Chari, a fintech and e-commerce startup, was named “Disruptor of the Year” at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The Africa CEO Forum is organized by Jeune Afrique Media Groupe and hosted by the IFC (International Finance Corporation), a world bank branch. The Africa CEO Forum recognized the best African startups this year by awarding the ‘Disrupter of the Year’ trophy.
The “Disrupter of the Year” award recognizes startups whose activities are especially disruptive and innovative. The emphasis is on products and initiatives that have a significant impact on financial inclusion, access to healthcare, education, and energy.
Chari was nominated alongside Vezeeta, a digital healthcare platform, Yassir, a ride hailing app, Paps, a logistics and delivery company, and Releaf, an agritech startup. Visa sponsored the nomination.
Hassananein Hiridjee, CEO of Axian Group, Elizabeth Medou Badang, Senior Vice President at Orange Middle East and Africa, Obi Ozor, CEO of Kobo360, Wale Ayeni, head of ventures at IFC, and Veronica Ogeto, head of ventures at Safaricom comprised the jury.
Chari, an e-commerce app launched in January 2020 by Ismael Belkhayat and Sophia Alj, assists small retailers in French-speaking Africa in procuring inventory for their stores and having it delivered for free while also providing payment options.
According to Ismael, this trophy recognizes Chari’s efforts to increase financial inclusion, particularly for local traditional mom-and-pop stores, and to assist them in competing with mass retailers.
Chari has been rapidly expanding since its inception during the peak of the COVID -19 pandemic.
While it was still a B2B e-commerce platform connecting fashion retailers with suppliers in January 2021, the startup announced that it was looking for funding to expand both at home and into other French-speaking African countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Senegal.
The announcement came after the start-up revealed that it has already signed up 10,000 shops as clients in its launch market of Casablanca.
With the acquisition of 7% of Chari’s equity in July of that year, it became the first startup in the North African country to join Y Combinator, a San Francisco-based startup accelerator. Y-Combinator is known as the world’s most selective startup incubator, accepting only 1% of all applicants. Y Combinator has helped companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Twitch, Sendbird, Reddit, and even Zapier.
Chari.ma announced the acquisition of Karny.ma, a mobile credit book application, in August of the same year. Karny.ma. is a telephone credit book that enables traditional local businesses to manage their accounts.
In October 2021, the startup raised $5 million in the country’s largest venture funding round that year and one of the largest-ever seed funding rounds in the North African nation.
Rocket Internet, Global Founders Capital, and P1 Ventures led the round, with Plug and Play, Y Combinator, Village Capital, MetLife Foundation, Orange Digital Ventures, Air Angels, SPE Capital, Pincus Private Equity, and Reflect Ventures also participating.
The Chandaria Family, Propertyfinder CEO and Founder Michael Lahyani, and an American Ivy League university’s management company also participated in the round.
The funds raised will be used to expand Chari and Karny into Frencophone Africa. Furthermore, Chari intends to integrate financial services such as digital payment and money transfer.
According to Chari.ma, the full seed round, valued at US$70 million, took four weeks to close.
After three months, Chari received a bridge round of funding led by Saudi venture capital fund Khwarizmi Ventures (KV), AirAngels (Airbnb Alumni Investors), and Afri Mobility, the venture capital arm of AKWA Group. The company was valued at $100 million in the bridge round.
Chari paid US$22 million for Axa Credit, the credit branch of Axa Assurance Maroc, in March of this year.
Diago, an Ivorian app that connects neighborhood shops with FMCG producers and importers, was recently acquired by the startup.
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