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The company, which is currently seeking to raise $500m in a private placement, is in the process of interviewing candidates, Mmobuosi says from London. The founder plans to maintain his majority stake in the company after standing down as CEO. He didn’t give a timetable for when the appointment will be made, but said he will hand over “soon”.
The stock currently trades over the counter in the US, and Mmobuosi has applied for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). He says he hopes that the process will be completed “soon” and that the shares will trade on the NYSE this year. Lazard is advising the company on the application and its M&A strategy.
Mmobuosi is seeking to raise the $500m, including about $400m in debt, to expand through mergers and acquisitions. Uganda and Tanzania are priority countries for expansion in east Africa. “We are not looking at the usual suspects such as Kenya,” he says. In the west, Côte d’Ivoire is a target.
Further expansion by acquisition in Nigeria is also on the agenda. Tingo does most of its business in Nigeria, where it has most of its 10 million customers. Its digital platform provides market access for farmers and cooperatives to sell their produce. The platform processes over 500,000 transactions a day, for products such as grain, corn, yam, beans and cassava.
- The company offers services like settlement, brokerage, escrow, storage and logistics, with payments sent and received from Tingo Mobile wallets.
- The company also provides telecoms services in countries including Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.
Tingo is set for a major culture shift from founder-managed start-up as it seeks institutional investors and growth through acquisition. Mmobuosi is a born entrepreneur. His first business as a teenager was repairing used clothes for resale. As a student at Ambrose Alli University in Edo state, he became a show business promoter, arranging university tours for celebrities from his native Lagos.
He delved into e-publishing when his father wrote a book about reparations for slavery, and with his father’s support started Tingo in 2001 as a supplier of ring tones for mobile phones.
A visit to China impressed on him the full potential of the mobile phone. Today, Mmobuosi says, the smartphone is an “enabler for fintech,” and increasing access to financial services. The company aims to become Africa’s leading agri-fintech business.
- In October, Tingo signed a partnership with Visa to allow access to Visa cards on Tingo’s platforms.
- His entrepreneurial instincts have led to steer clear of venture-capital (VC) investors, who he suspects would not have understood his strategy of expansion into rural Nigeria.
- “I have personally avoided VCs,” he says. “Our model was working for us. I have believed in keeping it as real as possible.”
A professional managerial approach means Tingo may play it safer, and grow more slowly, in future.
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