Press Release: Tugende Closes USD $6.3 Million Toyota Tsusho-Backed Series A Investment Round
Tugende, a technology-enabled asset finance company operating in Uganda and Kenya, today announced the completion of a USD $6.3M Series A investment round, led by Toyota Tsusho investment fund Mobility 54. Other participants in the round were U.S.-based Global Partnerships’ Social Venture Fund, current shareholders including Denali Venture Philanthropy and Segal Family Foundation and new angel investors.
Based in Kampala, Uganda and launched in 2012, Tugende uses asset finance, technology, and a high touch customer support model to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) own income generating assets. With over 35,000 clients served, Tugende is tackling the $331 billion credit gap MSMEs face across Africa. The new investment will help Tugende further enhance its technology platform, both for internal operations and client-facing offerings—including Tugende’s transparent, dynamic credit score all clients already receive automatically. Tugende will also use the capital to further grow its core financing product for motorcycle taxi drivers and accelerate its diversification into other MSME asset finance products including equipment for retails shops, agriculture, and further mobility assets, including e-mobility.
“We are extremely delighted to participate in this investment for Tugende,” said Takeshi Watanabe, CEO of Mobility 54. “Financial inclusion for MSMEs and individual business entrepreneurs is a critical success factor for sustainable development across African economies. Tugende has proven commercial viability and is also a leader in terms of innovation, execution, and deep respect for its clients and their ambitions.
“In addition, we as Toyota Tsusho / CFAO Group are very excited to work with the CEO Michael Wilkerson as well as his excellent team – on the ground, side-by-side, and under a shared vision, to realize the geographical expansion of Tugende, to continue developing innovative value-added services for its clients, and to build together opportunities for long term growth for informal and MSME entrepreneurs,” Watanabe said.
Mobility 54 and its group network will help Tugende with further market expansion, partnerships, and technology development. Tugende recently launched a client app and has invested heavily in its technology backbone for scalability, data analytics, and operational efficiency. In addition to building ownership, Tugende clients earn a digital credit profile which allows them to unlock new opportunities like discounts, rewards, and products exclusive to top performers in the network.
“Tugende consistently demonstrates a commitment to providing high-impact services to boost the incomes of its low income customers so we are thrilled to be part of this funding round,” said Jim Villanueva, Managing Director of Global Partnerships’ Social Venture Fund.
“Even amidst the pandemic, when there was a temporary ban on motorcycle taxi service in Uganda, Tugende demonstrated disciplined management of impact and operational sustainability, preparing them for rapid growth as the market re-opens.”
Tugende currently has 17 branches in Uganda and one in Kenya and has already resumed growth in both countries after Covid-related lockdowns. While also commercially sustainable, Tugende has won numerous awards for its social impact and responded to challenging lockdowns in Uganda and Kenya in part with an unconditional household support grant for all clients to help their households survive the worst of the lockdowns
“Tugende’s focus has always been on meeting our clients where they are today, and finding win-win ways to grow together,” said Tugende CEO Michael Wilkerson. “We started with three motorcycle taxi clients, a tiny office without water, and many negative perceptions about lending to the informal sector and motorcyclists in particular.”
“Our clients have proven that they are creditworthy tens of thousands of times now and want opportunities to drive their own growth. We are committed to expanding those growth opportunities beyond credit alone—something we have already started by providing smartphones, family insurance, and digital credit profiles clients can access themselves,” Wilkerson added.
“Tugende is a launchpad for our clients and a partner for many years to come. We are excited and energized about bringing on strong new investors who also share our long term focus and will catalyze our ability to help clients own their future.”
Tugende received financial advice from Verdant Capital and legal advice from Bowmans on the transaction.
Photo courtesy of Jorge Cancela.