People, People and Society

Ken Njoroge – the man who created Cellulant

Ken Njoroge is the co-founder of Cellulant. He is among the most successful business people in the fintech industry in Africa. His co-founder is Nigerian Bolan Akinboro. They both served as co-CEOs of the nascent company at inception. He left the CEO position in June 2021 after 18 years.

What does Cellulant do?

Cellulant Corporation is a digital payments services provider, put simply. Its initial model was a business-to-consumer (B2C) but later pivoted to business-to-business (B2B). It now has offices in 18 countries and connects thousands of businesses with 154 payment options across 35 countries.

They ‘provide a single API payments platform that enables businesses to collect payments online and offline while allowing anyone to pay from their mobile money, local and international cards or directly from their bank.’

The company did not start as a digital payments service provider. In fact when it launched in Kenya, it was providing ringback tones for mobile phone users, among other VAS. The company launched its first mobile banking solution in 2007, about six years after inception.

Ken Njoroge and Bolan Akinboro say they met at a restaurant in 2002 and their conversation led to mooting the concept of a digital services provider company. They wrote the concept and business model on a serviette. Within months, they had created a USSD banking solution that would connect banks and consumers.

By 2014, they had created the first mobile wallet for most major banks to run on with or without internet connectivity. They expanded to Ghana, Botswana and Zambia, and started working on a converged payments ecosystem bringing together Banks, Merchants, Mobile Network Operators and Consumers.

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The company grew in the next five years to be noted by the London Stock Exchange. Cellulant raised USD 47.5 Million Series C from TPG Growth’s The Rise Fund. By this time, it largely focused on B2B bridging the gap of cross-border payments in different currencies. The solution made it easier for companies, organisations and institutions to send and receive payments through an integrated ecosystem.

Ken Njoroge business motto

Ken Njoroge is a bullish businessman. The tremendous growth of Cellulant is attributed to his motto and vision. His motto of thinking big is espoused in his quote, “The path to building a small or big business is the same, so why limit yourself to small dreams?”

That can also be seen in how Cellulant grew from a three-employee ringback tone and VAS provider to a central fintech player with over 250 employees in 18 countries.

“Our current roadmap for the next few years is going to take us to 23 African countries, with a very clear certainty of going beyond that,” Ken told London Stock Exchange way back.

Ken Njoroge accolades

As CEO of one of the most successful African companies, ‘providing the glue that connects everyone to everything, every day,’ Ken Njoroge was selected as the first Sub-Saharan and Kenyan Global Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2017 for ‘his commitment to advancing an ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Africa.’

The New African Magazine listed him among the 100 most influential Africans of 2018.

He was voted the winner of the prestigious EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2018.

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Cellulant was named Company of the Year at the African Diaspora Awards in New York City in 2017.

Cellulant won Best Payments and Transfer Company at the 2016 African FinTech Awards.

Ken Njoroge net worth

Ken Njoroge appears to be a decently wealthy man as of 2022. He vacated the CEO position at Cellulant in mid-2021 and is working on diversifying his investments.

Business Daily Africa reported that Ken Njoroge was among the investors in MarketForce, a start-up that focuses on linking consumer goods manufacturers to retailers. The venture-backed funding raised USD 40 million (KES 4.6 billion). The size of his stake was not revealed but it appears to be substantial since he joined MarketForce board as Chairman.

Cellulant entered partnership with MarketForce in December 2021 and helped the new startup to expand into Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. MarketForce was co-founded by Tesh Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibut in 2018 as a SaaS product.

Some of MarketForce app users include Unilever, Pepsi, Safaricom and Coca-Cola.