C5 Capital (C5) plans to invest $50M in Cassava Technologies, the first pan-African integrated tech company of continental scale with a vision of accelerating digital innovation in Africa.
20 July 2022 | Washington, D.C.
– This week, C5 announced plans to invest $50M in Cassava Technologies
through a new fund that will empower transformative founders that have been
historically underserved by venture capital financing, particularly in the
areas of cybersecurity, space, and energy security. We are tremendously proud
to partner with Cassava’s dynamic leadership to grow their digital platform.
The next generation digital services Cassava is building today will be a key
means of expanding cybersecurity capabilities on the African continent. This
round will position Cassava to enter the public markets for the next phase of
Cassava is a spinout of Zimbabwean telecommunications conglomerate Econet Wireless. The company’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Strive Masiyiwa is a visionary Zimbabwean telecoms and tech entrepreneur. It is through his leadership and resilience that Econet Wireless has grown to become one of Africa’s largest and most successful telecommunications companies.
Strive has steered a profound set of global initiatives toward inclusive development. In addition to serving as Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Wireless for 29 years, as well as EcoCash, a publicly listed mobile money spinout, Strive also serves as Commissioner on the UN Commission on Adaptation, as a Member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), on the boards of the Gates Foundation, Netflix, Unilever, and National Geographic, and on the advisory board of Bank of America.
The speed of Africa’s digital transformation presents enormous opportunity. Africa has one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations, with 67% under the age of 30. The population is expected to reach 1.5bn by 2025, and to double by 2050. Most of this growth is expected in megacities, which will generate demand for data centers, cloud, and higher throughput digital backbone.
Recent years have seen a surge in the development of digital infrastructure in Africa. Internet bandwidth has grown at a 45% CAGR over the past five years, the highest of any continent. There are over a million kilometers of operational fiberoptic network cables, and there are more smartphone users than the US or Europe. Data centers built in Africa, closer to where data is being used, will ensure the continent can more reliably adopt the cloud, reduce latency, and increase its compute capabilities.
Corporations and investors are
taking notice of the opportunity. New projects, such as Google’s advanced
Equiano cable system and Vantage Data Centers’ record-setting 80MW data center,
are promising to double Africa’s internet bandwidth and data center capacity.
Cassava will benefit from the tailwinds as more companies, governments, and
individuals go online, powering global commerce with local infrastructure.
However, China has also taken notice. In Africa, China’s digital footprint begins with the fiber optic infrastructure layer and extends to the media landscape to assert regional influence. Chinese information and communications infrastructure financing recently surpassed the combined funds from African governments, multilateral agencies, and G7 nations.1 Africa’s tech sovereignty has never been more important. Local champions like Cassava are well-positioned to drive a digitally connected future that advances freedom and opportunity.
Today, Cassava is the largest independent, pan-African terrestrial fiber network operator and a leading carrier-neutral data center provider. The company brings together a full range of digital infrastructure and services, including fiber, data centers, energy, fintech, cloud, and cybersecurity, for customers in over 20 African countries. Cassava’s goal is to empower individuals and businesses in Africa through digital solutions and the company is already providing services to over a million enterprises and hundreds of millions of end-users.
The company is rapidly expanding
into high-growth markets. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest urbanizing
region, and Cassava is scaling to meet local demand. The company is building a
new east-west fiber network across the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that
can serve both urban centers, such as the megacity Kinshasa, and remote rural
areas. The company has recently launched services in Kenya, the leading
economic and financial hub in East Africa, and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous
county, and has plans to expand into critically underserved markets in West
Cassava will be the go-to-market
partner in Africa for C5’s cutting edge portfolio companies to deliver
best-in-class cybersecurity, satellite and space technology, and clean energy.
In partnership with C5 portfolio company Haven Cyber Technologies, Cassava will
launch a network of 6 state-of-the-art Cyber Security Operations Centers
(CSOCs) across Africa with the first being opened today in Johannesburg, South
Africa. Together, the companies will train 2,000 cyber professionals, of which
half will be women, to help combat the threat of cybercrime. The CSOC network
will enable the rapid delivery of cybersecurity services and operations, built
on Microsoft’s best-in-class suite of cybersecurity products.
Cassava’s digital infrastructure is part of the bedrock of Africa’s digital economy. We are proud to join Cassava and their world-class partners, such as Mitsui and Google, on their mission to build a digitally inclusive future that leaves no African behind.
1. Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) (2020), “The Digital Silk Road is a development issue”, April 28.