Safaricom has partnered with M-Pesa Africa and Sumitomo Corporation to launch the Spark Accelerator programme that will support early-stage startups to scale up their businesses.

Safaricom, M-Pesa Africa and Sumitomo have undertaken to work together to identify quality startups and provide a mix of mentorship, funding and go-to market support.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa says the telco is seeking to empower startups with the access they need to succeed as part of its ambition to be a purpose led technology company.

“We are taking an ecosystem-based approach to provide a platform for bold and visionary founders to grow and scale their businesses,” said Ndegwa.

Recent studies have revealed that entrepreneurs in Kenya face major challenges in their establishment phase, with most startups in Kenya having a 30 per cent lifetime survival rate.

Among the key challenges that have been identified include inability to secure growth funding, limited market access and a gap in knowledge and skills needed to scale a business.

M-Pesa Africa Managing Director Sitoyo Lopokoiyit says the company is keen to assist startups to grow and the firm is allowing access to its technology to facilitate the growth.

“M-Pesa is a massive ecosystem with over sixty million customers and three million businesses across Africa, and we trust this acceleration program will enable startups to create value within this ecosystem,” stated Lopokoiyit.

Katsuya Kashiki, the Corporate Officer and General Manager of Smart Communications Platform Business Division at Sumitomo Corporation also lauded the promising partnership.

“With the synergy of our extensive business expertise and the products and services offered by emerging start-ups we connect with via this initiative, we are committed to fostering the growth of the start-up ecosystem. In doing so, we aim to drive innovation, and further the reach of digital financial services, enriching sectors like e-commerce, insurance, and entertainment in Africa,” added Kashiki.

The Spark Accelerator programme, which is set to be unveiled this financial year, will leverage a team of founders and experts to fast track product innovation in varied sectors.

The programme seeks to provide shortlisted startups with access to market, capital and technology as well as product development support.

In July 2023, Safaricom board and shareholders gave a nod to the restructuring of the Spark Fund, which previously only offered capital injection.