Alsoug, the largest digital classifieds and marketplace in Sudan, has announced the close of a $5 million fundraise to establish a national payments network enabling quick, easy and safe transactions for all Sudanese.
Alsoug, which was founded in 2016 and has nearly two million downloads, lets Sudanese consumers and businesses buy and sell any goods and services they need. Listings include real estate, cars, electronics, and furniture, as well as services and job postings. Alsoug enables buyers and sellers of goods and services to directly interact with each other.
The investment will expand alsoug’s presence in fintech, building on the company’s payment platform, Cashi, by creating a network enabling people to deposit, withdraw and transfer cash and transact digitally.
The expansion will make alsoug the largest digitally driven network of its kind in the country. Alongside its investment in payments, the business will continue to build its marketplace by offering new services for users and ensuring the platform maintains its position as the premier digital buying and selling platform in Sudan.
The fundraising round marks the first international venture capital investment into a technology business in Sudan since international sanctions were lifted on the country following a 30-year period of isolation.
Sudan, one of the largest countries in Africa with a population of 41 million, was one of the leading forces in technology in the continent before sanctions led to a period of isolation. With the economy having reopened, alsoug is building on its reputation of integrity, long-term growth and social impact by expanding the technological literacy of the nation.
Tarneem (Nina) Saeed, CEO of alsoug, said: “From our earliest beginnings we have focused on enabling anyone in Sudan to buy and sell whatever products and services they need, no matter who they are or where they live. But today, ordinary Sudanese consumers and businesses still have limited ways to make payments. This investment enables us to expand our services in fintech so that everyone in the country has the financial freedom they deserve and are able to transact in a fast, transparent, simple, and digital way.
“These are exciting times for Sudan, which has a bright future now that it has moved on from a long period of isolation. This was once the land of opportunity in Africa, a country full of natural resources, with a small but educated and very entrepreneurial workforce – and it will be that country again.
“Fintech has been one of the fastest growing industries across Africa in the past decade because of its huge user base. With this fundraising, we expect Sudan to catch-up with the rest of the continent.”
The investment has been co-led by Fawry, the first and largest digital payments company in Egypt and the country’s first unicorn, with a current market cap of more than $1.5 billion. The investment is the first for Fawry outside of Egypt and will see the business support alsoug to build its payments infrastructure, leveraging its in-house technology and experience. Other investors in the round include established Western venture capital funds.
Commenting on the transaction, Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry said: “We’re delighted to be kicking off our partnership with alsoug, one of Sudan’s most exciting prospects and a Sudanese leader in tech innovation. This is our first investment outside of Egypt in our thirteen years of operation, and we’re confident that our story with alsoug and Cashi will be a special one. Fawry’s investment in alsoug delivers on our plans to venture into underserved international markets by leveraging our technology and teaming up with strong local players. This investment will allow us to strategically expand our footprint into Africa and transfer the experience we’ve gained in the dynamic Egyptian market to neighboring Sudan, an economy with major potential across several sectors and with a significant pool of entrepreneurial talent. Meanwhile, Fawry’s strategic partnership with alsoug leaves it ideally placed to help guide the platform’s rollout of a countrywide payments system, a feat which Fawry has already managed through a scalable, robust, and best-in-class technology platform.”
Magdi Amin, Senior Advisor to Sudan’s Minister of Finance, said: “Following three decades of sanctions, international isolation and limited official development support, the economy has developed without full participation in the digital revolution that continues to transform industries globally. This is a significant opportunity for Sudan to make up for lost time. We welcome foreign investment into promising Sudanese businesses, a key part of our economic plan to drive growth in the financial, technology, agriculture, mining, and infrastructure sectors.”
Saeed, who is one of the only female tech CEOs in Sudan, added: “alsoug has a critically important role to play in breaking down barriers that are holding parts of society back. Any Sudanese consumer – rich or poor, man or woman – should be able to trade in the products and services they need. I am particularly proud of the important role we have played in breaking barriers for women in the country. By moving traditionally male-dominated public spaces online, we have enabled women to take charge of key life purchases like cars, real estate and electronics, so they no longer have to be reliant on a man.”