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Pula, African InsureTech Platform Closes $6mn TLcom-Led Series A Fundraise

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L-R: Rose-Goslinga and Thomas-Njeru, Pula Co-Founders and Co-CEOs

Pula, an African InsureTech service provider startup that specialises in digital and agricultural insurance to derisk millions of smallholder farmers across Africa, has closed a $6mn Series A fundraise led by TLcom Capital, with the participation of Women’s World Banking.

The new investment will be used to scale up operations in the company’s existing 13 markets across Africa.

Currently, Pula has impacted over 4.3mn farmers on the continent and the new funding will also help propel its expansion into Asia to power resilience and profitability for Asian smallholder farmers.

Launched in 2015 by Rose Goslinga and Thomas Njeru, Pula designs and delivers innovative agricultural insurance and digital products to help smallholder farmers endure climate risks, improve their farming practices and bolster their incomes over time.

For smallholder farmers in emerging markets, the traditional method of calculating insurance through farm visits is often unaffordable for farmers, meaning these farmers are often neglected from financial protection against climate risks.

A Pula farmer

Through its Area Yield Index Insurance product, Pula leverages machine learning, crop cuts experiments and data points relating to weather patterns and farmer losses to build products which cater for a variety of risks including drought, excessive rainfall, pests and diseases.

The company’s key clientele include the likes of the World Food Programme, Central Bank of Nigeria, Zambian Government & the Kenyan Government.

Pula has also launched an NDVI Livestock insurance as an offering for livestock farmers.

Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Pula, Rose Goslinga, says “When Thomas and I launched Pula in 2015, we had one goal in mind – to build and deliver scalable insurance solutions for Africa’s 700mn smallholder farmers and with our latest funding, now is the time to break into new ground.

“In our five years since launching, we’ve built strong traction for our products but the fact remains that across Africa and other emerging markets, there are still millions of smallholder farmers with risks to their livelihoods that have not been covered.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, farmers need assurances now more than ever and with this in mind, it’s time to scale up. Having TLcom Capital and Women’s World Banking along on the journey with us opens up many more opportunities as we build across the continent and beyond.”

Through its partnerships with banks, governments and agricultural input companies, Pula is at the centre of an ecosystem which provides insurance to smallholder farmers and has amassed 50 insurance partners, as well as six reinsurance partners.

In December 2020, the startup was named as the “InsurTech of the Year” at the African Insurance Awards 2020 held in Lagos, Nigeria.

A Pula farm produce

As part of the new fundraise, TLcom’s Senior Partner, Omobola Johnson will join Pula’s Board.

Maurizio Caio, Managing Partner and Founder at TLcom Capital, states: “In Pula, we found a company addressing a hugely underserved market in one of Africa’s key drivers of growth and with this, an opportunity for major economic upside.

“The potential for the insurance market for smallholder farmers in Africa is huge and under the leadership of Rose and Thomas, Pula has rapidly established a strong presence throughout the continent and has a number of high-profile clients on their books.

“We are confident of Pula’s potential for growth in spite of the pandemic and look forward to partnering with them as they execute the next phase of their journey.”

Christina Juhasz, CIO at Women’s World Banking, also states that “Given the legions of women engaged in small-hold farming and securing the food supply for communities around the globe, Women’s World Banking is delighted to partner with Pula Advisors in providing them financial safety nets against the risks of pests, disease and climate change”.

In 2018, Pula announced the close of its $1mn seed round from Rocher Participations with support from Accion Venture Lab, Omidyar Network and several angel investors.

Previous funders have included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mulago Foundation and Mercy Corps Social Ventures and the company presence in Africa currently extends to Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

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WhatsApp Launches Video And Voice Calls On Desktop Version

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Users will be able to video call between desktop and mobile devices….Photo credit: WhatsApp Blog/Sky News

WhatsApp is allowing users to make video and voice call on their desktop for the first time, according to a report in Sky News.

The messaging service plans to rival the likes of Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime by offering people the chance to voice or video call on a larger screen.

WhatsApp said it made the move following a “significant increase” in people making calls on the platform during the coronavirus pandemic when other video calling services like Zoom have also seen huge spikes in popularity.

Group calls will still have to be made on mobile devices, but the Facebook-owned app has confirmed it is planning to expand its desktop offering to group calls in the future.

“Answering on a bigger screen makes it easier to work with colleagues, see your family more clearly on a bigger canvas or free up your hands to move around a room while talking,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a blog post.

“To make desktop calling more useful, we made sure it works seamlessly for both portrait and landscape orientation appears in a resizable standalone window on your computer screen, and is set to be always on top so you never lose your video chats in a browser tab or stack of open windows.”

It comes after a backlash over privacy changes on WhatsApp enforced by its parent company Facebook, which required a second attempt to get users to agree to them.

WhatsApp broke its worldwide record for voice and video calls on New Year’s Eve 2020 when 1.4 billion people used the app to speak to their loved ones.

“With so many people still apart from their loved ones, and adjusting to new ways of working, we want conversations on WhatsApp to feel as close to in-person as possible, regardless of where you are in the world or the tech you’re using,” the company added.

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FG Empowers South East Persons Living With Disabilities With Digital Skills

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Participants at the training programme........Photo credit: NITDA Facebook page

The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is overseeing a 5-day capacity development programme for People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) aimed at empowering them with digital skills to thrive in the 21st-century global market as captured in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria.

The 5-day training programme inspired by the vision of bridging the digital divide in Nigeria and ensuring that People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) are empowered is taking place in Enugu, Enugu State and has participants drawn from all the South Eastern States of the Country.

The programme which is a policy directive of the Ministry under the visionary leadership of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is implemented by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

DigitalTimesNG understands that the objective of the training is to facilitate and enhance Digital Inclusion among the participants and empower them with the digital skills and tools needed to thrive in the 21st century where digital transformation is dominating the globe.

The theme of the programme which is “Training in IT and Entrepreneurship” signifies the need to leverage entrepreneurial technologies and job creation especially in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic as reiterated in several fora by the Honourable Minister, Dr Pantami.

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Google Unveils Flutter 2.0 To Target Developers Across All Platforms

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Photo credit: XDA Developers

Google has unveiled version 2.0 of Flutter, its open-source UI development kit that helps app makers build cross-platform software from the same codebase, reports VentureBeat.

While the upgrade ushers in a spread of new features, today’s launch event was perhaps mostly designed to highlight Flutter’s continued transition beyond mobile to support apps wherever they reside — the web, desktop, and even emerging form factors such as foldables.

The internet giant first unveiled Flutter at its I/O developer conference back in 2017.

Version 1.0 arrived on the scene in December 2018 with support for Android and iOS apps, but in the two-plus years since, Google has extended support (somewhat) to include web apps, MacOS, Linux, Windows, and even embedded devices.

However, such support has been offered only in early-stage iterations that were either unavailable to most developers, or not designed for production-grade apps — and that is what’s changing today.

Flutter’s web development kit has been sitting in beta since 2019, but today sees it achieve equal citizen status with its Android and iOS brethren.

For desktop developers, Google has also transitioned Flutter for Windows, MacOS, and Linux to the main “stable” release, edging it closer to prime time.

“This is a huge milestone for us — not only because the code itself is now ready for serious production-quality usage, but also because in the past it was only available to the tiny minority of Flutter users who were running the pre-release software development kit,” Flutter product manager Tim Sneath told VentureBeat in an email Q&A.

Using Google’s own Dart programming language, Flutter is designed to help developers build apps that feel native to each platform they run on while sharing as much code as possible to avoid duplicating efforts.

There are countless unique platform-specific considerations that developers need to make when designing apps, including how people interact with their devices (e.g., touch and swipe on mobile, keyboards and mice on desktop), the different screen sizes that users consume content on, and even the language they use to write.

This is why it has taken time to progress the various Flutter development kits through their release cycles.

“We’ve done a ton of work to get to this stage, including adding internationalization support, for example, IME editors for languages like Chinese, new widgets like TreeView and DataTable that are designed for desktop support, and better support for Apple Silicon-powered development machines,” Sneath said.

On the Linux side specifically, Canonical — the company that commercializes Ubuntu-related projects — revealed today that Flutter is now its default framework for developing desktop and mobile apps for the Ubuntu operating system.

This builds on last July’s announcement from Google and Canonical, which kickstarted Flutter’s expansion into the Linux realm and led to Canonical’s engineers contributing code to the Flutter project.

As part of this latest expansion, Canonical unveiled an early demo of a new Ubuntu installer app built on Flutter.

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