In today’s top news from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, UK broadcasting regulators are investigating a Russian-backed TV network over alleged bias in its coverage of the Ukraine invasion, while payments platform Payhawk has become Bulgaria‘s first unicorn.
Also, Mastercard and Visa have banned Russian financial institutions from their global card payment networks, African fintech startup M-KOPA has raised $75 million to expand its financial services for the sub-banks, and London-based bank transfer platform Cheddar has launched the open banking Technology company Upside bought Save.
British media regulator probes Russian TV channels for reporting on Ukraine
The UK’s communications office, Ofcom, is investigating Russian-backed TV broadcaster RT over alleged bias in its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine.
On Sunday (February 27), the state broadcasting regulator announced that it had opened 15 investigations into unfairness in Russian reporting. The agency requires media organizations licensed to broadcast in the UK to be impartial.
Payhawk becomes Bulgaria‘s first unicorn after $100m round
Payments and expenses platform Payhawk raised an additional $100 million at a $1 billion valuation in an expanded Series B funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, making the startup Bulgaria’s first unicorn.
Also involved in the funding were new investors Sprints Capital, Endeavor Catalyst, HubSpot Ventures and Jigsaw VC, as well as existing backers Greenoaks, QED Partners and Earlybird Digital East. The new funding increases the company’s Series B funding to $215 million.
Visa and Mastercard ban Russian banks and each pledge $2 million in aid
Both Visa and Mastercard have separately announced that they are suspending several Russian financial institutions from their global card payment networks, in compliance with sanctions imposed by the West after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
The payment networks also separately pledged a donation of $2 million each to humanitarian aid.
FinTech investor CommerzVentures raises $334 million
FinTech investor CommerzVentures has closed a €300 million ($334 million) funding round to support FinTech, InsurTech and climate FinTech companies.
The organization’s launch of the fund is expected to increase its headcount by 50%, “allowing it to strengthen its position in fintech globally and gain a foothold in new geographies, particularly Africa.” a company announcement.
Creandum closes US$500 million early-stage investment fund for EU technology companies
Stockholm-based venture capital firm Creandum has closed its sixth early-stage fund worth 448 million euros ($500 million), which will be used to help European tech companies build their businesses.
“We always felt most comfortable in the initial phase,” said general partner Simon Schmincke. “We commit to founders before the world knows, before anyone knows it’s obvious.”
British banking platform Cheddar acquires Upside Saving
London-based bank transfer platform Cheddar has acquired open banking technology company Upside Saving and says it will use Upside’s technology to improve the payment process for consumers.
Cheddar offers a free bank account-enabled payments platform and says it will end inefficiencies in the payment chain for consumers and small businesses. Meanwhile, Upside offers a marketing platform that connects retail brands and consumers by offering personalized cashback.
FinTech M-KOPA raises $75 million to expand platform for underbanked
African fintech startup M-KOPA raised $75 million in a growth funding round to expand its sub-bank financial services platform to more countries beyond its operations in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana.
The capital will also be used to help the Nairobi, Kenya-based company grow beyond asset finance by scaling other products such as health insurance, cash loans and buy-now-pay-later commercial partnerships (BNPL).
The EU is beginning to see the unintended consequences of crypto regulation
The European Union has been lauded for its draft law regulating crypto assets, as its Markets in Crypto Assets Directive (MiCA) is an ambitious attempt to create a new regulatory framework for all unregulated crypto assets.
When Europe proposed it in 2020, it was the first of its kind. But nearly two years later, it’s still awaiting a parliamentary vote that was scheduled for last Monday but was delayed.
French FinTech promotes the benefits of an EU-regulated instant loan provider
Among the elements that set Younited Credit apart from its competitors is that it is regulated, instant available and there is no cap on the amount or term of BNPL players operating across the region.
“It’s a loan [product] to buy electronics or other goods and it is always a regulated solution. So in that sense we are very different from the BNPL providers who mostly offer unregulated solutions [to consumers]’ Egly said in an interview with PYMNTS.
Filling an expense management gap for companies in the MENA region
Compared to the United States and Europe, small and medium-sized businesses in the Middle East and North Africa face challenges in digitizing spend management.
“The common theme that struck us across all companies was the fact that each of them would maintain a money safe in their offices and distribute loose cash to employees on a daily basis,” Mo Aziz, co-founder of UAE-based corporate Spend management startup Pluto, PYMNTS said in an interview.
Africa’s VC ecosystem: lack of seed-stage funding, difficult environment for female tech founders
A lack of investment continues to challenge Africa’s venture capital space, despite increasing signs of improvement in recent years. In 2019 and 2020, just 7% of all capital went into seed companies, a figure that’s jumped a year later to about 15% — or $5 billion — last year.
“We see a gradual increase because you need capital in the beginning [stages] to allow companies to grow and scale, acquire customers and develop to access where the majority of the capital is located,” said Janade Du Plessis, general partner of pan-African venture capital fund Launch Africa Ventures, in an interview with PYMNTS.