August 1, 2022

South African Startup Raises $1.2M For Low-Cost Smartphone And Digital Services

Black-owned startup, Qwili, raises $1.2 million in seed funding.

The funding round, led by South African venture firm E4E Africa also included Strat-Tech, Next Chymia, Untapped Global, and Codec Ventures. Angel investors Ashwin Ravichandran and Kanyi Maqubela also participated in the funding round. 

Qwili, co-founded in 2020 by Luyolo SijakeThandwefika Radebe, and Tapfuma Masunzambwa, works as a hybrid sales platform to support micro and small merchants in South Africa. The company, which aims to address the lack of access to digital products and services within the African market, has developed a quality and affordable smartphone for its target user. 

“We are passionate about expanding access to digital goods and services. Achieving this does not only lie in new innovations and technologies but also applying existing tech in appropriate ways that reach and benefit more people,” said Luyolo Sijake, co-founder and CEO of Qwili. 

“This understanding, coupled with rapid iteration and a market insights-led approach to product development, allowed us to find an offering that the market is embracing. We believe [we] can hasten the speed of digital inclusion across the continent. So, we are delighted to have received this backing from the investors who participated in this round.” 

The Qwili Pula device will allow merchants to send and receive payments. In addition, the smartphone’s software, which has a sales portal as its central feature, will allow agents to sell value-added services such as airtime and electricity and pay TV subscriptions for a commission. According to the outlet, the device costs between $60 and $70. 

The smartphone enables users to generate additional income and helps the consumer access products they otherwise would not have had access to or would have required them to pay a hefty price to access with ease. 

The investment funding will help Qwili develop the app and expand its team. 

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.