4G Capital, the award-winning African neobank, has completed its Series C funding round with Lightrock, the leading global private equity fund, investing $18.5 million dollars.
Since its inception in 2013, 4G Capital has loaned over 1,750,000 small business working capital loans valued at over $230 million. The company has over 240,000 clients, 81% of whom are female, with 77% running micro and SME enterprises in rural areas.
The investment will allow 4G Capital to scale its last-mile finance and enterprise training solutions to micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Kenya and Uganda, expanding its use of digital channels and data science to complement its hybrid ‘touch-tech’ approach. The company will expand its Kuza retail finance service to help store-owners, FMCGs and distributors boost their sales. Kuza is a pure fintech plug-and-play service, allowing distributors to stock entrepreneurs using 4G Capital’s credit, rather than traditional cash on delivery. Partnerships with P&G, Diageo and other brands adopting the service have proven highly successful.
4G Capital provides 100% unsecured business loans for business growth, along with enterprise training, and access to digital solutions. The company blends client-centric relationship management with proprietary AI technology to minimise default risk. 4G Capital’s clients maintain high repayment rates (around 94%) without the need for refinancing; on average customers increase their annual revenue by 82%. One of the world’s top 10 Finance B-Corporations, 4G Capital has positively impacted over one million people to date.
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4G Capital prides itself as a leader among the impact investment sector delivering robust, tangible results. Supporting low-income entrepreneurs on their pathway to formality, 4G Capital enables traditionally excluded groups to better access education, healthcare and improved living standards as their take-home income grows. 4G Capital’s focus on growing value chains from the bottom up means its model has the potential to scale in communities across Africa and wider global emerging markets.
4G Capital protected its customers at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis by continuing to lend throughout the pandemic. 4G Capital reduced prices by 10%, waived all penalty fees for all historical clients, provided Covid health insurance cover with partner company Turaco, and distributed free masks and sanitisers through its branch network. By supporting many small businesses to survive the crisis, the company was rewarded with exceptional levels of client loyalty, and in turn, 4G Capital’s revenues for 2021 were 85% higher than in 2020.
The company’s highly scalable and capital-efficient model has meant that in return for $9 million raised from 2016-to 2020, the company has loaned over $230 million. The microfinance industry has an average lending to capital ratio of 3.45, yet 4G Capital has loaned over 16 times its capital raised.
MSEs are the foundation of frontier economies but are more vulnerable than larger enterprises to shocks. Increasing effective financial inclusion is therefore critical to regional economic growth. The IFC’s SME Finance Forum reports MSEs in Sub-Saharan Africa account for 80% of total employment and contribute over 55% of GDP. Without access to institutional capital, 72% of MSEs rely on family or friends for loans, and 30% fail due to funding shortages.
“We are delighted to partner with Lightrock to further our financial inclusion mission,” said Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, CEO and Founder of 4G Capital. “Lightrock and 4G Capital share a complete alignment of purpose and mission. They bring unrivalled experience of Africa and emerging markets. This capital will have a transformative effect in enabling us to scale the best products and services to the world’s most important sector.”
Shakir Merali, Partner at Lightrock, joins 4G Capital’s Board and says, “Often used to justify the backing of many African companies, ‘Financial inclusion’ has not always translated into positive outcomes for customers. What is needed on the continent is investment capital to back companies with the mission of financial empowerment. 4G Capital provides liquidity to the vast market of economically generative businesses – the mobile phone repairers, hairdressers and food sellers – that dot the landscape of Africa. The systemic value of improving lives is compounded, as productive employment leads to economic outcomes and better education and health outcomes in the communities these businesses serve. That’s where 4G Capital plays. That’s why we believe they are doing necessary work and why we are excited to become a part of their growth journey.”