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IFC leads $5M extension round in Ivorian SaaS e-commerce platform ANKA

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ANKA, an Ivorian SaaS e-commerce platform for African businesses, has raised $5 million. The pre-Series A extension round is a mix of equity and debt; last January, ANKA, formerly Afrikrea, raised $6.2 million. The seven-year-old startup has secured $13.5 million from investors since its inception.

In a statement, ANKA said it will use the fresh investment to strengthen product development and expand services, particularly in its key markets: Nigeria, Kenya and the U.S.

ANKA describes itself as an all-in-one SaaS for global African businesses. But until 2021, it operated a marketplace (Afrikrea) for African-based and inspired clothing, accessories, arts, and crafts. At the time, it had served over 7,000 sellers from 47 African countries and thousands of buyers from 170 countries.

According to CEO Moulaye Taboure, the rebranding to a SaaS e-commerce platform was prompted by the need to consolidate merchants’ focus from other channels, such as websites and social media, onto a single platform. As a result, ANKA serves as a one-stop shop for three kinds of users: exporters looking to ship globally, online merchants who use multiple channels and wish to consolidate all orders on a single platform and drop shippers seeking to create jobs, produce and ship from Africa while receiving global payment.

A million active visits and surging revenue

The platform was launched in partnership with Visa and DHL. As such, it was designed to meet the requirements of its customers in e-commerce (ANKA Marketplace), payments (ANKA Pay), and international shipping (ANKA Shipping). The marketplace includes a configurable online storefront and an omnichannel interface where vendors can monitor their sales and inventory across Africa, social media sites, and websites. ANKA Pay enables users to purchase and sell using local payment methods (mobile money, bank transfers, and Visa cards). Then DHL allows users to dispatch packages from Africa to other countries for less than $30 in under 72 hours.

ANKA’s margins and community of African SMEs (small and midsize enterprises) in these 47 countries have nearly doubled since its last capital injection. Last year, the SaaS e-commerce platform claimed to record over 700,000 monthly visits and processed $35 million in transactions. Kadry Diallo, co-founder and chief operating officer, told TechCrunch that these figures have risen to over a million visits and $50 million across 175 countries. Consequently, ANKA claims its turnover soared 18 times, from €200,000 to €3.6 million.

“We have grown in terms of community buyers and sellers since last year. The more our community grows, the more processes have to be efficient. That’s why we raised an extension to strengthen our processes and build teams too,” the COO said, referring to ANKA’s plans to actively recruit sales, technical, and product talent to catalyze its growth.

User demographic

Most of its 20,000+ vendors (80% women) are in Nigeria and Kenya. On the other hand, the U.S. is where a large chunk of its 350,000+ buyers reside. This reflects a familiar e-commerce trend. Nigeria and Kenya are among the top three African countries with the most active e-commerce consumers. Meanwhile, the U.S. houses the highest proportion of Africans in the diaspora who shop online. The U.S. is followed closely by France on the ANKA platform. Both countries, home to ANKA’s biggest exports, represent a significant growth opportunity for the company, which wishes to boost the investment in and sale of Africa’s creative economy globally.

“The countries where we have the biggest diaspora are the U.S. and France. Nigeria and Kenya are still the beacon or the powerhouse of African businesses in terms of infrastructure and economic market. Most of our sellers that fit our criteria are in those countries,” said Diallo who founded the startup with Taboure and and Luc B. Perussault Diallo. “When I say criteria, I mean sellers with internet access, shipment and payments. These are the countries where we can find the biggest population of SMEs that can do that.”

Surprisingly, Diallo who, before ANKA, held positions in large corporations such as Renault.SA reports that the French departments in the Caribbean (French Guiana and Guadalupe) rather than the U.S. have the largest average order size on the platform (€134 per order to the U.S.’s €103). If anything, this event demonstrates the e-commerce platform’s strong visibility and significant community of sellers in Francophone Africa.

Road to 100,000 sellers

Despite ANKA’s upward trend, the company has encountered some challenges common to e-commerce platforms. Headwinds such as currency devaluations and high inflation in sub-Saharan African markets have exacerbated these challenges in the past year. In Q2 2023, African e-commerce giant Jumia saw a decline in customers, orders, GMV (gross merchandise value), and revenue in part due to these headwinds. Diallo asserts that ANKA has “discovered ways to adapt its efforts in assisting users to sell abroad despite these issues.” Most importantly, unlike other African e-commerce platforms, ANKA differentiates itself as an exporter of African products. The e-commerce startup backed by Alibaba’s Joseph Tsai claims to be the continent’s largest e-commerce exporter startup. ANKA transports over 10 tonnes of cargo per month, per its website.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) led this new investment. Fellow development finance institution Proparco and the French investment bank Bpifrance participated. ANKA expects that with this funding, it can onboard 100,000 African sellers by 2030. On the other hand, the debt component will finance short-term cash cycles for activities such as shipping and payment float.

“Empowering African artisans, particularly women, and helping them access wider markets is crucial to raise the bar of economic inclusion and spur sustainable growth,” Makhtar Diop, IFC managing director, said. “ANKA’s strategy of connecting artisanal fashion designers and merchants to global markets aligns with our vision of supporting Africa’s creative industry to unlock new opportunities for inclusive growth.”



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Another Intense Solar Flare Spotted By NASA’s Observatory, Footage Released

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As the Sun moves toward solar maximum, it blasted another intense solar flare out into space. According to NASA, the event occurred at 4:38 pm IST on June 11. The agency has shared a footage of the solar blast which was captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in the low-Earth orbit.

“This flare is classified as an X1.5 flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength,” NASA said about the latest event. Classes A, B, C and M are others which represent the intensity of the flares.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy that are released from the Sun occasionally. They are capable of impacting radio communications, power grids and even pose risks to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

ALSO SEE: ISRO’s Releases Pictures Of Monster Sunspots Captured By Aditya-L1

The month of May was the most active the Sun has been lately as it is reaching the middle of its 11-year-old cycle. This phase is called the solar maximum when the Sun is most violent and the chances of solar flares and subsequent geomagnetic storms are the highest.

On June 10, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also issued a warning for a coronal mass ejection – the ejection of charged particles toward Earth. When these particles collide with the Earth’s magnetic field, we get auroras.

ALSO SEE: NASA Rover Gets Blasted By Solar Storm On Mars, Captures Footage

(Image: NASA)





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A Star That Exploded 40 Years Ago Is Breaking The Rules, Scientists Call It A Treasure

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Astronomers are studying a white dwarf star and it is behaving strangely. It is part of a nova system HM Sagittae (HM Sge) that includes the white dwarf and its red giant companion.

A nova event is defined as a brief explosion which causes a blinding flash and sends the accumulating material into outer space.

Using data from the Hubble telescope and the retired SOFIA observatory, scientists have found some baffling characteristics of this binary star system.

Since its explosion about 40 years ago, HM Sge, which lies 3,400 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta, has grown 250 times brighter. Besides, it did not rapidly fade away as novae commonly do, but has maintained its luminosity for decades.

What’s more confusing is that although the system got hotter, it has paradoxically faded a little.

Hubble’s view of the symbiotic star system. Image: NASA

ALSO SEE: Scientists Spot Massive Asteroid Collision — In Another Solar System

Since HM Sge is a symbiotic star, the dust from the red star and gas of the white dwarf combine to form a blazing hot disk around the latter. This then results in a spontaneous thermonuclear explosion.

Another thing scientists noted was the system’s increase in temperature. According to Hubble’s ultraviolet data, the white dwarf and accretion disk increased from less than 4,00,000 degrees Fahrenheit in 1989 to greater than 450,000 degrees Fahrenheit today.

ALSO SEE: Hubble Telescope Captures Ancient Galaxy That Ate Its Companion 1.3 Billion Years Ago

“When I first saw the new data, I went – ‘wow this is what Hubble UV spectroscopy can do!’ – I mean it’s spectacular, really spectacular,” said Ravi Sankrit, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

Steven Goldman of STScI, who also worked on the study, said that symbiotic stars in our galaxy are rare. “This unique event is a treasure for astrophysicists spanning decades,” he said. The above findings are expected to provide more insights into the physics and dynamics of stellar evolution in binary systems.

(Image: NASA)





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Aliens Could Be Living On Earth Disguised As Humans: Harvard Research

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A team of researchers from Harvard University has put forth the possibility of aliens, or “cryptoterrestrials,” covertly living among humans on Earth.

In their paper, which delves into the realm of “unidentified anomalous phenomena” (UAP), commonly known as UFOs and extraterrestrial beings, has sparked a wave of intrigue and speculation within the scientific community.

The study suggests that aliens could be residing underground, on the Moon, or even walking among us, disguised as ordinary humans. It further says that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) could be advanced spaceships visiting Earth-based alien friends or allies.

In their research, the experts have introduced the concept of “cryptoterrestrials” – beings that may have originated from Earth’s future, descended from intelligent dinosaurs, or even be remnants of an ancient, technologically advanced human civilization that largely perished long ago.

Admitting that their theories will be regarded skeptically by most scientists, the researchers urged the scientific community to consider their claim “in a spirit of epistemic humility and openness.” Notably, the paper has not been peer-reviewed.

ALSO SEE: Is Artificial Intelligence Keeping Us From Contacting Aliens? New Study Suggests So

Aliens could be around us in four forms: Scientists

According to the researchers, cryptoterrestrials can come in four forms. The first is human cryptoterrestrials that are technologically advanced ancient human civilisation that continue to exist in remnant form after being destroyed long ago.

Second is Hominid or Theropod Cryptoterrestrials i.e. a technologically advanced non-human civilization consisting of some terrestrial animal which evolved a stealthy way to exist.

ALSO SEE: ‘We Are Probably Alone’: Elon Musk Gets Candid On Aliens And Colonising Mars ‘Before World War 3’

Third is former Extraterrestrial or Extratempestrial Cryptoterrestrials – beings that arrived on Earth from elsewhere in the cosmos or from the future and concealed themselves, maybe on the Moon.

And fourth, the scientists said, are entities that are less like homegrown aliens and more like “earthbound angels.”



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