British lender Standard Chartered Plc has invested Sh413 million in two Kenyan e-commerce subsidiaries targeting the business payments and agriculture segments. In its annual report for 2022, the lender disclosed that it has put Sh295.8 million capital on its trade financing platform Solv Kenya, which trades under its local subsidiary, Solvezy Technology Kenya Limited.
The bank has also pumped another Sh118.14 million in Tawi Fresh Kenya Limited, an agriculture digital marketplace that connects farmers directly to produce buyers, mainly hotels, restaurants, caterers, schools and hospitals. The bank said it has more than 320 farmers on its Tawi platform, selling a variety of farm products which add up to 130.
Solv, a business-to-business platform, enables credit-starved micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises to access funding based on their transaction history with suppliers without the need for collateral.
The platform —established through its innovation, ventures, and fintech investments unit, SC Ventures— was first rolled out in India in December 2020. It was then launched in Kenya in October last year, where it is expected to act as a benchmark for future expansion into other African markets.
“On India and Kenya, we have set up Solv, an e-commerce marketplace for small and medium-sized enterprises, which served over 230,000 customers in 2022. SC Ventures continues to invest in potentially transformational business models and ecosystems, connecting more and more clients with economic opportunity,” said Standard Chartered Plc in the report.
While the Indian platform is a business-to-business e-commerce marketplace where sellers reach new and verified customers, Kenya’s venture has initially focused on funding small traders who are approved by large suppliers. They access loans through the platform that are spent on buying stock for their businesses.
Borrowers on the platform, who are nominated by suppliers, are required to digitally provide personal IDs, business permits, and their photos as part of the approval process.
Solv Kenya and Tawi are wholly-owned subsidiaries of UK’s Standard Chartered Plc, making them sister companies of the lender’s other local units which include Standard Chartered Bank Kenya.
The multinational bank also operates other local subsidiaries offering bancassurance services, corporate finance advisory, investment services, merchant banking and nominee services.
The move by the global lender to establish local ecommerce subsidiaries reflects the recent growth in foreign direct investment into Kenya’s ICT and financial sectors.
Early-stage investors have been pumping billions into Kenya’s digital startups which have high potential for growth, which is driven by rising penetration of the internet and usage of smart mobile devices.
Kenya, leveraging on Nairobi’s status as the regional financial hub, has attracted the bulk of the new investment into the region, helped by a developed human capital base and travel links to other global capitals.