13,000 already achieving full ownership of at least one asset. With 460+ employees, Tugende recently expanded to Kenya and in addition to planning further geographical growth has also added new productive asset finance products including vehicles, boat engines, and equipment for retail shops.
A for-profit social enterprise, Tugende has been recognised for its social impact by numerous awards and partners including the Unreasonable Institute, Echoing Green, The Zambezi Prize for Financial Inclusion, Shell Foundation, GSBI – Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, and Yunus Social Business.
Tugende has also raised more than USD 20M in debt capital to grow its portfolio. Current debt partners include Partners Group Impact Investments, U.S. Development Finance Corporation, Symbiotics, Frankfurt School Financial Services, ADA Microfinance, Agora, Yunus Social Business, Global Social Impact Fund, and Oikocredit.
About Mobility 54
Mobility 54 is a joint venture of Toyota Tsusho and its group company CFAO, with a focus on investing in the next generation of mobility across Africa and promoting synergies across its network.
About Global Partnerships’ Social Venture Fund
The Global Partnerships/Eleos Social Venture Fund (SVF) is an impact-first fund investing in early-stage social enterprises to expand opportunity for people living in poverty in Eastern Africa. The fund was created to address the “pioneer gap” by supporting early stage social enterprises with a combination of investment capital and Board-level advisory support.